Discovering a Hidden Treasure in a Sinkhole

After a sinkhole opened up atop a golf course at Big Cedar Lodge’s Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve in May of 2015, noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris is deep into a treasure hunt that may well reveal a hidden natural wonder buried deep within the Ozarks. The collapse occurred after heavy rainfalls throughout the Ozark region, resulting in the creation of a large sinkhole spanning 70 feet across and running 40 feet deep. It occurred directly adjacent to the meticulously landscaped Tom Watson-designed putting green and drew worldwide media attention to Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock Golf Course, just south of Branson, Missouri.

After considering filling the hole with large boulders and restoring the golf course to its original design, Morris instead chose to explore it, in hopes of finding a secret passageway and uncovering a massive cave system underneath the golf course and surrounding area.

Big Cedar Lodge’s
“A treasure hunt is underway and we hope to one day discover a new natural wonder lying below,” said Johnny Morris, who has been overseeing the big dig. “It’s been an exciting few months here at Top of the Rock and we hope the best is yet to come.”

Water from the sinkhole drained out from a cave about one mile away that Morris personally discovered 23 years ago, leading him to believe the two may be connected by a long cave system. Morris’s exploits were documented in a National Geographic feature story in April 1998. Five years of excavating and several dead ends later, they revealed a cavern, home to beautiful rock formations National Geographic described as, “an underground chapel.” Morris always wondered if the cave was linked to a more comprehensive underground system. After water rushed out from the mouth following the new sinkhole implosion, his interest was renewed and the treasure hunt was on once more.

Visitors don’t have to wait for a new cavern to be discovered to enjoy a cave experience at Top of the Rock, however. The Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, a self guided golf cart adventure, offers guests
an opportunity to drive through another nearby cave that hints at the wonder that may be hiding just a few hundred feet away. Golf also continues at Top of the Rock, which is hosting the PGA TOUR’s Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Tournament this spring.