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Bala'a sinkhole (Baatara sinkhole) and waterfall

Bala'a sinkhole, Lebanon
Bala'a sinkhole / Serge Melki, / CC BY 2.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 34.1729 N 35.8706 E
No:489        (list of all attractions)
Category:Sinkholes, Caves, Waterfalls, Natural arches
Values:Geology, Visual
Rank:2
Address:Asia, Lebanon, North Governorate, Batroun District, Tannourine, Baatara gorge
Alternate names:Ballouh sinkhole, Baatara sinkhole, "Three bridges", "Trois Ponts"
Depth (entrance part, main sinkhole):˜ 70 m
Full depth of cave:˜ 255 m (known depth)
Height of falls (total):˜ 255 m
Height of upper cascade:˜ 70 m
Height of tallest plunge:˜ 80 m (not visible from the top)

Bala'a (Baatara) sinkhole is unique. Imagine: a stream of melted snow finds an enormous hole in the ground and as a free falling waterfall leaps into 255 m deep undeground void. Waterfall is falling along three natural bridges stacked one above other. Sounds improbable - but it exists!

Jaj plateau

This natural wonder is located high in the mountains of Lebanon, at the end of dry valley. This area - Jaj plateau - is formed from a thick layer of Jurassic limestone - Kesrouane Formation. Foreign and Lebanese speleologists have found in this area more than 20 caves and sinkholes.

Discovery

Some local people, of course, knew about this unusual waterfall and sinkhole. Nevertheless wider public learned about it only in 1952, when it was visited by by French antomologist and speleologist Henri Coiffait (1907 - 1989). More thorough mapping of Bala'a sinkhole was made in 1980 by the Spéléo club du Liban.

Path towards Bala'a sinkhole, Lebanon
Path towards Bala'a sinkhole / Serge Melki, / CC BY 2.0

Nowadays it is popular tourist destination, especially in March-April, when the melting snow forms the waterfall.

There is no fencing and one should be very careful not to fall from slippery rocks. Proper protection though would change this location or leave no possibility to access the sinkhole.

Description

Bala'a sinkhole starts with a large hole in the ground. This is some 70 m deep pitch, approximately 25 m wide.

Bala'a sinkhole, Lebanon
Bala'a sinkhole and waterfall / Wikimedia Commons by user Elie plus, CC-BY-SA-3.0

This sinkhole though differs from others - one can look into it not only from the above but also from the northern side, where have formed three large "windows" and three natural bridges. Upper bridge is older than the others.

During the flood the limestone often is broken and large pieces fall down.

Total depth of this nearly vertical cave is 255 m. Entrance pitch is some 70 m tall but further below pits continue - the tallest one is 80 m tall. Thus the total height of waterfall also is 255 m.

Further the cave disappears below the stream - it is nearly impossible to explore it any further.

Fluorescent dye test in 1988 showed that the stream emerges to the daylight in Dalleh Spring, Mgharet al-Ghaouaghir some 6 km northwest and 860 m below.

Map

See Bala'a sinkhole and waterfall on the map of Lebanon!

Landmarks of Lebanon

Pigeons' Rock or Rock of Raouché in Beirut, Lebanon
Pigeons' Rock or Rock of Raouché in Beirut. / Maya-Anaïs Yataghène, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Main attractions

Maybe Lebanon is the most beautiful country in Near East. Its landscape is idyllic and diverse, here are tallest mountains of this region, skiing resorts, large forests, green fields and beautiful seaside. Both man made and natural heritage here is very rich.

Sinkholes

Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel, sinkholes in Venezuela
Sima Humboldt and Sima Martel, sinkholes in Venezuela / Luis Ruiz Berti, public domain

Category includes outstanding sinkholes - large natural depressions or holes, which for most part represent collapsed caves.

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