Skip Navigation

Elk County Geohydrology

Prev Page--Chemical Character || Next Page--Well Records

Ground-water Regions in Elk County

For the purpose of discussing the availability of ground water, Elk County has been divided into regions coinciding with the outcrops of different geologic formations. Although the regions cannot be sharply delimited, they were selected because of similarities of aquifers or of wells within a region The name selected for a region is the name oil the geologic formation where only one formation is present and the hyphenated names of the upper and lower formations or members where more than one is included. The names of the ground-water regions and the letters designating the regions on the ground-water map (Pl. 3) are given in Table 10.

Table 10--Names of ground-water regions in Elk County and designating symbols used on Plate 3.

Region or area Symbol used on Plate 3
Wreford-Americus region WA
Hamlin-Dry region HD
Dover-Burlingame region DB
Silver Lake-Severy region SS
Topeka-Lecompton region TL
Tecumseh area TLt
Kanwaka region K
Oread region O
Ireland region I
Stranger region S
Alluvium-Terrace region AT

The westernmost region in Elk County is the Wreford-Americus region designated by the symbol WA on Plate 3. The rocks in this region are a sequence of shales and limestones. The limestones are relatively thick, and many of them contain chert. The topography of the region is typical of the Flint Hills. The Americus limestone member of the Foraker limestone forms a lower escarpment recognized over much of the southern part of the outcrop; the Wreford limestone forms an upper escarpment; and the intervening limestones form a series of terrace like benches.

The chief aquifers of this region are the Wreford and Foraker limestones. Water is yielded to wells through joints and solution channels in the cherty members of these formations. Other aquifers in the area are the Crouse, Bader, Beattie, and Grenola limestones. The Neva limestone member of the Grenola yields water to springs over a part of its outcrop in Elk County, but of the wells inventoried none was obtaining water from the Neva limestone. In Cowley County, however, the Neva yields water to many wells and springs (Bass, 1929).

Wells in the Wreford-Americus region are generally drilled wells ranging in depth from 20 to 125 feet. Most of the wells in the area yield adequate and dependable supplies of water, but during the drought period 1933 to 1939, because many wells failed, many ponds were constructed or water had to be hauled. The yield from wells in this area ranges from as much as 50 gallons a minute from the Wreford limestone to only a few gallons an hour from other aquifers (Table 11). Many springs and seeps issue from rock in this area, which is the headwater area of Elk River and Caney Creek--both spring-fed streams.

Water from the aquifers in this region is generally good except for hardness, which is mostly of the carbonate type and can be removed by relatively simple treatment. Samples were collected from two wells in the Wreford-Americus region. Well 28-8-33dd yields water from the Wreford and Crouse limestones. This water has a total hardness of 349 ppm. The carbonate, or temporary, hardness of the water from this well is 276 parts. Well 30-8-24bd yields water from the Foraker limestone; this water has a total hardness of 308 ppm, of which 300 ppm is carbonate, or temporary, hardness.

Hamlin-Dry Region

The Hamlin-Dry region, designated by the symbol HD on Plate 3, is a relatively narrow belt lying below the escarpment of the Foraker limestone. In this area sandstone and sandy shales of the Admire group and upper part of the Wabaunsee group yield water to wells. The wells are typically shallow dug wells, many of which yield small supplies inadequate for stock water.

The water from wells in this region is generally hard. The noncarbonate hardness generally is high because of the high sulfate content. The analysis of water from well 31-8-25aa in this region is given in Table 5.

The Dover-Burlingame region, designated by the symbol DB on Plate 3, was defined because of similarities in the limestones. The limestones in this region form escarpments, although the escarpments are not nearly so pronounced as those in the Wreford-Americus region. The limestones are thin but persistent and uniform in thickness, and from them water is obtained through joints and solution channels within the formations. The shales in some parts of this region are sandy or contain channel sandstones that yield small amounts of water to wells. Wells in the Dover limestone are generally shallow dug wells and yield small amounts of water. The Dover limestone does not yield water in this area to wells drilled below the weathered zone. The Elmont limestone does not yield water to wells at shallow depths, but several wells obtain water from depths of 75 feet or more. Yields of wells in the Elmont are small, probably not more than 1 or 2 gpm. The Wakarusa limestone and Burlingame limestone are separated by the thin Soldier Creek shale, and it is difficult to determine which of the two is the principal source of water in many wells. Most wells in the Wakarusa and Burlingame limestones yield small amounts of water, but they may yield as much as 10 ppm. A spring in a road cut in the SW 1/4 sec. 23, T. 27 S., R. 10 E., Greenwood County, in the Burlingame limestone had an estimated flow of 10 gpm.

The water in the Dover-Burlingame region is generally hard.

Silver Lake-Severy Region

The Silver Lake-Severy region, designated by the symbol 55 on Plate 3, is underlain predominantly by shale and sandy shale. The only escarpment-forming limestone is the Howard, which yields small amounts of water to wells in some areas where it has been altered near the surface by weathering. Most wells in this region obtain water from sandy shales or sandstones of the upper part of the Cedar Vale shale, the middle part of the White Cloud shale, or the upper part of the Severy shale. The yield of wells in this area is generally small, a few gallons an hour, and generally not enough for stock-water supplies. Wells drilled through a large thickness of the Severy shale into the Topeka or the Deer Creek limestone generally yield poor water. Most wells in this area are shallow dug wells, although a few are drilled as much as 100 feet deep.

The water in the shallow wells in this region is generally good but is somewhat hard. The hardness is mostly carbonate. The water from well 29-10-1dd in the Howard limestone or the upper part of the Severy shale had a total hardness of 266 ppm, which was carbonate hardness. The water from well 30-10-28cd in a sandstone in the White Cloud shale had a hardness of 230 ppm, of which 188 parts was carbonate (Table 5). amounts of water. Most wells inventoried in this region are drilled wells and yield water from depths of as much as 140 feet.

Topeka-Lecompton Region

The Topeka-Lecompton region, TL on Plate 3, is the largest limestone region in Elk County. It includes outcrops of the Topeka, Deer Creek, and Lecompton limestones and also the Tecumseh shale, the extent of which is shown separately on Plate 3 as an area and designated by the symbol TLt. The limestones in this region are relatively thick and are similar in their ground-water characteristics in that they yield water from the top members of the formations. The Topeka limestone yields small supplies generally from dug wells from the "Red" limestone, which probably is equivalent to the Coal Creek limestone member. The Deer Creek limestone, which is probably the best aquifer in the Topeka-Lecompton region, yields supplies to wells penetrating the Ervine Creek limestone member. Many small springs issue from this rock along the outcrop. The Avoca limestone member and Beil limestone member of the Lecompton limestone yield small supplies to wells in some areas. In the northern part of its outcrop the Doniphan shale member contains more sand than in the southern part and is the best aquifer of the formation. Most of the wells producing from the Lecompton limestone have small yields. Wells obtaining water from the Doniphan member are as deep as 125 feet.

Tecumseh Area

In the Tecumseh area, TLt on Plate 3, wells obtain water from the Tecumseh shale. In the area south and west of Elk Falls it is sandy and resembles in part locally a channel-filling sandstone. Farther north the Tecumseh does not contain enough sandstone to yield appreciable amounts of water. Most wells inventoried in this region are drilled wells and yield water from depths of as much as 140 feet.

The water in the Topeka-Lecompton region is generally hard. Most of the hardness is carbonate, but well 28-11-24cd yields, from the Deer Creek limestone, water that has a noncarbonate hardness of 2,190 ppm and contains 832 ppm of nitrate, which indicates contamination. Water from well 29-12-32dc is a sodium bicarbonate water containing much sodium, bicarbonate, and carbonate, and is very soft. This well yields water from the Doniphan shale member of the Lecompton limestone, which is sandy in this area. The analyses of the water from wells in the Topeka-Lecompton region are given in Table 5.

Kanwaka Region

In the Kanwaka region, designated by the symbol K on Plate 3, water is obtained from wells in the Kanwaka shale, which is divided into three members: in descending order the Stull shale, the Clay Creek limestone, and the Jackson Park shale.

In the Stull shale member, a lenticular or channel-filling sandstone yields water to wells. In Elk County, this sandstone reaches a thickness of about 30 feet. Wells in this sandstone yield adequate supplies of good water.

A channel-filling sandstone (Elgin) whose top is a few feet below the top of the Jackson Park shale reaches a thickness in Elk County of about 35 feet, and in places it lies directly on the Kereford limestone member of the Oread limestone. In Chautauqua County near Elgin, it reaches its maximum thickness of 150 feet. In Elk County, wells penetrating this sandstone yield adequate supplies of water for stock and domestic use.

The quality of water from the Kanwaka region differs from place to place. The northern part of the aquifer generally yields poorer water than the southern part.

Drillers report areas where salt water is present in this region. The analyses of water samples also indicate that the ground water in parts of the region is strongly mineralized. The water in well 29-12-8bb had 439 ppm of chloride and 1,279 ppm of dissolved solids. The total hardness of this water was 908 parts, of which 292 parts was carbonate hardness. The water in well 31-12-30cb, in the southern part of the region, had only 22 ppm of chloride and 324 parts of dissolved solids. The total hardness was 272 parts, 210 parts of which was carbonate hardness (Table 5).

Oread Region

The Oread region, designated on Plate 3 by the symbol O, lies just east of the Kanwaka region and comprises the outcrop areas of units of the Oread limestone. Wells in this region yield water from the Plattsmouth limestone member and the Snyderville shale member of the Oread limestone. The yield of wells in the Plattsmouth member is generally small, and the rock may provide only enough water for domestic wells. Wells in the Snyderville shale member yield water from sandy zones and generally yield slightly more than the wells in the Plattsmouth.

The water from the Oread region is generally hard; most of the hardness is carbonate (Table 5).

Ireland Region

The Ireland region, designated by the symbol I on Plate 3, is the largest of the sandstone regions in Elk County. It is underlain by beds of the Lawrence shale, of which the Ireland sandstone member is the best aquifer. Wells in the Ireland sandstone member are either dug or drilled. The best wells are drilled and range from 40 to 160 feet in depth. The quantity of water derived from the Ireland by wells ranges from about 1 to 10 gpm and averages about 2 gpm.

Near the community of Busby in sec. 1, T. 30 S., R. 12 E., in an area of about a quarter of a square mile, artesian water flows from wells that penetrate the Ireland sandstone member to an average depth of about 40 feet. The yields from these wells range from an estimated 0.5 gpm in some wells to about 3 gpm in well 30-12-1ba. The artesian head of this well was 4.60 feet above the land surface (Table 11). In other wells in the region the water rises above the aquifer, but the static bevel is below the land surface.

The water from wells in this region is relatively hard, but the hardness is generally carbonate.

Well 30-12-1ba yields a sodium bicarbonate water in which the calcium and magnesium content is low and the sodium content is high. This well yields water from the Ireland sandstone member and is a flowing artesian well. Water in some wells in the northern part of the region is reported by drillers to be salty.

Stranger Region

The Stranger region, designated on Plate 3 by the symbol S, is the area of outcrop of beds of the Stranger formation, which extend from the base of the Ireland sandstone member downward through the Tonganoxie sandstone member of the Stranger formation. Wells yield water from sandy shale and sandstone of the Robbins and Vinland shale members and from the Tonganoxie sandstone member of the Stranger formation. The Tonganoxie sandstone probably yields water to wells in the southeast part of the county and to a few wells in the northeast part of the county. The yield of most of the wells is not large, and where the Tonganoxie is found at a depth of more than 100 feet the water is generally slightly salty. The quality of the water in the Stranger region is similar to that in the Ireland region.

Alluvium-Terrace Region

The Alluvium-Terrace region, designated by the symbol AT on Plate 3, consists of areas underlain by unconsolidated alluvium and terrace deposits along the valleys of Elk and Fall Rivers. The area of these deposits is not large, but the deposits yield water to wells in larger quantities than any other aquifer in the county.

The terrace deposits do not yield as much water to wells as the alluvium, because generally the water table is near the base of the terrace deposits. The coarse gravels are generally thinner in the terraces than in the alluvium. A cross section of the alluvium of Elk River along a line extending from about 150 feet south of the NE cor. SE 1/4 sec. 5, T. 31 S., R. 12 E., to about 150 feet south of the NE cor. SE 1/4 sec. 17, T. 31 S., R. 12 E., is shown as B-B' in Figure 11. This cross section shows three terraces. The first is a low, discontinuous terrace in which the ground-water characteristics are similar to those in the alluvial floodplain and which is therefore mapped as alluvium and is included in the discussion of the alluvium. The second terrace lies about 17 feet higher than the low terrace. The second terrace is about 0.5 mile wide, and its deposits are not so good an aquifer as are those at the low terrace. The gravels are thinner than in the bow terrace, and the water table is near the base of the terrace deposits. Wells in this terrace area generally yield adequate supplies for stock or domestic use, but large supplies could not be developed. The third terrace lies about 20 feet above the second and overlies the bench made by the resistant Toronto limestone member of the Oread limestone. At its widest part this terrace is about 0.75 mile wide. The terrace gravels are thin and lie above the level of the water table in the floodplain. The wells in this area are small because they depend on seepage water from the shales in the valley sides and on infiltration in seasons of heavy rainfall.

The terrace area in the northeast part of the county along Fall River is similar to the second terrace along Elk River.

The alluvium along Elk River provides moderate supplies from the east county line westward, upstream, to an area just below Elk Falls. Upstream from Elk Falls the alluvium thins and is not an important aquifer, although it yields water to a few wells. The wells in the alluvium below Elk Falls obtain water from chert gravels and sands that are not continuous over the entire valley but, where present, yield water to wells freely. These chert gravels and sands, as indicated by test drilling and bogs of wells, are generally about 5 feet thick and are not more than 10 feet thick in any of the test holes.

Upstream from the eastern edge of the outcrop of the Oread limestone the valleys of Elk and Fall Rivers are narrow. Downstream from the eastern edge of the outcrop the valleys widen as the stream crosses the softer shales of the Lawrence and Stranger formations. East of the Elk County line the valleys continue to widen for a distance of about 5 miles, to the western edge of the outcrop of the Stanton limestone. Below this point the valleys again narrow.

Valley widths are shown by cross sections A-A' and B-B' in Figure 11. Cross section A-A' is across the Elk River valley 1 mile west of the Elk-Montgomery County line, and cross section B-B' is about 7 miles west of cross section A-A' near Longton.

Where gravel is present in the alluvium, wells yield as much as 50 gpm. Even where gravel is absent, the silts are generally so sandy that very good stock wells can be developed.

Water from the alluvium and terrace area of the Fall River valley is generally good. It is relatively soft and the hardness is carbonate. The water from the alluvium and terrace area of the Elk River valley is not so good as that in the Fall River valley. The chloride content is greater, and the water has a greater total hardness. The samples of water from wells in the alluvium of Elk River were high in nitrate, probably owing to local contamination.

Prev Page--Chemical Character || Next Page--Well Records

Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Web version July 2002. Original publication date July 1958.
Comments to
The URL for this page is