Short Creek: The Shortest Creek On Earth

By Jeremy Patton

Short Creek is located in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

Overlooking Short Creek Cave 7/16/16

The cave where Short Creek re-enters the underworld 7/16/16

Some claim that Short Creek is the shortest in the world. I have no idea if that is true. It emerges from a cave, flows about 150 feet, enters another cave then disappears into the darkness.

It caught my eye immediately when I approached it from the road. I am no geologist, but I assume that its color is caused by minerals picked up as it flows underground. Like other bodies of water, its color probably changes depending on the season and precipitation.

When I exited my car, I heard a rush similar to a waterfall or cascade, which made me more excited. Short Creek surfaces calmly but soon speeds up over rougher terrain, creating small rapids. It narrows when it enters the second cave, echoing loudly before rejoining the underworld.

Short Creek from Inside the Cave 4-1-15

4/1/15

There are two entrances that allow you to walk down into the cavern and stand near the creek. No flashlight, special shoes or clothing are necessary, although things might get more messy after significant rainfall. Intriguing ripples and grooves caused by erosion adorn the cavern walls.

According to a KET program called “Kentucky Life: Short Creek,” a professor and his students from Eastern Kentucky University inserted dye into the creek to determine its origin and terminus. It eventually empties into the nearby Buck Creek.

The Sun from Inside Short Creek Cave 4-1-15

I have lived in London, Kentucky for more than 30 years. I had never heard of Short Creek until yesterday, so I did not expect to find such an impressive and unique natural creation. It is a must-see.

Thank you Brett Harris for bringing it to my attention.

Cave Where Short Creek Reenters the Underworld 4-1-15

Short Creek Sign

****

6/19/16 – Delania and I donned our headlamps and explored Short Creek Cave. Taking advantage of the dryer weather, we walked creek-side for about one hundred yards before being forced to wade in ankle-deep water. Thick humidity midway through the tunnel made visibility low. We spotted the faint light of an exit located on an embankment above the creek. The water got much deeper at this point, perhaps waist deep, so we had to turn around. The cave was far shorter that we expected. We plan to hike over land and locate the exit, maybe in the fall when the ticks and snakes are gone.

5/6/15

5/6/15

Mom inside Short Creek Cave 5/6/15

Mom inside Short Creek Cave 5/6/15

6/26/16

6/26/16

My buddy Shane on the banks of Short Creek 6/26/16

My buddy Shane on the banks of Short Creek 6/26/16

****

On 11/13/16, Delania and I climbed to the top of the bluff and bushwhacked southeast until we met a ravine. We followed the ravine west then found the huge exit of Short Creek Cave. The creek-bed was dry due to a drought, but still gorgeous.

Short Creek Cave Exit 11/13/16

Short Creek Cave Exit 11/13/16

near-short-creek-exit-cave-11-13-16

We ventured inside and walked maybe 100 feet to a shallow pool that stretched from one side of the cavern to the other. We probably could have waded through it and proceeded to the entrance if we had brought the proper equipment. Looking over my shoulder, the exit appeared much smaller than from outside, then I realized that we had reached our turn-around spot from back in June.

The diminished creek still rushed in the darkness, but not through the bone-dry exit. I wondered if it led to an undiscovered exit or perhaps entered a spring passage that resurged at Buck Creek, not far away. If we are able to return before the drought ends, we will investigate.

Our photos of the exit cave and creek-bed were fabulous, but did the area little justice. My favorite photo, however, was from inside the cave looking out. A styrofoam cup can be seen lodged in the ceiling, 15-20 feet high. This is not the only instance of trash getting stuck in the ceiling. They are testaments of flood-waters that rage through the cavern.

trash-lodged-in-the-ceiling-of-short-creek-exit-cave-11-13-16

short-creek-exit-cave-on-11-13-16

Added 4/1/15 – Updated 11/14/16