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Geological Survey of Kansas (1896)

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Chapter VIII--A Geologic Section from Atchison to Barnes, Along the Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific Railway

by E. B. Knerr

Passing from the top of the bluffs about Atchison to the level of the Missouri river the following outcroppings in the bluffs may be observed:

1 50 to 60 feet of drift.
2 Below this there is evidence of shale in some places.
3 A weathered limestone in places about 2 feet thick.
4 2 feet of clay.
5 2 feet of limestone.
6 2 feet of black slippery shale.
7 2 feet of limestone rich in Fusillina, darker than the following yet lighter than the most of the Atchison limestones.
8 2 more feet of limestone, very light in color and much resembling Cottonwood Falls rock, but not porous.
9 5 feet of shale.
10 6 feet of limestone very good for building, and mostly used for such purpose.
11 2 feet of shale.
12 4 to S inches of coal.
13 4 to 10 feet of shale.
14 6 feet of sandstone which runs into shale in places and is common in all the bluffs.
15 20 to 25 feet shale, used extensively for the manufacture of vitrified brick.
16 2 feet of a hard compact limestone broken at regular intervals into large monoliths, very similar to No. 22 in appearance.
17 5 feet of shale.
18 6 feet limestone.
19 4 to 6 feet of shale.
20 21 feet of limestone, more or less flinty, of little or no value for building purposes, used extensively for railroad ballast (the upper of the Oread limestones).
21 3 to 4 feet of a laminated shale containing more or less pyrite nodules.
22 21 inches of a hard firm limestone which breaks off in immense blocks, and which is conspicuous in all the bluffs.
23 9 feet of shale.
24 10 feet of limestone.
25 25 feet of shale.
26 16 to 18 inches of coal, which is worked at the Donald and Ada mines two miles south of Atchison.
27 30 feet of shale.

From this it will be seen that the bluffs about Atchison rise to a height of over 200 feet above the Missouri river.

Westward from Atchison the drift is quite heavy and for the most part hides the limestones so effectually that their outcroppings are seldom visible even in the beds of streams. These limestones would be the thin layers visible in the crowns of the bluffs about Atchison. Above the highest rocks discoverable about Atchison there is evidence of quite a heavy deposit of shale. This will help to account for the peculiar roIling and hilly character of the country directly west of that place.

About eight miles to the southwest, near Hawthorne, the 21-foot limestone (the Oread) is again visible. In the bed of Stranger creek at Monrovia about 18 inches of limestone in thin layers of 6 to 8 inches at most is quarried.

About two miles north of Muscotah and twenty-two miles west of Atchison an interesting series of limestones occur:

1 At the top is limestone 21 inches thick.
2 37 feet of shale.
3 30 inches of hard limestone.
4 8 feet of shale.
5 18 inches of limestone.
6 3 feet of shale.
7 10 inches of limestone.
8 12 feet of shale.
9 18 inches of arenaceous limestone.
10 A shale reached by shafting; bears a small deposit of coal.

The limestone at the top of this series and the 30-inch deposit (3) are quarried for building purposes,

From Muscotah to Centralia is a long stretch of rolling prairie which presents no outcroppings whatever in the neighborhood of the railroad. But to the north. at Granada a limestone is quarried which is without doubt a representative of a certain limestone exposed at Frankfort 30 miles to the west, underlying the Cottonwood Falls rock. However, no Cottonwood Falls rock proper is found north of the Central Branch in that vicinity. But directly south about twelve miles,in the vicinity of Circleville, the Cottonwood Falls rock occurs in abundance 6 feet thick, and may be traced to, the northwest as far as Frankfort, where the line of outcrop curves to the north and disappears under the drift about five miles north of Beattie in Marshall county.

About five miles northeast of Centralia, and about the same distance south of Seneca, the following outcrops were observed:

1 The drift at the top.
2 Next below lies 30 inches of limestone.
3 25 feet of shale.
4 6 feet of limestone.
5 18 feet of shale.
6 An 18-inch layer of limestone.
7 At the bottom lies a shale bearing a 4-inch stratum of coal.

The 30-inch deposit of limestone is extensively quarried for building purposes. These same rocks and the coal-bearing shale occur about 18 miles to the southwest near Neuchatel on Coal creek. Here they are shown to underlie the Cottonwood Falls rocks, as these latter may be found about eight miles to the east and about 50 to 100 feet above them. No good exposure showing their exact amount of separation could be found; but the distance is approximately 60 feet.

From Centralia to Frankfort is a rolling prairie devoid of all rock other than the boulders of the drift.

South of Frankfort the bluffs rise to a height of 160 feet above the railroad and have the Cottonwood Falls limestone on their summits, about 4 feet thick. Beneath these to the base of the bluffs is a succession of shales 15 to 30 feet thick alternating with ledges of limestone 1 to 5 feet thick. The ledges of limestone terrace the bluffs, about 6 terraces being especially prominent.

A little to the south of Bigelow the Permian first becomes conspicuous in the bluffs called Twin Mounds. Here the Cottonwood Falls rock is about 30 feet above the railroad and is 6 feet thick.

The following section is observed reaching from the top of the mound to this Cottonwood Falls rock:

1 10 feet of limestone with flint nodules very abundant in the upper portion.
2 50 feet of buff shales arid thin limestones.
3 30 inches of porous limestone with 8 to 10 inches of a prismatic blue flint overlying it.
4 About 30 feet of shales and thin limestones.
5 30 inches of a hard prismatic limestone.
6 2 feet and 10 inches of a compact limestone.
7 A 3-foot bed of calcareous shales very full of fossils.

The upper strata (1) containing the flint are very characteristic and persistent. They were traced, north along the Blue river to the Nebraska line, and west to Washington county. They occasion the flat-topped bluffs so conspicuous on either side of the Blue river from Bigelow to Waterville. The flint nodules in the upper stratum are quite like agate in concentric structure. The limestone in which they are imbedded is quite soft and weathers easily leaving the nodules exposed and protruding.

At Waterville two more deposits of the Permian become conspicuous over the flinty nodular limestone. They are each about 60 feet thick and are made up of buff shales and thin limestones of a similar color. They are separated by about 2 feet of buff limestone so persistent and uniform as to cause a terrace in the bluffs. This intermediate limestone and a similar ledge over the next series of shales above form the crowns of the flat-topped bluffs west of Waterville, while the flinty nodular limestone crowns the bluffs about Blue Rapids.

Five miles beyond the county line in Washington county, near Chepstow, the Permian rises still 40 feet higher by a third series of shales and thin limestones. Over this the Dakota sandstones rise to an elevation of 98 feet. Thus we estimate the Permian over Cottonwood Falls limestone to measure about 250 feet.

The gypsum deposits about two miles west of Blue Rapids and a mile or two northwest of Waterville are located in the shales between the Cottonwood Falls limestone and the SO-inch Permian limestone which has the prismatic flint over it. The gypsum bed near Blue Rapids is about 9 feet thick and very pure.

The principal limestones in the region discussed are the 21-foot stratum at Atchison; the 10-foot layer beneath this and the 6-foot ledge above; the Muscotah series; the series between Centralia and Seneca, also observed at Neuchatel; the Cottonwood Falls series; the Permian ledge with the prismatic bed of flint over it, and Permian ledge with flint nodules. Of all these, the most important commercially and the most interesting geologically is the great Cottonwood Falls system.

Plate VIII--A Geologic Section from Atchison to Barnes, along the Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific railway.

By E. B. Knerr; to accompany Chapter VIII.
Scale: Vertical, 1 inch equals 500 feet; horizontal, 1 inch equals 5 miles.
The limestones are represented by conventional masonry. The shales and sandstones are left bare.
Contours are the levels of the railway track.
Available as an Acrobat PDF, 1.3 MB.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web June 1, 2017; originally published 1896.
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