Large Hole Forms In Family’s Driveway Uncovering Mysterious Bottomless Pit

Published: Nov 06, 2023

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare—you’ve just bought a new house out in the suburbs when a giant sinkhole the size of the Great Pacific garbage patch opens up right underneath it—swallowing your new home whole. What began as the uncovering of a small gap under the road turned into an expedition of epic proportions. 

The locals weren’t happy about seeing their neighborhood turn into a jumping-off spot for a spelunking site. But after the explorers emerged from the hole, they brought with them quite a surprise. Read on to learn about their fantastic voyage into long-forgotten depths and learn the fascinating tale of the pothole that grew into a monster.

Trouble Underfoot

It’s just an average morning in South Dakota. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there’s a hum of excitement in the air as one of the streets is cordoned off with orange traffic cones. But there’s no trace of a crash in sight. Curious, you drive by a little closer. 

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Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

A couple of men stand in the yard, pointing at the sidewalk. There’s something wrong with it. As you jump out of your car, you feel as though something isn’t right underfoot—as if the ground had become unsteady or less solid than before you first set off for work. 

That Sinking Feeling

As you approach, the men on the grass caution you to watch your step. Then, as your brain begins to process what you’re looking at, you start understanding their cause for concern. A hole approximately 25 feet by 25 feet gapes before you. It’s no normal sinkhole.

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Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Drive gravel, exposed pipes, and darkness stare back at you. You suddenly feel unsteady, as if the lawn below your feet could shiver and crumble at any second. The men tell you that the authorities are on their way. Unsettled, you head off to work.

Hideaway Holes

While heading out to work, Black Hawk county’s emergency management service vehicles pass you by, heading to investigate the crack in the earth under Hideaway Hills. The name “Hideaway Hills” will later ring in your ears with irony. 

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Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

But how did this hole first appear? One of the two men on the yard, Albert Reitz, was mowing the lawn above when the hole ripped open. He described a vacuum of wind pulling him back as the earth opened up behind him.

The Crisis Deepens

If he had been standing a few feet closer, he would have been dropped right in. The Black Hawk resident said that he counted his blessings. But the opening of the hole was just the start of it. Over the course of the day, he watched as his once-pristine home began crumbling from the foundations up. 

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Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

This was no mere sinkhole. The hole, which had almost ended Mr. Reitz’s life, had destroyed his property. His neighbors were probably wondering what the hole had in store for them as they watched the authorities close off the roads.

The Explorers Arrive

The monstrous hole kept growing. A little while later, as the authorities were trying to figure out the best course of action, a group of explorers called “Paha Sapa Grotto” showed up. They were determined to get to the bottom of the issue. 

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

These climbers, affiliates of the National Speleological Society, are at the top of their field in cave exploration, science, and conservation. They knew the local authorities were out of their depth and offered their professional help. What they found nearly blew them away.

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We Need To Go Deeper

Vice-chairman of the group, Adam Weaver, seen here assessing the drop, was the first to go down. He saw an opening 80 feet or so deep. Before he proceeded any further, he had one of the diggers remove the dangling concrete sidewalk overhead. 

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

He tied his rope to a piece of sturdy picket fence and rappelled down. As he descended, however, he realized he wasn’t dropping into a cave. Having assessed the walls and tell-tale signs using his years of experience and expertise, he realized that he had dropped into an old mine.

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Plowing The Dark

The drill holes and mining debris had given it away. In his estimation, the mine went on for another 500 feet. He made a quick sketch of the underground area and headed back up. It goes without saying that the other Black Hawk residents were horrified at his discovery. 

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Adam called in the rest of his people to explore more of the abandoned mine. The next day, two fully geared-up teams descended to map the subterranean maze. They determined that the mines ran beneath at least 12 homes in the neighborhood. Uh-oh…

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Delving into the Gypsum Maze

One thing is for certain, their second attempt to explore the gypsum maze revealed some mind-boggling details of what was lying below. The area they entered defied their expectations, towering at a whopping 15 feet and stretching 60 feet wide.

Source: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

But they didn’t stop there; further explorations showed that the dimensions of the gypsum mine spanned more than 2,000 feet, and its width extended beyond a staggering 150 feet.

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The Hidden Waterway

From the images taken by Adam and his crew, we can see a river running right through the mines. It’s certainly nothing short of astounding. Imagine waking up to discover that for years, you have been living right above a hidden waterway.

Source: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Picture the look of disbelief the residents would have had after seeing the images. The sheer thought of the implications of what could have eventually happened is far-reaching.

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The Bottomless Pit

Imagine driving home from work one day and finding out from the authorities at your door that your home was built over an abandoned gypsum mine and that your house was in danger of collapsing. You’d probably get a sinking feeling in your heart, to say the least. 

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Try as they might, Paha Sapa Grotto couldn’t map the whole mine out. The network seemed to go on forever. Plus, the further in they went, the riskier their exploration attempts became. Today, the mine’s true length is still unknown. Many of its sections have collapsed or flooded.

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A Large Artifact Uncovered

An underground river and old mining debris wasn’t the most interesting item they found down there. Here’s one of the Paha Sapa Grotto team looking at an old convertible deep below the earth. How it got there is anyone’s guess.

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

But judging by the car’s age, somebody was probably aware of the mine’s location before construction on the neighborhood began. The residents of Black Hawk are seeking over $75,000,000 in compensation from previous owners, developers, and estate agents associated with their now-ruined properties. 

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The Astonishing Negligence

The revelation of what was beneath those homes takes negligence to an entirely new level, as it exposes the families living there to a series of risks and hazards.

Source: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

While old gypsum mines are less likely to explode than coal or metal mines, these families faced the risk of very serious structural instability, subsidence, and environmental contamination. It raises concerns about accountability and the need for the safeguarding of communities.

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A Bitter Blow

While one would expect the government to come to the aid of these residents, in a disheartening turn of events, these residents are not likely to get grants.

Source: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Regarding the discovery and any hope for financial aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shared that the circumstances surrounding it, whether it is a natural event, an outcome of negligence, and the potential duplication of federal benefits, leave the residents not eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program which Meade County was hoping to apply for.

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Due Diligence And Home Investments

These events have highlighted the importance of taking extra care before venturing into home investments because you never really know what is lurking under the surface of what might seem like a promising investment.

Source: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

It exposes the need for greater scrutiny, and this shouldn’t only apply to homeowners but also regulatory bodies. Even still, in the face of the unknown, you can only try and hope for the best.

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Hideaway Holes

Sadly, Mr. Reitz, as well as many other former residents of Black Hawk, have been left in the dust since the incident. Many of them have relocated to new homes—but they are still legally bound to pay off payments on their properties—houses that are slowly being dragged under the earth.

Image credits: Dan Austin/Paha Sapa Grotto

Housing investments have proven to be shaky investments over the last couple of decades, but this really breaks new ground. We hope the residents of Black Hawk are able to land upon some level of stability in the near future. 

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