Skip Navigation

Stanton County Geohydrology

Next Page--Table of Contents

Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Stanton County, Kansas

by Bruce F. Latta

Analyses by Robert H. Hess

Cover of the book; black text on light blue paper.

Originally published in 1941 as Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 37. This is, in general, the original text as published. The information has not been updated. An Acrobat PDF version (57 MB) is also available.

You may also wish to visit our web site on the Stanton County geologic map.


This report describes the geography, geology, and ground-water resources of Stanton county, in southwestern Kansas. Stanton county has an area of about 685 square miles, and lies in the High Plains section of the Great Plains province. Most of the area is drained by Bear creek and Sand arroyo, which are ephemeral streams. The population of the county was 1,443 in 1940, and is principally rural. Johnson City, the county seat, is the largest community and in 1940 had a population of 524. Wheat farming is the chief industry. During the last several years the county has experienced partial or complete crop failure owing to drought conditions. The climate is the semiarid continental type, the average annual precipitation being about 17 inches.

The exposed rocks are sedimentary and range in age from late Cretaceous to Quaternary. Undifferentiated Pliocene (including the Ogallala formation) and Pleistocene sediments lie at or near the surface over nearly all of the county. They are overlain by a thin mantle of loess in the interstream areas, by thin deposits of alluvium in the stream valleys, and by dune sand south of Bear creek. The Cockrum sandstone (Upper Cretaceous) is the oldest formation exposed. Unexposed rocks beneath the Cockrum sandstone comprise the Kiowa shale and Cheyenne sandstone of early Cretaceous age, and rocks of the Triassic (?) and Permian systems. The pre-Tertiary strata in the northern part of the county form a buried trough, the north flank of which has been faulted in post-Tertiary lime. The north flank of the buried trough is the south flank of the Syracuse anticline of southern Hamilton county.

The water table beneath Stanton county ranges in depth from less than 25 feet to 250 feet below the surface, and in general has an easterly slope. In the western part of the county, where the Cockrum sandstone is the principal water-bearing formation, the water table slopes as much as 60 feet to the mile, but in the eastern part of the county, where the Ogallala formation is the principal water bearer, the slope is very gentle and locally is as little as 4 feet to the mile. The difference in slope is due principally to the difference in permeability of the water-bearing materials in the two areas. The ground-water reservoir is recharged in three ways; by downward-percolating water that falls within or just west of the county, by influent seepage from Bear creek and possibly a small amount from Sand arroyo, and by water entering the Ogallala formation from the Cockrum sandstone at places where the latter formation thins between the Ogallala formation and the underlying impervious Kiowa shale. Water is discharged from the underground reservoir through wells and by lateral migration into areas to the east. All the public, railroad, and irrigation water supplies and most of the domestic and stock supplies are obtained from drilled wells.

At the time the investigation was made there were four active irrigation wells in the county, all of which obtained water from sands and gravels of the Ogallala formation. The most favorable place for future irrigation development is a roughly triangular area in the northeastern part of the county where the water table ranges from less than 50 feet to less than 100 feet below the surface.

The ground water is hard, but in general is of satisfactory quality for most purposes. In general the waters from the Ogallala formation and the Cockrum sandstone are slightly better than the water from the Cheyenne sandstone.

The Ogallala is the principal water-bearing formation in the county. It consists mostly of calcareous gravel, sand, and silt, which are consolidated locally to form conglomerate, sandstone, or siltstone. In Stanton county the Ogallala (including Pleistocene undifferentiated deposits) ranges in thickness from less than 50 feet to more than 400 feet. Most of the water is obtained from the sands and gravels of the formation. The Cockrum sandstone, which unconformably underlies the Ogallala formation, yields water to many wells in the western and southwestern parts of the county. It consists chiefly of fine- to medium-grained sandstones and light-colored shales or clays. It reaches 100 feet in thickness, but is absent locally. A few wells obtain water from the Cheyenne sandstone, which is made up of loose or cemented, fine to coarse sand and minor amounts of silty shale. It is about 50 feet thick in most places.

The basic field data upon which most of this report is based are given in tables, and include records of 147 wells, and chemical analyses of 38 samples of water from representative wells. Logs are given of 11 test holes drilled during the investigation and of several water wells in the county. The monthly water levels since August, 1939, in 17 unused wells are tabulated.

Next Page--Table of Contents

Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Oct. 5, 2018; originally published November 1941.
Comments to
The URL for this page is