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Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center

Geologic Mapping Studies at Buffalo National River, Northern Arkansas

Buffalo National River, Arkansas, site map.
Figure 1. Location map.

Detailed geologic mapping is being conducted by the USGS in and adjacent to the Buffalo National River (figs. 1, 2), a park administered by the National Park Service, to better understand and characterize the natural resources and associated ecosystems of this area within the Ozark Plateau region. General-purpose geologic maps (fig. 3) are created to provide a framework for a host of natural resource, natural history, and public education uses. The mapping activities focus on understanding development of karst features (fig. 4) and ground water flow paths through extensive karst aquifers within Ordovician through Pennsylvanian rock strata that underlie the Buffalo River watershed.

The geologic maps provide background to understand major cave resources in the park, geologic controls on major spring locations, and recharge areas for springs, including recharge basins that extend beyond the surface watershed boundaries of the Buffalo River.

Photograph of Buffalo River from river trail overlook near Steel Creek. Figure 2. Photograph of Buffalo River from river trail overlook near Steel Creek.
Geologic map of the Murray Quadrangle Figure 3. Geologic map of the Murray Quadrangle - example of products.
Photos of karst features within the Buffalo National River Park.
Figure 4. Examples of karst features within the Buffalo National River Park. Karst is a type of topography that is formed over limestone, dolomite, or gypsum by dissolving or solution, and that is characterized by closed depressions or sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage (American Geological Institute Dictionary of Geologic Terms).


Project Activities

Figure 5. Status of Geologic Mapping in Western Part of Buffalo National River

Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region. Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region Status of the geologic mapping of the Buffalo River region


3-dimensional modeling of the geologic framework.
Figure 6. Three-dimensional geology model of the western part of the Buffalo River area. View is toward the north and colors show different rock formations that are distributed across the area.


Results

The geologic mapping helps place inventories of springs and caves within the park in proper stratigraphic context. Caves and springs are present in a variety of geologic formations ranging in age from Ordovician to Pennsylvanian, but they are concentrated within the 120-m-thick, Mississippian-aged limestone of the Boone Formation. Springs (fig. 7) in the western part of the park are most frequent near the unconformable contact between the basal St. Joe Member of the Boone Formation and underlying sandstone-rich Ordovician Everton Formation. These features indicate that the Boone Formation, comprising the karstic Springfield aquifer, is the principal path for ground-water flow into the western Buffalo River watershed. New mapping documents that major springs and cave systems are localized in structural lows (fig. 8) of the Boone Formation where ground water discharges at lowest elevations within the perched Springfield aquifer. Dye-tracer studies indicated that some springs localized in structural lows have captured recharge from beyond topographic watershed boundaries (fig. 9). This interbasin flow of ground water becomes a land management concern if agricultural land use of adjacent watersheds results in transfer of nutrient-enriched ground water in the Buffalo River.

Photo of spring. Figure 7. Springs localized in basal St. Joe Limestone Member of Boone Formation, the principal karst aquifer of the western Buffalo River region.
3-dimensional view of the Boone Formation. Figure 8. Three-dimensional model of geology showing major springs localized at base of structural low in Boone Formation.
Dye tracer study of Dogpatch Springs interbasin recharge area.
Figure 9. Dye tracer study of Dogpatch Springs interbasin recharge area. Discharge springs are localized at corner of structural low formed by intersection of two faults.

New geologic mapping in the middle part of the Buffalo River documents a transition from the Springfield Plateau aquifer to lower karstic Ordovician formations of the Ozark aquifer. The largest spring in the park, Mitch Hill Spring (fig. 10), discharges from a stratigraphic level in the lowest part of the Ordovician Everton Formation above impervious argillaceous dolostone of the Powell Dolomite that is brought to the surface along the Buffalo River in a structural high. Dye tracer studies integrated with the geologic mapping are investigating probable pathways for ground water between the two aquifers.

Map of Mitch Hill spring. Figure 10. Mitch Hill Spring. (Click on image for a larger view.)

New geologic mapping has recognized many new faults and folds in the region and has added information on the age and character of new and previously recognized faults. These data are revealing new insights into the ancient history of deformation in the area that was probably related to past interactions among tectonic plates in late Paleozoic time.

Results of these mapping efforts were presented to fieldtrip participants at the Geological Society of America North Central/South Central section combined meeting in April 2010. Mark Hudson and Kenzie Turner of the USGS and Chuck Bitting of the National Park Service led the field trip to emphasize geologic controls on karst development in the Buffalo National River area (fig. 11).


Figure 11. Field trip leaders describe the geologic controls on the formation of the large sinkhole in the Batesville Sandstone.


Funding Sources

Staff

Key Collaborators

Related Links


Publications (by date; most recent first)

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2016, Geologic map of the Murray Quadrangle, Newton County, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Information Map 3360, scale 1:24,000. [doi:10.3133/sim3360]

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2016, Geologic map of the Murray quadrangle adjacent to Buffalo National River, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 48, no. 7. [doi:10.1130/abs/2016AM-281188]

Keen-Zebert, A. Granger, D.E., Paces, J.B., Hudson, M.R. and Bitting, C.J., 2016, Combined use of cosmogenic nuclide, U-series disequilibrium, paleomagnetism, and optically stimulated luminescence within Fitton Cave to evaluate karst landscape evolution of the Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 48, no. 7. [doi:10.1130/abs/2016AM-285655]

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2014, Geologic map of the west-central Buffalo National River region, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3314, 1:24,000 scale.

Keen-Zebert, A., Hudson, M.R., and Shepherd, S.L., 2014, Characterization and ages of Quaternary river terraces in the Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 46, no. 1, p. 39.

Shepherd, S.L., Keen-Zebert, A., Tomcho,I. , and Hudson, M.R., 2014, Valley width and heterogeneous lithology in the Buffalo River watershed, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 45, no. 7, p. 577.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2014, Thickness variations of Upper Mississippian strata in the western Buffalo River region of northern Arkansas: Evidence of Late Mississippian tectonic activity in the southern Ozark Dome: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 46, no. 1, p. 3.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2014, Geologic map of the west-central Buffalo National River region, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 46, no. 1, p. 42.

Shepherd, S.L., Keen-Zebert, A., Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2013, Variable valley width and heterogeneous lithology in the Buffalo National Scenic River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 45, no. 7, p. 577.

Hudson, M.R., Turner, K.J. and Bitting, C., 2011, Geology and karst landscapes of the Buffalo National River area, northern Arkansas: in Kuniansky, E.L., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 26-29, 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5031, p. 191-212.

Hudson, M.R., Turner, K.J., Bitting, C., Kaufmann, J.E., Kresse, T.M., and Mott, D.N., 2011, Geologic controls on karst landscapes in the Buffalo National River Area of northern Arkansas: Insights gained from comparison of geologic mapping, topography, dye tracers, and karst inventories, in Kuniansky, E.L., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 26-29, 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5031, p. 86.

Turner, K.J., and Hudson, M.R., 2010, Geologic map of the Maumee Quadrangle, Searcy and Marion counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3134, 1:24,000 scale.

Turner, K.J., and Hudson, M.R., 2010, Geologic features of the Maumee Quadrangle, Marion and Searcy counties, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, n. 2, p. 71.

Hudson, M.R., Turner, K.J., and Trexler, C.C., 2010, Geometry, relative ages, and tectonic implications of joints from regional assessment of the Buffalo National River area, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, n. 2, p. 71.

Hudson, M.R., Turner, K.J., and Trexler, C.C., 2009, Regional joint analysis for the Buffalo National River area of northern Arkansas: Implications for tectonic history and landscape influence: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 41, n. 7, p. 367.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2009, Geologic map of the St. Joe Quadrangle, Searcy and Marion counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3074, 1:24,000 scale.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2008, Geologic framework of the Boxley Quadrangle on the southern flank of the Ozark Dome, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40, n. 3, p 33.

Turner, K.J., and Hudson, M.R., 2008, Improved understanding of a karst aquifer system through utilization of a 3D geologic model, Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 40, n. 3, p. 36.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2007, Geologic map of the Boxley Quadrangle, Newton and Madison Counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 2991, 1:24,000 scale.

Turner, K.J., Hudson, M.R., Murray, K.E., and Mott, D.N., 2007, Three-dimensional geologic framework model for a karst aquifer system, Hasty and Western Grove quadrangles, northern Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5095, 12 p. and CD digital archive.

Hudson, M.R., Turner, K.J., and Repetski, J.E., 2006, Geologic map of the Western Grove Quadrangle, Northwestern Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 2921, 1:24,000 scale.

Hudson, M.R., and Turner, K.J., 2006, Three-phase late Paleozoic deformation on the southern flank of the Ozark dome, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of American Abstracts with Programs, v. 38, n. 6, p. 12.

Hudson, M. R., Mott, D.N., Turner, K.J., and Murray, K.E., 2005, Geologic controls on a transition between karst aquifers at Buffalo National River, northern Arkansas, in Knuiansky, E.L., editor, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 5160, p. 143.

Hudson, M.R., and Murray, K.E., 2004, Geologic map of the Hasty Quadrangle, Boone, and Newton Counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 2847, 1:24,000 scale.

Hudson, M.R., and Murray, K.E., 2003, Geologic map of the Ponca Quadrangle, Newton, Boone, and Carroll Counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies Map 2412, 1:24,000 scale.

Hudson, M.R., 2003, The Indian Creek fault zone: a late Paleozoic oblique rift in northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstract with Programs, v. 35, n. 1, p. 71.

Hudson, M.R., and Cox, R.T., 2003, Late Paleozoic tectonics of the southern Ozark dome, in Cox, R.T., compiler, Field trip guidebook for Joint South-Central and Southeastern Sections, Geological Society of America, Tennessee Division of Geology Report of Investigations 51, p. 15-32.

Hudson, M.R., Mott, D.N., Murray, K.E., and Bitting, C.J., 2002, Geologic framework of karst development and groundwater flow, Buffalo National River, northern Arkansas, in Proceedings of National Park Service Water Professionals Meeting, Fort Collins, Colorado, p. 22.

Murray, K.E., and Hudson, M.R., 2002, Three-dimensional geologic framework modeling in the Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstract with Programs, v. 34, n. 6, p. 120.

Hudson, M.R., 2002, Three-phase late Paleozoic deformation of the southern Ozark dome, western Buffalo River region, northern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstract with Programs, v. 34, n. 6, p. 79.

Murray, K.E., and Hudson, M.R., 2002, Three-dimensional geologic framework modeling for a karst region in the Buffalo National River, Arkansas: in Kuniansky, E.L., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4174, p. 51-58.

Hudson, M.R., Murray, K.E., and Pezzutti, D., 2001, Geologic map of the Jasper Quadrangle, Newton and Boone Counties, Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies Map 2356, 1:24,000 scale.

Hudson, M.R., Mott, D.N., and Bitting, C.J., 2001, Geologic framework of karst features in western Buffalo National River, northern Arkansas, in Kuniansky, E.L., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4011, p. 16-17.

Mott, D.N., Hudson, M.R., and Aley, T., 2000, Hydrologic investigations reveal interbasin recharge contributes significantly to detrimental nutrient loads at Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Proceedings of Arkansas Water Resources Center Annual Conference MSC-284, Fayetteville, Ark., p. 13-20.

Hudson, M.R., 2000, Coordinated strike-slip and normal faulting in the southern Ozark dome of northern Arkansas: Deformation in a late Paleozoic foreland: Geology, v. 28, p. 511-514.

Mott, D.N., Hudson, M.R., and Aley, T., 2000, Hydrogeologic investigations reveal interbasin recharge contributes significantly to nutrient loads at Buffalo National River, Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 32, n. 3, p. 36-37.

Hudson, M.R., 2000, Multiphase late Paleozoic deformation in the western Buffalo River region of northern Arkansas: A foreland record of an evolving Ouachita orogeny: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 32, n. 3, p. 15.

Mott, D.N., Hudson, M.R., and Aley, T., 1999, Nutrient loads traced to interbasin groundwater transport at Buffalo National River, Arkansas, in Harmon, D., ed., Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Research and Resource Management in Parks and on Public Lands, George Wright Society, Hancock, Michigan, p. 114-121.

Mott, D.N., Hudson, M.R., and Aley, T., 1998, Water resources, geologic mapping, and dye-tracings employed to develop a model of interbasin recharge, Buffalo National River: Proceedings of the Friends of Karst/International Geologic Correlation Program Conference, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, p 26.

Hudson, M.R., and Mott, D.N., 1998, Structural influence on springs and interbasin recharge in a karst aquifer, Buffalo National River, northwestern Arkansas, USA: Proceedings of American Institute of Hydrology/International Association of Hydrologists "Gambling with Groundwater" Conference, p. 36-37.

Hudson, M.R., 1998, Geologic map of parts of the Jasper, Hasty, Ponca, Gaither, and Harrison quadrangles in and adjacent to Buffalo National River, northwestern Arkansas: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-116, 1:24,000 scale with 20 p. text.

Hudson, M.R., and Mott, D.N., 1997, Faulting and coincident interbasin ground water flow in a karst aquifer, Buffalo National River region, northwestern Arkansas: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 29, n. 6, p. 181-182.

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