The natural resource of greatest value in Wyandotte County is the soil. It is somewhat beyond the scope of this report to minutely describe the soils, as they differ in various local areas, and no attempt has been made to map other than the floodplain alluvium of the larger streams, and the loess. The soil in the county is partly the product of the disintegration of bedrock, and partly the product of water-deposited, wind-deposited, or ice-deposited materials. In any one place the soil may be derived from any combination of these materials. The loess is principally confined to the eastern part of the county, and to the hills bordering the river valleys. It has been described in an earlier part of this report. The loess is well adapted to fruit growing. Truck farming, including potato growing, is important in the loess-covered area. At the present time very little of the loess area is given to the growing of general farm crops as wheat and corn. The alluvium of the valleys of the Kansas and Missouri rivers is fertile, although the Kansas River valley far exceeds that of the Missouri River in extent of fertile soil. The Missouri River floodplain is generally swampy and is partly covered by oxbow lakes, while in general that of the Kansas River is a well-drained, fertile area. Potatoes are important products of the valley farms. The acreage of potatoes varies with the market conditions over a period of a few years, and at the present the acreage is reduced. There is a portion of the valley farms utilized for general farming, but trucking prevails. The largest area of alluvial soil along the Kansas River occurs in the neighborhood of Edwardsville, where the river has swung far over to the right side of its valley. Another such area lies north and east of Turner on the south side of the Kansas River, but here the land is used for other industries as well as for agriculture. The alluvial soil of the smaller streams is generally less sandy than that of the rivers. Most of the smaller streams have comparatively large floodplains growing good crops. The floodplains of these smaller streams are mostly built up of material washed down from the valley walls. In the western part of the county the soil is partly residual and partly transported. Considerable of the transported material has not been moved far since it was deposited directly from the ice sheet. Some of the material seems to have been water-worked to a large extent, having the appearance of a valley alluvium but now found on the uplands. Much of the residual soil is derived from the Stranger formation and is sandy. The soil in the western part of the county is utilized for general farming and dairying.
Limestone suitable for nearly all of the many uses to which the rock may be put is abundant in Wyandotte County. There are several large and many small quarries producing principally crushed stone for the enormous demand of greater Kansas City. No small amount of crushed stone is being used in the construction of concrete highways and in graveling roads. The Argentine limestone is extensively being quarried for crushing. Because of the thickness of this ledge, it is a good one in which to locate quarries. The Bethany Falls is suitable, but crops out over a very small area. The great amount of flint embedded in the Winterset and in most places in the Westerville makes those two limestones especially good for the production of rubble in which flint is desired. The massive beds of the Farley limestone were quarried near Wolcott and used in the river-improvement work conducted by the federal government. Generally the Farley is too soft for some of the purposes of crushed stone, but in some areas it is quite hard. The demand for dimension blocks is much less than for crushed stone and fewer of the limestones are adapted for that purpose. However, the Meadow and Merriam limestones, which crop out in the western part of the county, produce durable building stone. This is true generally of the other thinner ledges, especially the Paola limestone of the Iola formation. Limestone and shale suitable for making Portland cement are abundant. Cement is being manufactured at Bonner Springs in one of the large plants of the state. Argentine, Farley, and Plattsburg limestones and Bonner Springs shale are being quarried at that plant.
Shale and Loess
As stated above, enormous quantities of shale, especially in the Bonner Springs and Lane formations, are adapted to be used with limestone in cement manufacture. These shales, and probably the thick loess deposits, are suitable for making clay products, although Wyandotte County has no such industry. There is a large plant producing clay products in Kansas City, Missouri, and the same raw materials are available in Wyandotte County. Some loess is being used for the filling of low places, but uses more profitable than for the production of crops are not being made.
Loess erodes rapidly and it is difficult to keep unsurfaced roads in repair where the grade is steep. Deep gullies develop during a single rainy season, and the presence of the loess should be considered in all construction operations. A case was observed where a comparatively new schoolhouse of brick has been built on a small loess hill in the northern part of the county. The soft material is already gullied near the building and there is little doubt that action will have to be taken to prevent the building from being undermined before it is old.
Five sand companies are taking sand from the Kansas River and loading it into dump-bottom railway cars. Much sand is also trucked away. There are two other sources of sand in the county. One is the higher glaciofluvial sand, which perhaps would fulfill many of the purposes for which the river sand is used. Such a deposit would be more easily moved than the sand in the river's bed, but the supply is readily exhaustible, while the sand removed from the river is replaced. The other source is the massive, loosely cemented sandstone at the base of the Stranger formation, which covers most of the western part of the county. This sand is fine and perhaps not suitable for many uses.
There is much glacial gravel and coarse sand in the county. These gravels are composed mostly of very hard rock fragments and hence are durable. By screening, excellent road gravel could be obtained.
The small amount of coal known to occur in the rocks which crop out in this area is now of no commercial value, because the beds are very thin and apparently local in distribution. There are workable deposits of coal in the buried rocks and its recovery may be profitable at some future time. The most important coal-bearing rocks of the state are deeply buried in Wyandotte County. These are the Cherokee and the Marmaton groups which underlie the rocks exposed at Kansas City. In the coal fields of southeastern Kansas, the Cherokee group ranges from 400 to 550 feet, and is perhaps thicker at Kansas City. The coal being produced in the Cherokee-Crawford district, much of that produced in Labette County, and from the deep mines at Leavenworth and Lansing is taken from this horizon. In the State Penitentiary mine at Lansing, the coal is 2 feet thick and occurs at a depth of 709 feet. This coal should be about 150 feet nearer the surface at Kansas City. At Raytown, Missouri, a diamond drill hole revealed several beds at depths ranging from 294 to 525 feet. The bed which is being mined at Leavenworth and Lansing is believed to be 454 feet below the surface at Raytown and is 1 foot 8 inches thick. The same bed was formerly mined at Randolph in Clay County, Missouri, and south of Kansas City, at Bush Creek, Missouri. It is well to state that the presence of workable beds of coal everywhere in the buried Cherokee strata is not proven, yet it is rather certain that these rocks contain several beds throughout the Wyandotte County area. The presence of important coal beds in buried rocks above the Cherokee in this area is doubtful.
Kansas Geological Survey, Wyandotte County Geology
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Web version June 2004. Original publication date May 1935.