Sinkhole Utah's West Desert
Said to have been carved by an ancient under ground river the West Desert Sinkhole was discovered in 1927 by Joseph Nielson. Nielson was driving some mules on a dark night back to his camp when he strayed into the area by mistake. Nielson's horse stopped and refused to take another step. Nielson got off his horse and started walking forward when suddenly the ground below his feet gave way tumbling into the unseen sinkhole. In desperation he held onto the reins and his horse quickly backed up pulling him away from the yet unseen danger.
Neilson remounted his horse leaving the reins limp, he placed his trust in the horse. His horse reportedly backed up for another 50 feet before he veered away at a 90 degree angle and trotted off to safety. The next day, Neilson retraced is steps. As he approached the sinkhole, his horse refused to go anywhere near it. As Nielson continued , what he saw made his knees so weak he had to sit down. There before him was a sinkhole that he estimated was about 90 feet deep and 70 feet across. Early visitors to the hole reported that the sinkhole opened at the bottom into a tunnel carved through sedimentary silt left by an ancient river or lake. They said that they could walk back into the ancient riverbed tunnel for quite some distance. The floor of the sinkhole is very uneven. On the east side, so much dirt and rocks have fallen in that the rim is only about 55 feet above the floor, whereas on the west side of the sinkhole the rim is almost 100 feet away from the floor. The bottom of the sinkhole is much larger than at the rim, making it very hard to climb out by using rope. The BLM has built a fence around the sinkhole to keep cattle and unsuspecting people from straying into it. Do not attempt to climb down into the hole! The edges around the hole are undercut making it very dangerous to get to close. The rock is very lose making it easy to lose your footing and send the onlooker to the bottom with gravel and rocks raining down upon them. Just use caution when visiting and I guarantee you too will loose your breath when you approach this hole just as Joseph Nielson did.
There a two ways you can visit the sink hole:
Drive on highway 6-50 to the road that goes to the U-Dig Fossil site. Drive north on the gravel road for 6.8 miles to the Y intersection next to Long Ridge Reservoir (usually dry). Take the left fork, driving for 1.6 miles to a T intersection. Turn left (south) and drive 3.3 miles to a road that leads west. Drive west for 3.4 miles to a Y intersection. Take the right fork of the Y, heading northwest for one mile. Turn right, drive north for .6 mile. Turn right again, drive southwest for about a half mile to a parking area next to the fence that surrounds the sinkhole.