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Geology of Johnson and Miami Counties

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The Geology of Johnson and Miami Counties, Kansas

By Norman D. Newell

Cover of the book; dark blue cloth and gold lettering.

Originally published in 1935 as Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 21, Part 1. This is, in general, the original text as published. The information has not been updated. An Acrobat PDF version (62 MB) is also available, and contains both Parts 1 (Johnson and Miami) and 2 (Wyandotte).


During the last decade the State Geological Survey of Kansas has followed the policy of making a systematic, detailed study of the geology of Kansas. Such a study was recently made of Wyandotte County by J. M. Jewett and me. [Jewett, J. M., and Newell, N. D., The Geology of Wyandotte County, Kansas: this bulletin, Part II.] one of the results of which was enlargement of my interest in the stratigraphic problems encountered in various parts of the so-called Kansas City and Lansing groups. Because the formations cropping out in Wyandotte County are also exposed in Johnson and Miami counties, a study of the geology of these counties has been a desirable continuation of the earlier work. Investigations of the formations exposed in the counties have proved fruitful.

Previous Geological Work

A comprehensive, detailed study of the stratigraphy of Johnson and Miami counties has not previously been undertaken. Most of the correlations and conclusions published in the reports of the old Kansas Survey were obtained from the field work of Bennett and Haworth. Geological surveys of eastern Kansas were made in the pioneer days of Kansas geology, and although the work was well done considering the difficulties under which the geologist then labored, it is very inadequate for modern needs.

The Missouri Bureau of Geology and Mines and the United States Geological Survey have published reports on areas adjoining Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties. These reports are important to the investigator of the stratigraphy and geology of the area described in this report.

The earliest geological work of any note in the Johnson and Miami area was that of G. C. Swallow, second state geologist of Kansas, in 1865. His preliminary report on the geology of Kansas, the value of which lies chiefly in its historical interest, includes a chapter entitled, "Geological Report of Miami County." [Swallow, G. C., Geological report of Miami County, Kansas: Kansas Geol. Survey, 1866 (also issued separately in 1865).] In view of the difficulties attending geological exploration in Kansas at that time, the data recorded are surprisingly accurate. The principal shortcomings of this report lie in its brevity and the fact that Swallow was in many cases misled in his correlation of the various stratigraphic units from place to place within Miami County. These miscorrelations resulted in repetitions and omissions from his generalized section of the rocks exposed in the county.

In 1896 the Kansas University Geological Survey, under direction of Erasmus Haworth, published a series of stratigraphic studies by various individuals, treating in an incidental manner the stratigraphy of Wyandotte, Johnson, and Miami counties. [Kansas Univ. Geol. Survey, vol. 1, 1896.] This seems to be the last work of importance on these counties, and the correlations then established have persisted with little modification until the present time. Generalized geologic maps of the area were published by the old Kansas Survey, but they are not sufficiently accurate or detailed to fulfill present requirements.

Several important geological reports on adjoining areas have appeared during the last two decades. [Hinds, Henry, and Greene, F. O., Stratigraphy of the Pennsylvanian series in Missouri: Missouri Bur. Geol. and Mines, vol. 13, 2d ser., 1915. Hinds, Henry, and Greene, F. C., Geologic Atlas of the United States, Leavenworth-Smithville Folio, Missouri-Kansas, U. S. Geol. Survey, 1917. Condra, G. E., The stratigraphy of the Pennsylvanian system in Nebraska: Nebraska Geol. Survey, Bull. 1, 2d ser., 1927.] In these reports much of the nomenclature of the early surveys was changed as a result of more detailed information. To a large extent, however, the correlations of the older workers were not checked, but were accepted at full value.

Field Work

Some detailed work on the geology of Johnson County was done during the months from September, 1929, to June, 1930, by J. M. Jewett and me in connection with studies on the geology of Wyandotte County. This was chiefly in the vicinity of De Soto and Cedar Junction.

It was part of the original plan to continue jointly the work started in Wyandotte County, but Jewett became engaged in stratigraphic studies on the Big Blue series in central Kansas. While the investigation of Wyandotte County was in progress there was no suspicion on our part of the confusion involved in the existing classification of the classic exposures around Kansas City. The work on Wyandotte County was completed and the report written before the several miscorrelations of the Kansas City outcrops were discovered. Naturally the original classification of the Wyandotte County rocks had to be revised in accordance with later discoveries.

Almost all of the field work on Johnson and Miami counties was done as a project of the Kansas Geological Survey during the latter part of the field season of 1930, and on week-ends and holidays during the academic year 1930-31.

The stratigraphic sections were measured by means of a Locke level and a hand rule. The mapping was done by making road traverses, taking measurements with the automobile speedometer and by pacing. The contacts of the formations in Johnson County were sketched on a large-scale base map which was taken from an accurate plane-table map made by the government Soil Survey. The base for the Miami County map was compiled from postal route maps, county road maps and from field sheets prepared by me.


Acknowledgments are made to the people of Johnson and Miami counties who facilitated the field work. Mr. J. M. Jewett, of Wichita University, has shown unfailing interest in the project. In addition to valuable suggestions, he cooperated with the writer in a study of the difficult stratigraphic problems at De Soto and along Kansas river. The writer is indebted to Dr. R. C. Moore, state geologist of Kansas, for invaluable guidance both in the field and in the preparation of the report. Doctor Moore was in every case consulted regarding changes in nomenclature. In several instances he suggested appropriate terms for unnamed stratigraphic units. Dr. John Rich on many occasions gave of his intimate knowledge of eastern Kansas stratigraphy.

To Dr. K. K. Landes, Prof. M. K. Elias, Dr. John Ockerman, Miss Edith Hicks, and other members of the survey staff thanks are due for assistance in the preparation of the manuscript. To my wife, Valerie, I am indebted for constant assistance in the field and for suggestions in writing the manuscript.

Problems of Correlation

Early in the progress of this work it appeared that many of the formations of the so-called Kansas City and Lansing groups of Missouri geologists had been previously miscorrelated in Kansas. Field study during three years had made me familiar with the local geology in Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties, and adjoining parts of Missouri. The formations cropping out in these counties were traced across the area mile by mile. Some of them were traced from Platte county, Missouri, across Kansas to the Oklahoma boundary. Hundreds of stratigraphic sections have been studied in detail and compared. Some of the formations in the so-called Lansing and Kansas City groups are much more variable than has been generally supposed. Others display certain features that are remarkably persistent-features which, when known, are easily recognized.

Ever since geological exploration began in eastern Kansas the classic exposures at Kansas City have been considered the standard section of reference for much of the Pennsylvanian strata of the Missouri Valley region. Many of the formations exposed at Kansas City are named, however, from localities in southeastern Kansas. It has developed in the course of recent investigations that the correlation of beds in the Kansas City section and southeastern Kansas localities is erroneous in several particulars. As previously indicated, the pioneer geologists of Kansas are not to be criticized severely for these errors, but it is necessary now to make revisions. Plate XII indicates the somewhat radical departures that are made from the classification of Hinds and Greene. [Hinds, Henry, and Greene, F. C., The stratigraphy of the Pennsylvanian series in Missouri: Missouri Bur. Geol. and Mines, vol. 13, 2d ser., Table Opp. p. 36, 1915.] The evidence now in hand seems not only to warrant but to demand a revision of the nomenclature and classification of the older writers.

The series and group terms proposed by R. C. Moore are adopted because they appear to indicate the stratigraphic relations better than the older classification.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Feb. 18, 2014; originally published May 1935.
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