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  Grant, Haskell, and Stevens County Geohydrology

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General Geology

Ground Water

Geologic Formations

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Geologic Formations and their Water-bearing Properties, continued

Quaternary System

Pleistocene Series

Meade formation

The Meade formation was recognized and described by Cragin (1896, p. 53) as the Meade gravels. The name was proposed for the lowest of three "terranes" in the vicinity of the old Vanhem post office in sec. 13, T. 30 S., R. 23 W., Clark County (Hibbard, 1944b, p. 709). In addition, he gave the name Pearlette ash to the deposits of volcanic ash in that region. Smith (1940, pp. 100-111) described the Pleistocene Odee formation and local Pleistocene deposits that he called Equus niobrarensis beds and Jones Ranch beds. Frye and Hibbard (1941, pp. 411-419) redefined the Meade formation to include Cragin's Meade gravels and Pearlette ash; Smith's Odee formation, Equus niobrarensis beds, and Jones Ranch beds; and all other beds of Pleistocene age above the Rexroad formation and below the Kingsdown silt. Additional fossils studied by Hibbard (personal communication) indicate that the Jones Ranch beds are equivalent to the Kingsdown silt. The term "Meade formation" is used in this report as defined by Frye and Hibbard except that the Jones Ranch beds are considered a part of the Kingsdown silt.

Character--The Meade formation in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties consists of thick deposits of coarse sand and gravel at the base (Pls. 8, 9, 10, and 11) overlain by red silt and sand which contain abundant nodules of caliche. In a few places in this area there are small outcrops of volcanic ash (Pl. 12). The uppermost beds of the Meade formation (Odee formation and Equus niobrarensis beds) are thin or absent in this area. The following measured section of the Meade formation at the type locality is taken from Frye (1942, p. 98):

Section of Meade formation in sec. 21, T. 33 S., R. 28 W., Meade County Thickness
(feet)
Meade formation
18. Silt, sand, and some clay; tan to buff brown; massive; contains sandy beds and caliche cobbles 14.8
17. Sand and silt; gray to gray tan 5.4
16. Clay, containing some silt and sand; light gray; massive. Breaks with a conchoidal fracture when dry 4.5
15. Volcanic ash, pearl gray, lenticular, somewhat impure 1.6
14. Silt, clay, and some sand; gray; massive; contains a few calcareous nodules. (Borchers fauna, where present, occurs at top of this bed) 6.4
13. Volcanic ash (Cragin's Pearlette ash), pearl gray, thin-bedded and cross-bedded 7.1
12. Clay, silt, and some sand; tan gray and brown gray; massive. Grades upward into yellowish gray-green sand and contains some mottled yellow-brown silt. Contains a few thin beds of ash and calcareous nodules. (Cudahy fauna occurs at top of this bed, where present) 9.5
11. Sand, silt, and coarse gravel; brown; contains abundant nodules. Grades upward into red-brown to tan-maroon sand and silt 8.8
10. Sand, coarse, and well sorted at base, grading upward into finer, more poorly sorted sand. Calcareous nodules at top 10.1
Ogallala formation
Thickness of Meade formation 68.2

The lower part of the Meade formation in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties consists of thick deposits of coarse sand and gravel derived from the Rocky Mountains. The grains and pebbles are primarily granite, pink feldspar, quartz, and other material derived from igneous rocks; in addition, there are many water-worn pebbles of caliche and "mortar beds" derived from Tertiary sediments. Pebbles of light-green and brown chalcedony also are abundant.

The sand and gravel of the Meade formation generally is cross-bedded and well sorted. A part of the sand and gravel usually is cemented with calcium carbonate to form "mortar beds," which are more resistant to erosion than adjacent sediments and which erode to prominent ledges (Pl. 9). The ledges are most conspicuous along the south side of the Cimarron River a short distance below the Ulysses bridge (NW 1/4 sec. 35, T. 30 S., R. 37 W.). The "mortar beds" generally consist of coarse sand and fine to coarse gravel; in a few places, however, they consist primarily of very coarse gravel (Pl. 10). The "mortar beds" generally are cross-bedded.

This section was examined later by Claude W. Hibbard (personal communication) who was unable to find bed 15.

The sand and gravel of the Meade formation generally is muck coarser than basal sand and gravel of the Rexroad (?) formation. In addition it contains a greater abundance of water-worn pebbles of caliche and it seems to contain much more chalcedony, although no pebble counts of the two deposits of sand and gravel have been made. The basal sand and gravel of the Meade differs more markedly from the deposits of sand and gravel in the Ogallala formation. Smith (1940, p. 42) reports that the sand and gravel in the Ogallala formation in Meade and Clark Counties contains abundant pebbles of fine-grained sandstone, gray quartzite, and ironstone which he believes were derived primarily from the Dakota and other Cretaceous formations. Few, if any, pebbles, derived from these types of rocks have been found in the Meade formation. Water-worn pebbles of caliche, which are common in the Meade, are rare in the Ogallala.

The beds lying above the basal sand and gravel of the Meade formation consist of poorly sorted reddish silt and sand containing nodules and stringers of white caliche, and resemble closely the reddish beds above basal sand and gravel of the Rexroad (?) formation. In general, however, the nodules of caliche in the Meade are more resistant to erosion than those in the Rexroad (?), and outcrops of these beds generally are covered with caliche rubble. These beds are moderately well indurated and form relatively steep slopes in some places. They are well exposed in a road cut a short distance south of the Ulysses bridge in sec. 27, T. 30 S., R. 37 W.

The zone of transition between the sand and gravel and the overlying reddish beds consists of materials common to both deposits. The materials are poorly sorted, moderately well indurated silt, sand, and gravel, which form steep slopes in some places. A typical outcrop of the sand and gravel, the zone of transition, and the overlying reddish silt and sand is 0.8 mile east of the Stevens-Seward line in sec. 19, T. 31 S., R. 34 W. Volcanic ash crops out in the same draw.

The two beds of the Meade formation that are most widespread in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties, and which are described above, are equivalent to beds 10 and 11 in the type section of the Meade formation (page 126). The uppermost deposits of the Meade formation are thin or absent in most of the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area, but an outcrop of silty clay in northeastern Haskell County (SE 1/4 NE 1/4 sec. 3, T. 27 5., R. 31 W.) may be equivalent to Smith's Jones Ranch beds (note section on Age and correlation). Volcanic ash, which occurs in the upper part of the type section of the Meade formation, also is found in a few places in Grant County (Pl. 12), and the locations of these deposits are given on pages 27 and 28.

Distribution and thickness--The Meade formation underlies almost all of Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties, and is absent only in places where the Cimarron River has cut through the Meade into the underlying Rexroad deposits. The Meade formation underlies most of or part of Hamilton, Stanton, Morton, Kearny, Grant, Stevens, Finney, Haskell, Seward, Gray, Ford, Meade, Clark, and Kiowa Counties, Kansas, and Texas and Beaver Counties, Oklahoma. In much of this area, however, it does not crop out but is overlain by the Kingsdown silt and by dune sand.

The thickness of the Meade formation in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties is known only approximately inasmuch as the base of the formation cannot be determined accurately from drill cuttings. The measured thickness at the type locality is approximately 68 feet, but most of the beds in the upper part of the type section do not extend into this area. The lowermost beds, however, are much thicker in this area than at the type locality. The basal deposit of sand and gravel is 10 feet thick at the type locality but is nearly 50 feet thick in western Seward County and in parts of Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties and also is about 50 feet thick in Clark County (Hibbard, 1944b, p. 714). The deposit of reddish silt and sand above the basal sand and gravel of the Meade formation is also thicker in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area than at the type locality, where it is only about 9 feet thick. This zone is 15 feet thick in southeastern Seward County and seems to be thicker along the Cimarron River in southern Grant County. The total thickness of the Meade may exceed 100 feet in some parts of the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area but it thins westward from this area and is absent in parts of Morton County that lie north of the Cimarron River.

Age and correlation--Since 1936, Claude W. Hibbard of the University of Kansas Museum of Vertebrate Paleontology has been collecting fossils from the Meade formation of southwestern Kansas during which time he has collected the Cudahy, Borchers, and Cragin Quarry faunas (Hibbard, 1938, 1939a, 1940, 1940a, 1941c, 1943). The fossils that have been collected indicate that the Meade formation is Pleistocene. The Cudahy fauna (taken from bed 12 of the type section) is believed by Hibbard (1944b, p. 741) to be in part a glacial fauna. The Borchers fauna (taken from bed 14 in the type section) is believed to be of an early interglacial stage and to represent the oldest known interglacial fauna in Kansas (Frye and Hibbard, 1941, p. 417). The Cragin Quarry fauna represents an interglacial fauna that is younger than the Borchers fauna. The Jones Ranch fauna was taken from beds that Hibbard (Frye and Hibbard, 1941, pp. 418, 419) believes were deposited in an isolated sinkhole at a time when the region was cooler than during the interglacial stages represented by the Cragin Quarry and Borchers faunas.

Few fossils have been taken from the Meade formation in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties. The tooth of a Pleistocene horse (Equus niobrarensis Hay) and a tooth (Lm3) of a Pleistocene; musk-ox (Euceratherium sp.) were collected from the Sullivan gravel pit in the SW 1/4 sec. 7, T. 29 S., R 37 W.

Water supply--The Meade formation yields water to almost all wells in areas where the depth to water level is less than 100 feet below land surface (Pl. 2). It probably is the most important water-bearing formation in much of Grant and Stevens Counties, where it yields water to most of the irrigation wells, but it lies above the water table in much of Haskell County, southwestern Stevens County, and eastern Grant County.

The uppermost beds of the Meade formation in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties are poorly sorted and probably yield only small quantities of water to wells. The deposits of sand and gravel at the base of the Meade, however, are relatively thick and are moderately well sorted in this area. Where these deposits are saturated, they yield moderate to large quantities of water to wells.

Analyses of water from wells in the Meade and other formation in this area are listed in Tables 11, 12, and 13.

Pleistocene and Recent Series

Kingsdown silt

Cragin (1896, p. 54) named and described the Kingsdown marl from outcrops southwest of Kingsdown in Ford County and in the valley of Bluff Creek in northern Clark County, and believed that it might be late Pliocene. He did not designate a type locality for these beds, but they are typically exposed in the vicinity of the old Vanhem post office in sec. 13, T. 30 S., R. 23 W., Clark County. Smith (1940, pp. 111-116) redefined Cragin's Kingsdown marl as the Kingsdown formation and designated as the type locality an outcrop that he measured in sec. 13, T. 30 S., R. 23 W., Clark County. The Kingsdown formation of Smith included only beds of Pleistocene age. Frye and Hibbard (1941, pp. 419, 420) redefined these beds as the Kingsdown silt, inasmuch as they consist dominantly of silt, and included the overlying loess of uppermost Pleistocene and Recent age. More recently, Hibbard (1944b, pp. 745-752) recognized two phases of the Kingsdown in northern Clark County which he has called lower and upper Kingsdown silt. The Kingsdown silt exposed in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties and in adjacent areas probably is equivalent to the upper Kingsdown silt as defined by Hibbard, but no attempt is made in this report to differentiate the two units.

Character--The lower part of the Kingsdown silt in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area is predominantly light tan to buff and consists of fine sand which grades upward into silt, sandy silt, and loess. The upper part of these beds contains small nodules and stringers of caliche. The fine sand at the base generally is thinly bedded but the overlying silt and loess are massive.

The Kingsdown silt is best exposed in this area in a road cut a short distance north of the Ulysses bridge in Grant County, at a road cut along Kansas highway 45 in sec. 27, T. 30 S., R. 34 W., Haskell County, and in a railroad cut in the SW 1/4 sec. 27 and sec. 34, T. 30 S., R. 34 W., also in Haskell County (Pl. 11).

Distribution and thickness--The Kingsdown silt underlies much of Grant and Haskell Counties but is relatively thin or absent in Stevens County where the dune sand generally is underlain by the Meade formation. Its thickness probably does not exceed 40 feet in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties. The Kingsdown is relatively thin in northernmost Grant and Haskell Counties and in western Grant County, is thin or absent south of the Cimarron River in Morton, Stevens, and Seward Counties, but it is much thicker toward the east.

Age and correlation--The Kingsdown silt overlies unconformably the Pleistocene Meade formation and is uppermost Pleistocene to Recent as indicated by its stratigraphic position. Fossils collected from the Kingsdown deposits by Hibbard (Frye and Hibbard, 1941, p. 420, and Hibbard, 1944b, pp. 749-752) also indicate late Pleistocene and Recent age. A few snails have been collected from a thin bed of silty clay underlying dune sand in the SE 1/4 NE 1/4 sec. 3, T. 27 S., R. 31 W., in the northeastern part of Haskell County and have been identified by A.B. Leonard of the University of Kansas:

Mollusks collected from a bed of silty clay in the SE 1/4 NE 1/4 sec. 3, T. 27 S., R. 31 W., Haskell County
Aquatic FormsTerrestrial Forms
Menetus exacuous (Say) Succinea grosvenori Lea
Gyraulus cristatus (Linnaeus) Vertigo cf. morsei Sterki
Gyraulus cf. hirsutus (Gould) Pupilla muscorum (Linnaeus)
Gyraulus parvus (Say) Vollonia cf. costata (Muller)
Lymnea parva (Lea) Discus anthonyi cronkhitei (Pilsbry)
Lymnea palustris (Muller)  
Lymnea humilis (Say)  
Lymnea caperata (Say)  
Pisicium species  

This fauna is believed by Leonard (personal communication) to compare more closely with the fauna of Smith's Jones Ranch beds than with any other Pleistocene fauna from southwestern Kansas; hence these beds probably are equivalent in age to tile Kingsdown.

Water supply--The Kingsdown silt lies wholly above the water table in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area and therefore does not yield water to wells. It is partly saturated at a few places in Meade County where it yields small quantities of water to a few wells (Frye, 1942, p. 110).

Terrace deposits

Smith (1940, pp. 126, 153) reported two or possibly three terraces along the Cimarron Valley in southwestern Kansas, including a high-level terrace north of Elkhart in Morton County about 70 to 75 feet above the flood plain, at levels of 20 and 55 feet above the flood plain in northwestern Stevens County, and terraces at levels of 20, 55, and 80 feet above the flood plain in Seward County.

Frye and Hubbard (1941, p. 420) reported a prominent terrace that attains a maximum height of 100 feet or more above the level of the Cimarron River. The beds of sand and gravel underlying this terrace are reported to be channeled into the Meade and Ogallala formations.

Several terraces have been observed in the Cimarron Valley by Hubbard and the writer during recent studies in southwestern Kansas, but their altitudes have not been determined and correlation between outcrops is difficult. The high terrace reported by Smith in southwestern Morton County is at an altitude of approximately 3,480 to 3,490 feet above sea level, whereas the altitude of the stream bed 2 miles northwest of the outcrop is about 3,380 feet; thus, the terrace is at least 100 feet above river level and is about 50 feet below the level of adjacent upland areas. The gravel underlying this terrace contains very coarse pebbles and cobbles of water-worn fragments of sandstone, which probably were derived from Mesozoic rocks. In addition, there are numerous fragments of reddish vesicular basalt which are characteristic of terrace deposits along the Cimarron Valley.

Another terrace deposit crops out in Morton County in a road cut north of Wilburton. This deposit is about 20 feet above stream level and is similar lithologically to the high terrace mentioned above except that it contains fewer fragments of sandstone and is much finer-grained. This deposit contains many fragments of red siltstone and sandstone, which probably were derived from outcrops of redbeds at Point of Rocks and farther west.

The terrace deposits exposed in Morton County in a road cut at the north approach to the Rolla bridge probably are no more than 30 feet above stream level and may be equivalent to the terrace deposits north of Wilburton. The gravels in these deposits are channeled into beds that are believed to be a part of the Rexroad formation.

In southeastern Seward and southwestern Meade Counties are many outcrops of terrace deposits. The highest terrace deposits in southeastern Seward County are 30 to 50 feet below the upland surface and are approximately 200 feet above stream level. The deposits consist of coarse sand and gravel derived from both igneous and sedimentary rocks, and include many water-worn blocks of sandstone more than 6 inches long. The deposits also contain cobbles of reddish vesicular lava which resemble closely those found underlying the high terrace in Morton County. Some of these boulders are more than 12 inches in diameter. Water-worn fragments of "mortar beds" also have been found, some of which contain small water-worn pebbles of caliche.

The highest terrace deposits form a prominent bench of the sides of the Cimarron Valley where they are channeled into the upper part of the basal sand and gravel of the Meade formation and into the overlying reddish silt and sand. They are exposed typically m a small draw in the south-central part of Sec. 17, T. 34 S., R. 31 W., Seward County.

Another prominent terrace is at a much lower level in the Cimarron Valley in Meade and Seward Counties. The deposits underlying the terrace are at least 50 feet above stream level and are channeled into Laverne and Rexroad (?) deposits. In the vicinity of the Liberal and Arkalon bridges, terraces also have been observed at levels of about 40 or 50 feet above the stream. The deposits forming these terraces are channeled into the basal sand and gravel of the Meade formation and into the Rexroad (?) formation.

Frye and Hibbard (1941, p. 420) report that teeth of Paraelephas columbi (Falconer) have been taken from the high-terrace deposits in the Cimarron Valley south of Meade. The remains of fossils and the fact that the terrace deposits are channeled into the Meade formation indicate that this terrace was formed during very late Pleistocene time and that almost all the downcutting in the Cimarron Valley was during late Pleistocene and Recent time.

The terrace deposits lie wholly above the water table and yield no water to wells in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area.

Recent Series

Alluvium

Recent alluvium occurs along the floor of the Cimarron Valley (Pl. 12) and along some of its tributary valleys, including North Fork Cimarron Valley and Lakin Draw, but the alluvium was mapped only along Cimarron River (Pl. 1). Tile principal constituents in the alluvium are sand, silt, and gravel containing lesser amounts of clay. Very little is known about the thickness of the alluvium in this area, for during the investigation only one test hole was drilled into the alluvium of Cimarron River in southern Grant County (log 28) and it penetrated 70 feet of alluvium.

Alluvium yields water to a few domestic and stock wells in the Cimarron Valley, North Fork Cimarron Valley, and Lakin Draw, but the yield of these wells generally is small. One well (46), however, supplied water for irrigation in Lakin Draw, but no data on the yield are available. Water in the alluvium generally is hard but can be used for most domestic and farm purposes (see analyses 106 and 119).

Dune sand

Most of Stevens County and small parts of Grant and Haskell Counties are underlain by dune sand that probably is of Recent age (Pl. 1). The dune sand overlies parts of the Meade and Kingsdown formations and in northwestern Stevens County it overlies the alluvium of the Cimarron River Valley. The sand contains uniform medium-grained well-rounded quartz grains and in places it contains a small amount of silt and clay.

Two types of topography are recognized in the sand-dune areas in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties (Pl. 1) which are reflections of the stage or phase of erosion of the sand dunes. The first type is characterized by typical dune-sand topography wherein the sand dunes generally are grass-covered moderately steep irregular hills between which are small valleys and undrained basins. This type is best exposed in northernmost Grant and Haskell Counties and in northwestern Stevens County near the Cimarron River. The second type of dune-sand topography comprises broad subdued swells and swales and has a thicker soil, which is extensively cultivated. This type is most common in areas south of the Cimarron River.

Smith (1940, pp. 159-165) described an ideal dune cycle in his discussion of sand dunes in southwestern Kansas. The cycle consists of two phases: (1) an eolian or active phase during which the dune is built up, and (2) an eluvial or passive phase during which vegetation prevents further growth and the dune is subdued by weathering and creep. He divides the eluvial phase into stages of youth, maturity, and old age. In the youth stage the soil zone is formed and slopes are reduced. The dune becomes mature when its profile is smooth and regular and when its soil becomes thicker and more stable. Old age is reached when the dune form is indistinguishable. He states that the eluvial phase in any stage may be interrupted by rejuvenation.

Most of the sand dunes in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area are in the eluvial phase of the dune cycle although a few dunes are in the eolian or active phase (Pl. 11). The types of dune sand mapped in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties are (1) those that produce a typical sand-dune topography and which are in the youthful and mature stages of tile eluvial phase of the dune cycle, together with the few dunes that are in the eolian phase of the cycle, and (2) those that produce a relatively flat topography and which are in the old-age stage of the eluvial phase of the dune cycle. The boundaries between the two types and between the old-age dunes and areas not covered by dunes are indistinct in many places; hence they are shown on Plate 1 by dashed lines.

The thickness of the dune sand in the Grant-Haskell-Stevens area is not known, but it probably does not exceed 50 or 60 feet. Where the dunes have reached the old-age stage the deposits are relatively thin. Where the dunes are in a younger stage the deposits are thick at the crests of the dunes but are thin in areas between crests.

The age of the dune sand is not known, but most of it probably was laid down in Recent time. In northwestern Stevens County the dune sand covers all of the southern part of the Cimarron Valley from the upland to the edge of the river channel; hence it overlies the terrace deposits and the alluvium (Pl. 12). Inasmuch as the dune sand in that vicinity is younger than the alluvium, it probably is of Recent age. In some places, however, there may be dune sand of Pleistocene age, for Smith (1940, p. 128) reports an older dune sand in the railroad cut southwest of Kismet in Seward County which is moderately well indurated and is separated from overlying younger less consolidated dune sand by a well-defined soil zone.

The dune sand lies above the water table in Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Counties and, therefore, yields no water to wells; however, it forms ideal catchment areas for rainfall and hence assists in the recharge of underlying formations.

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  Kansas Geological Survey, Grant, Haskell, and Stevens Geohydrology
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Web version May 2002. Original publication date July 1946.
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