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Riley and Geary County Geology

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Age of rock

The oldest rock exposed in Riley County belongs to the Pennsylvanian subsystem, but the oldest exposed rock in Geary County is of Permian age. A few feet of Cretaceous sandstone occurs in northwestern Riley County and glacial drift of Pleistocene age is found in the eastern and northwestern part. Aeolian material, commonly called loess, of Recent and Pleistocene age is present in many places in each county. River valleys in both counties contain fluvial and fluvial deposits, parts of which are is old as Pleistocene. The surface rocks in the area as a whole, however, consist principally of Permian shale and limestone, which are exposed along bluffs and in road cuts. There is approximately 1,000 feet of Paleozoic strata exposed, and this report principally concerns the details of those rock layers.

Earlier stratigraphic work

Several workers have investigated Paleozoic strata in the two counties or along the line of strike in other parts of Kansas. As early as 1866 Swallow (1866, 1867) published results of studies in some of these rocks. Meek and Hayden (1867) published a report in which a description of exposures at Manhattan was included. Broadhead (1883) also described some of the Permian rocks in Riley and Geary counties, and he included a section on Mount Prospect (K. Hill) in Manhattan. Later Hay (1891, 1893, 1896) published results of studies in Kansas and, especially, a report on the geology of the Fort Riley Military Reservation. In later years many other geologists contributed to the store of knowledge concerning the upper Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks of the region. Here should be mentioned Tschernyschew (1902) who studied the stratigraphic section from Manhattan to Fort Riley. In 1918 Moore (1918) published a report on the environment of Camp Funston, treating subjects of military interest in the geology and topography of the area. Of special interest are reports pertaining to specific areas that lie within the area of outcrop of the rocks that are exposed in Riley and Geary counties. Prosser and Beede (1914) studied , and mapped the rocks exposed in the Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, quadrangle which is about 30 miles south of Geary County. Fath (1921) reported on the El Dorado oil and gas field, an area in Kansas in which Permian rocks crop out; and Bass (1929) described these rock layers as they are exposed in Cowley County, Kansas. In Nebraska, Condra (1927) and Condra and Upp (1931) developed a refinement of Pennsylvanian and Permian stratigraphy such as had not previously been attempted in mid-continent studies. They found remarkable continuity of beds and were able to correlate many strata from Nebraska to Oklahoma. More recently R. C. Moore, M.K. Elias, and R. G. Moss, working as geologists of the Survey, have made careful field investigations of the Upper Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks in Kansas, which have made possible a better classification. In this report terminology and grouping of units mainly conform to a revised classification prepared by Moore. (Moore, 1936; Moore, Elias, and Newell, 1934, 1936).

Table 2--Stratigraphic section of rocks outcropping in Riley and Geary Counties

Quaternary System
Recent Series  
Soil, residual and transported, result of rock weathering, deposition by streams and wind 0-50
Recent and Pleistocene series  
Loess, wind-blown clay and fine sand 0-30
Pleistocene Series  
Valley fillings (in part) ?
Fluvial or lacustrine terraces, partly conglomeratic 0-75
Kansan drift, scattered northern erratics, sand to boulders, ice-rafted, ice-laid, or water laid.  
Tertiary System
Gravel reported by Hay in 1896 (probably Pleistocene).  
Cretaceous System
Dakota Group  
Coarse, ferruginous, quartz sandstone 0-20
Permian System
Leonardian Series  
Sumner Group  
Wellington shale (45.5 feet).  
"Hollenberg limestone" member. Yellow earthy limestone containing casts of pelecypods 0.5
"Pearl shale" member. Varicolored shale 45
Wolfcampian Series  
Chase Group (348 feet)  
Nolans Limestone (24 feet)  
Herington limestone member. Gray and yellow geodiferous limestone 8
Paddock shale member. Gray fossiliferous shale 12
Krider limestone member. Nodular yellow and gray limestone, generally two beds separated by about I foot of shale 4
Odell Shale. Varicolor shale 30
Winfield Limestone (24 feet) 30
Cresswell and Luta limestone members. Massive and thin bedded limestone 13
Grant shale member. Gray fossiliferous shale 10
Stovall limestone member. Flinty limestone 1
Doyle Shale (80-90 feet)  
Gage shale member. Varicolored and gray fossiliferous shale 45
Towanda limestone member. Yellow massive to thin-bedded limestone 5-15
Holmesville shale member. Varicolored shale 30
Barneston Limestone (65-71 feet)  
Fort Riley limestone member. Massive and thin-bedded limestone 30
Oketo shale member. Unimportant shale break 0-6
Florence limestone member. Flinty limestone 35
Matfield Shale (78 feet)  
Blue Springs shale member. Varicolored shale 45
Kinney limestone member. Gray massive to thin-bedded limestone 3
Wymore shale member. Varicolored shale 30
Wreford Limestone (39 feet)  
Schroyer limestone member. Limestone, partly flinty 20
Havensville shale member. Gray shale and some limestone 10
Threemile limestone member. Limestone, partly flinty 9
Council Grove Group (309 feet +/-)  
Speiser Shale (17.2 feet)  
Gray, fossiliferous shale 2.5
Gray crystalline limestone 0.7
Varicolored shale 14
Funston Limestone. Light-colored massive limestone 5
Blue Rapids Shale. Gray shale, local limestones 25
Crouse Limestone. Brown and gray limestone 10
Easly Creek Shale. Varicolored shale, local limestones; gypsum in other areas 17
Bader Limestone (18 feet)  
Middleburg limestone member. Varicolored limestone, dark shale 4
Hooser shale member. Green an gray shale 6
Eiss limestone member. Light-colored massive limestone 8
Stearns Shale. Mostly gray shale 20
Beattie Limestone (17 feet)  
Morrill limestone member. Brown and gray limestone 3
Florena shale member. Gray fossileferous shale 8
Cottonwood limestone member. Massive limestone, fusulinid-bearing in upper part 6
Eskridge Shale. Varicolored shale below, gray shale above, fosiliferous; local limestones 36
Grenola Limestone (38 feet)  
Neva limestone member. Light-gray massive to flaggy limestone 20
Salem Point shale member. Gray calcareous shale 9
Burr limestone member. Gray to buff limestone 9
Roca Shale. Varicolored shale, local limestones 20
Red Eagle Limestone (18 feet)  
Howe limestone member. Gray and brown limestone 3
Bennett shale member. Black and gray fossiliferous shale 13
Glenrock limestone member. Argillaceous limestone 2
Johnson Shale. Gray and dark shale, mudstones 16
Foraker limestone (52 feet)  
Long Creek limestone member. Variable limestone 8
Hughes Creek shale member. Fusulinid-bearing shale and limestone 40
Americus limestone member. Massive limestone, two beds separated by dark shale 4
Admire Group (95-170 feet)  
Hamlin Shale1 40
Oaks shale member
Houchen Creek limestone member
Stine shale member
Five Point limestones
West Branch shale1
Falls City limestone 3
Hawxby shale 30
Aspinwall limestone 2+/-
Towle shale  
Unnamed shale member 20
Indian Cave sandstone member 75
Carboniferous System
Pennsylvanian Subsystem
Virgilian Series  
Wabaunsee Group (188 feet +)  
Brownville (?) limestone 5.5
Pony Creek shale2 ?
Caneyville limestones2 ?
French Creek shale2 ?
Jim Creek(?) limestone. Limestone and shale containing "Osagia," and Cryptozoa 3.5
Dry-Friedrich(?) shale. Poorly exposed shale 64+/-
Dover limestone. Light-gray crystalline limestone 2
Table Creek shale. Greenish-gray clayey shale containing al-algal(?) concretions 16
Maple Hill limestone. Bluish-gray limestone containing small fusulinids 1.5
Pierson Point shale. Light-gray shale containing limonitic concretions 17
Tarklo limestone. Massive, fusulinid-bearing limestone 12
Willard shale. Gray shale. locally sandy 30
Elmont limestone. Dark-blue limestone 2
Harveyville shale. Gray and greenish-yellow shale 20
Reading limestone. Brown and gray limestone 2
Auburn shale. (Upper part only) 12

1. Beds between the base of the Foraker limestone formation and the top of the Falls City limestone formation are very poorly exposed in a small area. The combined thickness is about 40 feet.

2. Beds between upper part of Pony Creek shale and lower part of French Creek shale are concealed by mantle deposits, or removed by interformational erosion.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology of Riley and Geary Counties
Web version Nov. 2000. Original publication date Dec. 1941.
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