Winter Park Sinkhole

Winter Park Sinkhole

How would you feel if you knew there is millions of dollars in cars right under your feet? The Sinkhole of 1981 truly left us in shock. Learn more about the history of our beloved Winter Park.

Winter Park Sinkhole

Winter Park Sinkhole. Florida is known for its beautiful homes, restaurants, and shops, but the city has a lot of natural gems as well. One example is Lake Rose, near the intersection of Fairbanks Ave. and S. Denning Dr. The lake can trace its beginnings to a massive sinkhole that opened up near the intersection 41 years ago.

The Devastation and Beginning of Lake Rose

The sinkhole is now known as “Lake Rose,” named after Mae Rose Owens, whose home was swallowed by the lake. The sinkhole became an oddball tourist attraction. Crowds gathered to gawk at it, and enterprising locals made T-shirts to commemorate it. Eventually, the novelty wore off. The city of Winter Park stabilized the sinkhole by filling the bottom with dirt and concrete. It began to fill with water, and now it’s home to fish and wildlife. The city decided to name the sinkhole Lake Rose, after the woman whose home was swallowed up by it and is, we presume, still down there somewhere.



The lake can trace its beginnings to a massive sinkhole that opened up near the intersection 41 years ago. One local family has devoted a lot of time studying this natural disaster which has led to some breakthroughs in understanding sinkholes. Florida is no stranger to sinkholes, but they normally occur in rural areas or where there is a lot of irrigation they can happen in cities too – just not usually into the scale.

“Usually they’re very small and localized, and you can come in and fill them, stabilize it, and you move on,”

Size Of The Sinkhole, What Else It Took

The hole eventually widened to 320 feet (98 m) and to a depth of 90 feet (27 m). Swallowing five Porsche’s at a repair shop, a pickup truck with camper top, the Winter Park municipal pool, and large portions of Denning Drive. Winter Park city employees were able to rescue toilets from the pool bathhouse before they were swallowed by the sinkhole. By May 9th, the sinkhole had swallowed nearly 250,000 cubic yards (190,000 m3) of earth. With damage estimated at $2 to $4 million dollars. Florida engineers have described the event as “the largest sinkhole event witnessed by man as a result of natural geological reasons or conditions

The sinkhole drew national attention and became a popular tourist attraction during the summer of 1981. A carnival-like atmosphere arose around the area, with vendors selling food, balloons, and t-shirts to visitors. The city of Winter Park sold sinkhole photographs for promotional and educational purposes. The sinkhole began to fill with water that summer, but on July 19th the water level suddenly dropped by a reported 15 to 20 feet (4.6 to 6.1 m).

No Stranger To Sinkholes

Florida is no stranger to sinkholes, but they typically occur in rural areas or where there is a lot of irrigation, they can also occur in cities – usually not on the scale. The desire to be close to water is one that is entrenched in the human soul, and nowhere else more than in Florida. Even in the central portion of the state, bodies of water such as this beautiful sink hole exist to provide rest, relaxation, sources of food and fun to the people who visit them.

As the novelty wore off, the city worked to repair the damage. Workers extracted the truck and three of the five Porsche’s swallowed by the sinkhole. Engineers filled in the bottom with dirt and concrete, the sinkhole stabilized, and in its place formed Lake Rose. Named in honor of Mae Rose Williams. Diver reports from 2009 suggest that the lake has since been used to dispose of unwanted vehicles. Excepting a 1987 incident in which the bottom of the lake suddenly dropped 20 feet (6.1 m). Causing erosion on the southern rim, the stabilized sinkhole has been generally quiet.

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