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Cowley County Geology (1929)

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In continuation of the policy of studying the geology of Kansas by county units, followed for several years by the State Geological Survey and the United States Geological Survey in cooperation, Cowley County was selected as the unit for this report. It is one of the larger counties in Kansas, has recently featured prominently in the development of the oil and gas resources of the state, contains active building-stone quarries and gravel and sand pits, and embraces considerable thickness of strata cropping out at the surface. Its selection by the state geologist thus afforded a wide variety of subjects for study.

The present report describes both the strata that crop out in the county and those that occur beneath the surface, although the surface beds are treated more fully, for it is believed it is in them that geologists working in the region will be most interested. The physiographic features of the county are pictured in a general way, including a discussion of asymmetric stream valleys, a feature common to a wide region, including Cowley County. The water supply and industries other than oil and gas are briefly described, but the larger part of the report relates to the oil and gas fields of the county. Each field is treated separately, including a history of the field and a description of the rocks and their structural attitude, in so far as data are available for publication. A few analyses of oil and gas are quoted, and the available production statistics are given. The data pertaining to many fields are incomplete, so that the description is necessarily generalized; for some fields more complete reports were possible.

Field Work

The field study of the area extended throughout the summer of 1926. A geologic map of the county showing the location of the outcrops of the principal rock beds was prepared and is shown as Plate I. A large part of this map was compiled from maps of small areas that had been prepared by geologists of oil companies operating in the region. Later about a month was spent in the field checking the compiled map and mapping rock outcrops in the areas not covered by the oil-company maps. Some of the maps obtained from companies resulted from very careful work and show the delineation of the rock outcrops in minute detail; on others the outcrop positions were sketched with less precision. The supplementary field mapping was done by free-hand sketching from the section-line roads. For this work the county engineer's county base map, on a scale of 1 inch to the mile, showing roads and section lines, and the county soil map, on approximately the same scale, published by the United States Bureau of Soils, were used.

A hasty study of the rocks exposed in the county was made prior to and during the field mapping. Most of the beds that crop out in the county were named many years ago by geologists working on Cottonwood river and elsewhere in east-central Kansas. In order to correlate the strata of the two regions the rocks of the divisions in the central part of the exposed stratigraphic section were studied at the localities in east-central Kansas from which they were named--that is, the type localities--and were visited also at two places between the Cottonwood river region and Cowley County. The type localities of the beds in the upper and lower parts of the section were not visited.

The material for the chapters describing the buried rocks, the subsurface structure, and the oil- and gas-producing beds was procured largely through a study of records of wells drilled for oil and gas and from compiled data derived from similar studies by oil-company geologists operating in the region, generously supplied by the company representatives. Much of the summer of 1926 was occupied in compiling well records and other data. The office work on the report was done in the winters of 1926-'27 and 1927-'28.


So many companies and individuals contributed maps, well logs, data on production, and other information for use in the report that it is impossible to make acknowledgments for all kindnesses and services rendered. Only a few will be mentioned here, although the services given by many others are equally appreciated. The writer is deeply indebted to M. W. Baden, of the Trees Oil Company, of Winfield, who supplied much information, including well logs, altitudes, and geologic maps of a large part of the county, and gave his hearty support to all parts of the work. Joe Bailey, of the same company, supplied many data. R. B. Rutledge, of the Barnsdall Oil Company, also furnished many logs, altitudes and suggestions. E. L. Jones, of the Roxana Petroleum Corporation, generously supplied well cuttings, maps and other data. G. M. Clark, of the Marland Oil Company, furnished maps of the Rainbow Bend and Graham pools, and A. F. Melcher, of the same company, supplied chunk sand samples for study. A. M. Ambrose and W. L. Walker, of the Empire Gas and Fuel Company, supplied geologic maps of much of the county, and also maps and other information concerning the Eastman pool. Luther H. White, of the J. A. Hull Oil Company, and Everett Carpenter, of the Mississippi Valley Oil and Gas Company, furnished many of the data on the Winfield pool. J. K. Knox and C. D. Sherwood, of the Phillips Petroleum Company supplied areal maps of parts of the county and detailed information about the Falls City pool. L. M. Neumann, of the Carter Oil Company, furnished areal maps for a portion of the southeastern part of the county, and the Tidal Oil Company also supplied part of the surface mapping.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Jan. 5, 2016; originally published May 15, 1929.
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