It is 84-feet wide, but at 58-feet deep it is not bottomless and there are no blind fish swimming in its depths.
It is reported while St. Jacob of Nisibis Mesopotamia was on a pilgrimage to find Noah's Ark, he rested near the top of Mt. Qardu. In his sleep an angel placed a piece of the Ark close to him and woke him. At the spot where he rested, a sacred spring with healing powers emerged.
It is fitting that St. Jacob's Well in Clark County 15 miles south of Minneola is named for him. It sits in the Little Basin which is in the 1,818-acre Big Basin Prairie Preserve managed by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which is located in prairie land within the Red Hills region.
There is no drainage out and, though it has never known to have gone dry, its level fluctuates with precipitation and geological shifts. The area's basins were formed from solution-subsidence when water seeps from the surface dissolving underground veins of salt, gypsum or limestone. The upper layers of rock and soil sink to fill in the subsurface hollows created. This process continues today.
Historically the area was not occupied, but some Northern Cheyenne camped and rested at the site in the fall of 1878 during their Exodus. This was after Dull Knife's band had escaped from a reservation in Indian Territory and attempted to go back north to their home.
The Basin also served as a landmark and a watering hole during the 1870's and 1880's for drovers bringing cattle up the Western Cattle Trail.
Tales have circulated over the decades of sightless fish living in a bottomless pit. Some have thought the well is fed by an underground spring which washes away anything in the depths of the pond, including bodies which will never be found.
In the 1890's there was a reported haunting by a "spectral cowboy" who, along with his horse, let out "the most blood-curdlingest sound ever made on this here earth."
These tales have all been debunked, yet according to visitors a sense of eeriness infuses the area near the well.
The State acquired the land in 1974 from The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. government designated the Big Basin a National Landmark in December 1978. Mrs. C.G. (Janie) Stein had formed the Big Basin Foundation in 1972.
Mrs. Stein's desire was to allocate this land for the conservation of American Bison (buffalo) and pronghorn antelope.
The Big Basin, Little Basin and St. Jacob's Well can be reached easily from the east side of US Highway 283/160 south of Minneola and west of Ashland. There are often buffalo at the site.
If you plan on exiting your vehicle, be aware that buffalo are large wild animals that move very fast and can be aggressive.