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Pleistocene Geology of Kansas

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The Kansas landscape is largely a product of geologic processes operating during the last major segment of geologic time, the Pleistocene Epoch (or Quaternary Period). We now live in this segment of geologic time but conditions during much of it were strikingly different from those of the present. The existence of glaciers that advanced as far south as the northeastern corner of Kansas has given rise to the name "The Great Ice Age" which has come in popular writing to be almost a synonym for Pleistocene Epoch.

The profound importance of this most recent of major geologic intervals on our every day existence is emphasized by the facts that not only were the hills and valleys as we now see them produced by erosion and deposition, but the soils that support us were formed during this time, as were the sand and gravel deposits that contain most of our underground water supplies. Also, such usable substances as volcanic ash, molding sand, and ceramic clays were deposited during the Pleistocene.

During the past 15 years the State Geological Survey of Kansas has accumulated a great many data on the Pleistocene geology of the State. Much of this information has been acquired as a direct part of studies of ceramic raw materials, volcanic ash deposits, and particularly from investigations conducted cooperatively by the Federal and State Geological Surveys on ground-water resources. In addition, fundamental research projects on petrology, stratigraphy, and paleontology of these deposits have been carried out in order to give support to work of practical application. During this 15 years of coordinated attack the Pleistocene of Kansas has yielded many of its secrets, albeit there are many problems yet unanswered. Stratigraphic nomenclature has evolved from uncorrelated local systems to a uniform state-wide classification, and a consistent history, although not complete in all details, has been developed for Pleistocene events. It is the purpose of this report to review and summarize present knowledge of the Kansas Pleistocene in the hope that it will serve at once a convenient source of general data and as a starting point for future more detailed and complete regional studies.

Virtually every member of the staff of the State Geological Survey and cooperating Federal personnel has made some contribution to this undertaking, and several other agencies including the U.S. Soil Survey and official agencies in adjacent states have contributed importantly by their cooperation. A bibliography of literature dealing with Kansas Pleistocene geology is presented at the end of this report.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Pleistocene Geology
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Web version August 2005. Original publication date Nov. 1952.