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Sinkhole tourism? Fountain, Minnesota is digging in

The Fillmore County Historical Society hopes the area's 10,000 sinkholes will attract more people.

FOUNTAIN, Minn. — Minnesota is known for a lot of things — from its lakes to mosquitoes. But a couple of hours outside the Twin Cities is a small town nicknamed the "sinkhole capital of the country". 

In Fountain, there are more sinkholes than people and now leaders there are trying to turn its claim to fame into the next must-see hot spot.

"We are the self-proclaimed sinkhole capital of the USA," said Fillmore County Historical Society's executive director Sara Sturgis. "We have, I think the last count, was about 10,000-ish in the whole county."

That's 25 times more sinkholes than people that, from the ground, can look like just a grove of trees, making them easy to miss.

But from the air, they dramatically dot the farm fields and are unique only to this part of the state. 

Credit: KARE 11
Sinkholes in Fountain, Minnesota

"If you love the way this place looks and makes you feel, you should care about sinkholes because that's what makes this landscape and contributes to it," said Sturgis. 

Sturgis says sinkholes are a feature of what's called karst topography. It's when water and carbon dioxide form an acid that eats away the limestone, which is the bedrock most common in the area. It can also create caves and springs, which are common throughout Fillmore County.

"Unlike places like Florida or Mexico, where they have a higher water table, the activity is so much more dramatic there," said Sturgis. "Here it's not massively active, this stuff is happening over eons."

The history of sinkholes in Fountain is as widespread as their stories — from a dumping ground for appliances to the new one in the center of town that's not far from Karst Brewing, aptly named for the hallmark landscape. 

Sturgis says some 8,000 tourists will come through the area and down Highway 52 every summer and many of them ask how to see the celebrated sinkholes. 

"It is literally once a day from May through, even I would say, October," said Sturgis. "So, I think we're responding to this greater interest."

For Sturgis, the pockmarks that farmers have to plow around is the beginning of a brighter future and wants to use the growing interest as a framework for more tourism. Sturgis is writing grants, researching other funding sources and encouraging stakeholders to join in on the plan that's still early in the process. 

"I think this is the moment we lean in and that we create that strategy because we can talk about this all we want, but to make it happen, that's where we're at," said Sturgis. 

She said the ultimate goal is to combine securing dollars to boost the local economy and to educate people, encouraging them to dig deeper, into the foundation that makes Fountain so special. 

"It literally is right in front of you, if you know what to look for," said Sturgis. 

Some of the easiest sinkholes to see in Fountain are right near the welcome sign when you pull into town and at the Root River trailhead where there's also a viewing platform. 

You can click here to learn more about the area. 

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