A Landing a Day

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Sewanee, Tennessee

Posted by graywacke on May 26, 2009

First timer? In this (hopefully) once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan – I just nudged a PSer into OS-land. As often happens, my Score didn’t go up as much as for a full-fledged OSer. Anyway . . . TN; 25/24; 6/10; 11; 159.8.  Here’s my landing map:


Two things to note:   first, my proximity to Sewanee, but, more importantly (for a hydrologist like me), is the proximity to the “Big Sink.” Here’s a close-up, showing just the waterways.  Note that I landed next to Lost Ck, and that Lost Ck just ends, not far from Big Sink.


Here’s what’s going on: this region is underlain by limestone, which is dissolved slowly by water to form caves. Over hundreds of thousands of years, caves can become interconnected, and actually “capture” whole streams that happen to flow into a sinkhole. (A sinkhole is a cave where the roof has collapsed).

This is why the stream where I landed is known as “Lost Creek.” The creek flows into “Big Sink” where it disappears down into bedrock. It then makes it way through subterranean passageways all the way to the Tennessee River, where it likely discharges into the river bed below the water level, so you can’t even see it.

OK, OK, so there’s a little speculation here. The Tennessee River is about 13 miles away, which is a long ways for the water to travel through cave channels. But there’s no major stream anywhere else close, and it doesn’t make sense to me that Lost Creek pops out anywhere else other than a major stream. Part of my thinking is simple topography. Once the stream heads down into the rock, it ends up at a much lower elevation, and it has to continue flowing downhill. Well, my guess is that the only nearby stream that’s downhill is the Tennessee River (other, nearby smaller streams will be at a higher elevation).

So, Lost Creek has a fairly large watershed. Here’s a map:


FYI, the watershed is about 5 and a half miles long by 4 miles wide. Imagine: during a big summer rainstorm (say there’s 3 inches of rain), that’s one heck of a lot of water that ends up flowing through cave channels. I can’t help myself – I did the math: 3 inches of rain over that area equals over one billion gallons. OK, so quite a bit of that might end up soaked up in soils, and soaked up by plants, and evaporating away; but there’s still a lot of water that ends up down the sinkhole . . .

FYI, a region like this that has lots of caves is known by geologists as “karst.”

So, I landed near Sewanee. It appears that the big thing there is The University of the South, often known simply as Sewanee. From Wiki:

The University of the South is a private liberal arts college located in Sewanee, Tennessee. It was founded in 1858 and is owned by the Episcopal Church and its School of Theology is an official seminary of the church. Often known simply as Sewanee, the school has a strong academic reputation and recently ranked 40th in the annual US News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges. Sewanee has produced 25 Rhodes Scholars, garnering the distinction of the most Rhodes Scholars per capita of any school in the country.

Impressive stat about Rhodes scholars, eh? (And I’ve never heard of the school.) Anyway, here are some pix:




I’ll close with this gorgeous landscape shot taken outside of Sewanee:

countryside near sewanee



© 2009 A Landing A Day

4 Responses to “Sewanee, Tennessee”

  1. Dan said

    My roommate’s parents both went to Sewanee, so I’ve heard of it before. That’s a cool last photo. And I have to admit, even living with a geologist, I’ve never heard that about sinkholes before.

  2. Mesha said

    I found this on Google Alert.
    I enjoyed reading about the Big Sink.
    I went there in April with a group.
    Would you like to see the photo’s, I can email them to you.

    We have a guest suite and cottage rental in Sewanee, with a blog about the community, nature and my gardens.
    Go visit.

  3. Loser Son said

    The hydrology part of this post was pretty cool, fath. PS I’ll return your call later today. Probably.

  4. Clay said

    When Lost Creek emerges from Lost Cove Cave (Buggytop) it flows into Crow Creek in Sherwood, TN. Tracing the flow into the Tennessee River in Stevenson, AL is left to the student as an exercise.

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