Skip Navigation

Tri-State Region Ground Waters

Prev Page--Introduction || Next Page--Geologic Structure

Geologic Framework


The lower Paleozoic stratigraphic section in the Tri-State region consists of Mississippian, Lower Ordovician, and Upper Cambrian rocks bounded above by the Pennsylvanian and below by the Precambrian systems (table 1). The thickness of the section ranges from 1,735 ft (520 m) in the Joplin, Missouri, area to 1,390 ft (417 m) near Parsons, Kansas, except in the vicinity of Precambrian topographic highs where the thickness of the lower Paleozoic may be considerably less. Lower Paleozoic rocks that make up the stratigraphic column in the study area consist of limestone, dolomite, chert, sandstone, and shale.

Table 1--Bedrock stratigraphic units in southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, and Northeast Oklahoma (after Keroher and Kirby, 1948; Kurtz and others, 1975).

System Series Rock units Thickness
Pennsylvanian M. Pennsylvanian Cherokee Group 0-500 shale, limestone, sandstone
Mississippian Undifferentiated   250-400 limestone, cherty limestone, dolomite, cherty dolomite, and shale near base
Lower Northview Fm. 0-40 green shale
Compton Ls. 0-20 finely crystalline limestone or dolomitic limestone
Mississippian-Devonian   Chattanooga Sh. 0-40 black shale
Ordovician L. Ordovician Powell Dolomite 40 dolomite, occasionally sandy, vuggy
Cotter Dolomite 0-250 dolomite, sandy near base
Jefferson City Fm. 170-250 dolomite, occasionally sandy
Roubidoux Fm. 125-170 dolomite, sandy dolomite, sandstone
Gasconade Dolomite 150-300 dolomite, sandy dolomite, sandstone near base, vuggy
Cambrian U. Cambrian Eminence Dolomite 0(?)-195 dolomite, fine- to medium-grained, cherty, vuggy
Potosi Dolomite 0-30 dolomite, fine-grained, cherty
Derby-Doe Run Dolomite 0-100 dolomite
Davis Fm. 0(?)-95 dolomite, sandy, glauconitic
Reagan Sandstone 0(?)-135 medium- to coarse-grained sandstone grading upwards to glauconitic shale and dolomite
Precambrian       igneous and metasedimentary rocks

Subdivision of the major stratigraphic units in the lower Paleozoic into smaller recognizable units in the subsurface has been a difficult task because the formations are lithologically similar, few easily recognizable stratigraphic markers are present, and biostratigraphic data are unavailable. Geologists of the Missouri Geological Survey have had considerable success correlating outcrops of lower Paleozoic rocks in the subsurface from region to region using insoluble residues of drill cuttings in Missouri and adjoining states (McQueen, 1931; McCracken, 1955, 1964; Koenig, 1961). Insoluble residues have been used to show regional stratigraphic changes in the Lower Ordovician-Upper Cambrian rocks in the subsurface of Kansas and Missouri along selected traverses (Keroher and Kirby, 1948; Kurtz and others, 1975). The stratigraphic subdivisions of the lower Paleozoic section that have resulted from the application of the insoluble-residue method are used in this report where appropriate.

The term Arbuckle is used in the oil fields throughout Kansas and Oklahoma and is recognized as a formal name for undifferentiated Upper Cambrian and Lower Ordovician rocks in both states (Zeller, 1968); however, the term Arbuckle is not recognized in Missouri. The term Roubidoux also is used as a synonym for these rocks in parts of southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. Where possible in the remainder of this report either the term Cambrian-Ordovician or a specific stratigraphic interval within these rocks will be used instead of Arbuckle or Roubidoux.

Precambrian System

Precambrian rocks in the Tri-State region include igneous and metasedimentary rock types (Bickford and others, 1979; Kisvarsanyi, 1975; Denison, 1968). The top of the Precambrian is an erosional surface of considerable relief in some places and reflects both the effects of tectonic events and differential resistance to erosion (Cole, 1976; Chenoweth, 1968).

Cambrian System

Upper Cambrian Series

The Upper Cambrian Series is bounded above and below by unconformities of regional extent. Strata belonging to this series are represented in ascending order above the Precambrian by the Reagan Sandstone, Davis Formation, Derby-Doe Run Dolomite, Potosi Dolomite, and the Eminence Dolomite in the Tri-State region. Upper Cambrian rocks are absent over isolated Precambrian highs in southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma (Chenoweth, 1968). The rocks that comprise the Upper Cambrian Series consist of dolomite, sandstone, and shale.

Ordovician System

Lower Ordovician (Canadian) Series

Strata belonging to the Lower Ordovician (Canadian) Series in the Tri-State region include in ascending order the Gasconade Dolomite, the Roubidoux Formation, the Jefferson City Formation, the Cotter Formation, and the Powell Formation. The Powell Formation was identified at only one location in the Kansas Ord #1 well at Parsons, Kansas, in northeast Labette County. Lower Ordovician rocks thin considerably in the northern part of the Tri-State region where erosion along the Bourbon arch has removed the upper portion of the Jefferson City and all of the Cotter formations. At one location in northwestern Ottawa County (Oklahoma), Mississippian carbonates rest on top of a Precambrian high. The Lower Ordovician Series is unconformable with stratigraphic units above and below and consists of dolomite, sandy dolomite, sandstone and chert.

Mississippian-Devonian System

Chattanooga Shale

The Chattanooga Shale where present lies unconformably upon the Lower Ordovician Series in the Tri-State region and is composed of black shale containing abundant pyrite. The Chattanooga is not present in Cherokee County and portions of Crawford, Bourbon, Labette, and Neosho counties in Kansas; in most of southwest Missouri; and in northern Ottawa County in Oklahoma. Elsewhere, the thickness of the Chattanooga Shale ranges upward to 40 ft (12 m) and is unconformable with the overlying Mississippian rocks above.

Mississippian System

Lower Mississippian Series

Strata belonging to the Lower Mississippian Series are represented in ascending order above the Chattanooga Shale by the Compton Limestone and the Northview Shale. The Lower Mississippian Series is unconformable with stratigraphic units above and below and ranges in thickness from 0 ft (0 m) in southern Cherokee County, Kansas, to over 50 ft (15 m) in northern Crawford, Bourbon, and Neosho counties in Kansas and northern Barton and southern Vernon counties in Missouri. The Compton Limestone consists of finely crystalline limestone which may be dolomitic locally. The Compton Limestone thicknesses range from 0 to 20 ft (6 m) in the Tri-State region. The Northview Shale consists of green shale containing abundant pyrite, and it ranges in thickness from 0 to more than 40 ft (12 m) through the area. It is thickest in eastern Bourbon and Crawford counties in Kansas and in Vernon and Barton counties in Missouri.

Undifferentiated Mississippian Series

Strata assigned to the undifferentiated Mississippian Series belong to the Lower and Upper Mississippian series (Zeller, 1968). For the purposes of this report, both series are considered together as undifferentiated for two reasons. The Lower and Upper Mississippian are not distinguished on many well logs in southeast Kansas. Additionally, for those wells with insoluble-residue logs interpreted by geologists accustomed to Missouri stratigraphic nomenclature, the Missouri formation names and stratigraphic boundaries do not necessarily coincide with those used in Kansas or Oklahoma. The undifferentiated Mississippian in the Tri-State region consists primarily of limestone, dolomite, and chert, and it exhibits extensive sulfide mineralization in the Picher and Joplin mining fields (fig. 13). Thin gray or green shaly zones are common near the base. The undifferentiated Mississippian is bounded above and below by unconformities of regional extent, which may have considerable relief. The thickness of this unit ranges from approximately 400 ft (120 m) in southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma to 250 ft (75 m) in southwest Neosho County in Kansas. The undifferentiated Mississippian crops out and is the surficial bedrock in much of Jasper and Newton counties in Missouri, the extreme southeast corner of Cherokee County in Kansas, and in eastern Ottawa County in Oklahoma (fig. 1).

Pennsylvanian System

The undifferentiated Mississippian is unconformably overlain in most of the Tri-State region by rocks belonging to the Cherokee Group of Middle Pennsylvanian age (Zeller, 1968). Rocks that comprise the Cherokee Group are mostly shale, limestone, sandstone, and minor amounts of coal. The near-surface bedrock is composed of Pennsylvanian-age rocks over much of the area (fig. 1).

Prev Page--Introduction || Next Page--Geologic Structure

Kansas Geological Survey, Geohydrology
Placed on web Sept. 1, 2010; originally published 1987.
Comments to
The URL for this page is