The cover collapse sinkholes occurred and concentrated in Wugaishan town, Chen zhou city since 1996. The results are combined with results of site investigation, geophysical prospecting and in situ groundwater monitoring data, allowing the development characteristics and formation mechanism of surficial collapse incidents to be summarized. Collapse sinkholes are significantly active in recent years and mostly develop in the rainy season ranging from April to June and generally show a zonal distribution along the topography of study area from SW to NE. 92.31 % of total collapse events occurred in the thickness of overburden material ranged from 0 to 15 m, which indicated that overlying material less than 15 m was easier to collapse. The results show that collapse sinkholes have strong relationship with characteristic of overburden material, which sharply decrease in internal physical and mechanical property of bottom layer. Furthermore, substantial cavities formed within bedrock are the best transport channels and storage spaces for the unconsolidated material, especially under the condition of dynamic undulation of groundwater level. The formation mechanism of collapse sinkhole is divided into three types: infiltration erosion, coupling air implosion with vacuum cavitation and saturation erosion. Each formation mechanism is related to changes of groundwater level. When groundwater level rose above the soil-bedrock interface, saturated subsoil were easier to disintegrate into small particles and migrate downward as the vertical seepage of groundwater. The hydraulic gradient increased and became the predominant factor for the development of soil cavity as groundwater level dropped below the soil-bedrock interface. Moreover, when groundwater level sharply surged up at the relative sealed environment, the upward erosion roof of cavity would be more likely to collapse by the entrapped air blasting.