That Dammed Sprigg Street Sinkhole

Cape LaCroix Creek sinkhole 07-19-2015I always take a run down check out the cement plant quarry, but the trip takes a little longer now that Sprigg is closed at Cape LaCroix Creek due to a persistent sinkhole. In the 2011 flood, water under pressure from the river followed cracks and almost filled the quarry.

Sinkhole swallowed water lines

Cape LaCroix Creek sinkhole 07-19-2015Mother Earth was hungry for Cape’s infrastructure.

The Southeast Missourian had a story by Samantha Rinehart on August 18, 2015, that reported the Cape city council had approved allowing crews to begin the design and construction phase of building a bridge that will span the sinkhole area. The cost had lots of commas and zeroes.

Upstream dam

Cape LaCroix Creek sinkhole 07-19-2015When I went there on July 19, I was surprised to see a dam upstream of the bridge to keep Cape LaCroix Creek from flowing into the sinkhole area. A fairly strong thunderstorm had moved through over the past couple of days, so I wondered where all that water had gone.

Dam to keep Mississippi out

Cape LaCroix Creek sinkhole 07-19-2015There was a corresponding dam on the other side to keep the flooding Mississippi out. I didn’t have any desire to have my shoes sucked off wading through gumbo, so I elected to wait for a dryer day to explore.

Lohmann Fixture Company

Dammed Cape LaCroix Creek 08-17-2015By August 17, it was dry enough to check out the Mississippi River dam. The white building sticking up in the background is the old Lohmann Fixture Company.

1929 railroad bridge

Dammed Cape LaCroix Creek 08-17-2015The river was back to its normal levels, so nothing was lapping up against it. The black pipe off to the right must have been how the water from upstream got past the sinkhole area. I have a hard time believing a 10 or 12-inch pipe could handle the volume of water dumped by the last rainstorm, but it must have. The railroad bridge in the photo was built in 1929.

No KKK and swastika in 2010

Dammed Cape LaCroix Creek 08-17-2015When I shot the 1929 railroad bridge in 2010, it didn’t sport the KKK and swastika that it does here.

 

The Quarry from the Top

 Buzzi Unicem plant manager Steve Leus 11-10-2010Without thinking I had a chance in the world of success, I approached Buzzi Unicem plant manage Steve Leus in the fall of 2010 to ask for a tour of the cement plant and quarry. That usually results in months of getting bounced from corporate type to corporate type, ending up in a “No.”

I showed up in Steve’s office with a stack of prints I had taken over the past 40 years from the air, from inside the caverns, from the quarry’s edge, and of the plumes of white particulate that used to belch from the stacks of the plant. We had a great conversation, then he handed me a hard hat and we were on our way. THAT’S the kind of manager I like to deal with.

There are some stories that paralyze me because they are special to me. This is one of those. I kept putting off and putting off publishing it because I wanted to research the history of the plant that has changed names many times, boil down Steve’s explanation of how rock  becomes cement and do it right.

Let’s pull the trigger

Cape cement plant and quarry 11-10-2010Today, more than three years later, I figured I’d better pull the trigger on this puppy and start publishing it in bits and pieces. I am NEVER going to do all that research and transcribe the paper and digital notes I have. Let’s get real: I’m a photographer, not a historian. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Part One will show the huge hole in the ground from the top. Well, not ALL the way from the top. I’ve got a bunch of aerial photos over the years that will run later.

Sometime in the future, I’ll publish photos taken from the bottom of the quarry including the tunnels that you are driving over when you are on Sprigg Street.

Unfortunately, NOBODY, Steve said, is allowed in them. There’s no danger of Sprigg Street collapsing, but safety regulations are a lot more stringent than they were a hundred years ago.

The old Blue Hole

Cape cement plant and quarry 11-10-2010If I remember my history and what Steve told me, the rounded area on the far right was what was popularly known as the “Blue Hole,” called that because of the color of the water that filled it. At one time, this area was two quarries. When the caverns were blown, it became one big hole.

You can see the dome of SEMO’s Academic Hall sticking up in the center of the photo.

Earlier stories about the quarry and cement plant

Quarry photo gallery

Some of the photos look a bit repetitious, but there are subtle difference in all of them. Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery. Thanks to Steve for sharing a part of Cape that has fascinated me since I was a kid.