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Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 2007-23

Geology and Geoarcheology of Northeastern Kansas Field Trip

Shane Lyle, Rex Buchanan, Bob Sawin and Jim McCauley

KGS Open File Report 2007-23

A Field Trip for the Kansas Earth Science Teachers Association (KESTA) Conference in Lawrence, Kansas
September 29, 2007


Today's field trip focuses on the geology and geoarcheology of eastern Kansas. Our stops will be in rocks of late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and early Permian age, as well as unconsolidated Neogene-age (Quaternary) glacial deposits and very recent alluvial sediments which contain cultural deposits. The Carboniferous is also known as the Coal Age, when rocks were deposited in shallow seas over 300 million years ago. The Permian rocks that we will view represent a transitional period of climate change from a tropical environment in the Carboniferous to a dry, arid climate in the Permian. The northeastern corner of Kansas was covered by ice sheets during glaciation that occurred about 700,000 years ago; we will see this much younger glacial material that lies atop the considerably older Permian bedrock. Very old archeological records are rare in eastern Kansas, and we will get a unique opportunity to view cultural deposits left behind by early Kansas inhabitants during the Paleoarchaic cultural period about 9,000 years ago.

Our trip starts in Lawrence, then makes a stop just west of town that will serve as an introduction to the rock types and environments of deposition that are common in eastern Kansas and much of the midcontinent, primarily interbedded limestones and mudrocks deposited in or near shallow seas. This stop is not a particularly good place to collect fossils, but it will provide an orientation for the rest of the day. We will then move to a roadcut northeast of Topeka where we will see the well-preserved remains of numerous invertebrates that lived in these Carboniferous seas (crinoids, bryozoans, fusulinids, foraminifers, bivalves, brachiopods, corals, sponges, echinoderms, gastropods, and maybe even a stray trilobite). From Topeka we will head west to Echo Cliff, a 75-ft cliff that is an example of ancient river-channel deposits. After Echo Cliff, we will continue on into the Flint Hills to collect fossils and examine the paleoecology of rocks deposited in an environment more akin to the Persian Gulf rather than eastern Kansas. Leaving this example of an arid climate behind, we will again look at river-channel deposits, albeit very much younger, which have cultural deposits from some of Kansas' first human inhabitants. The final stop is Tower Hill, a scenic vista of the Flint Hills north of McFarland. Tower Hill provides a good viewpoint at which to see the maximum glacial advance in Kansas and understand how the glacier-dammed Kansas River created the ancestral Kaw Lake. Dwarfing nearby Milford and Tuttle Creek reservoirs, Kaw Lake stretched east of Wamego to perhaps as far west as Salina.

Today, two stops will include fossil-collecting opportunities: stops at north Topeka and in the Flint Hills. See fig. 1-1 for examples of fossils we will encounter today. In addition, there will be an opportunity to collect glacial erratics near Tower Hill. The Flint Hills and Tower Hill stops are on private property. While we have permission to visit these sites, please remember that we are here through the courtesy of the landowner. You can collect fossils at any of these stops, but collecting is forbidden at the Claussen stop to help preserve the site. Be careful about turning over rocks. Snakes are rare and mostly harmless, but they are around. Because fossils have weathered out of the surrounding material, you won't need a rock hammer to help you collect. Climbing isn't really required to collect fossils at any of these stops. But if you do get on top of an outcrop or roadcut, stay away from the edge and be aware of people below you. Please, be careful out there.

The authors express their appreciation to Dr. Dave Newell with the Kansas Geological Survey for speaking about cyclothem deposits at Stop 1; to Dr. Ron West with Kansas State University for speaking about the paleoecology at Stop 2 and Stop 4; to Dr. Jim McCauley of the Kansas Geological Survey for speaking about valley-fill deposits and Kansas glaciation at Stop 4 and Stop 6, respectively; to Dr. Rolfe Mandel of the Kansas Geological Survey for speaking about the geoarcheology of Kansas at Stop 5; and to Marla Adkins-Heljeson and Jennifer Sims of the Kansas Geological Survey for their assistance in preparing this guidebook. Also, some of the material in this guidebook is from McCauley and others, 2000, and Buchanan and others, 2003.

The complete report is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.

of2007-23.pdf (2.6 MB)

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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach
Updated May 6, 2008
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