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Geohydrology of Neosho County

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Topography and Drainage

Neosho County is near the southeast edge of the Osage Cuesta division of the Osage Plains section of the Central Lowlands physiographic province (Schoewe, 1949). The major topographic features are the southeast-trending valley of Neosho River and the gentle, rolling hills and low cuestas formed on the uplands by differential erosion of limestone, sandstone, and shale.

The highest point in Neosho County, about 1,090 feet above mean sea level, is in the northeast corner near Bourbon County. The lowest point in the county is about 840 feet just west of the Crawford County line on the southern boundary of the county. Thus, the maximum relief is about 250 feet.

Neosho County is drained by the Neosho River and its tributaries, except for the southwest corner, which is drained by tributaries of the Verdigris River.


Neosho County has a humid, continental climate. The mean annual precipitation at Chanute is 37.88 inches and the mean annual temperature is 57.6° F (Records, U. S. Weather Bureau). About three-fourths of the annual precipitation falls during the growing season, which averages 194 days. The average date of the first killing frost in the fall is October 21, and the average date of the last killing frost in the spring is April 10.


Neosho County had a population of 19,455 in 1960, ranking 28th among the counties of the State. [Note: Neosho County population was listed as 16,997 in 2000 U.S. census, ranking 31st, with a density of 29.7 (32.9 for the state) (KU Institute for Policy & Social Research).] Chanute, the largest city, had a population of 10,849 [9,411 in 2000]. Erie, the county seat and second largest city in the county, had a population of 1,309 [1,211 in 2000]. Other communities and their 1960 populations are: St. Paul, 675 [646 in 2000]; Thayer, 396 [500 in 2000]; Galesburg, 128 [150 in 2000]; Earlton, 104 [80 in 2000]; and Stark, 96 [106 in 2000].

Agriculture and Industry

Agriculture is an important part of the economy of Neosho County. Machinery and tools for the petroleum industry, cement, fertilizer, waxes, and processed food products are manufactured.

Mineral Resources

Oil and gas--Oil was discovered in the county in 1899 east of Chanute along the Neosho River valley. In 1961, oil production from 1,920 wells in nine fields amounted to 477,038 barrels of which about 80 percent was obtained from 33 secondary recovery projects. Gas production, which began in the county in 1894, amounted to 84,703,000 cubic feet during 1961. Nearly all petroleum and gas production in the county is from the "Bartlesville sand," a sandstone in the middle part of the Cherokee Group. [Cumulative production as of the end of 2009 was 36,687,180 barrels of oil and 52,211,603 MCF of gas. Additional information can be found at the oil and gas page of the Kansas Geological Survey.]

Investigations by the State Geological Survey of Kansas (Runnels, et al., 1952) show that black shale of the Pleasanton Group may yield as much as 6.47 gallons of oil per ton when subjected to distillation processes.

Limestone--In 1961, limestone quarried for various purposes amounted to 935,615 tons valued at $935,609. Lime for agricultural purposes accounted for 64,571 tons of the total production. This tonnage, valued at $88,685, made Neosho County the largest producer of agricultural lime in the State.

Ceramic materials--In 1961 no shale cropping out in Neosho County was utilized for ceramic purposes. However, both the Lane and Bonner Springs shales and shale from the Pleasanton Group have good firing properties (Norman Plummer, personal communication). In the early part of the twentieth century a brick plant operating near Chanute used the Lane and Bonner Springs shales as raw material. This shale was used as a source of alumina and silica for the manufacture of cement in 1961.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web April 17, 2009; originally published December 1966.
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