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Engineering Geologic Conditions at the Sinkhole Entrance to Logan Cave, Benton County, Arkansas

By William H. Schulz and Jonathan P. McKenna

Open-File Report 2004–1357
thumbnail image of the passageway (fig 4).
Version 1.0
Published 2004
Logan Cave, located in Benton County, Arkansas, is inhabited by several endangered and threatened species. The cave and surrounding area was designated a National Wildlife Refuge under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1989. Cave researchers access the cave through a steep-sided sinkhole entrance, which also is one of the two access points used by endangered bats. There is evidence of instability of one of the entrance slopes that has raised concerns that the entrance could close if slope failure was to occur. At the request of USFWS, we performed an engineering geologic investigation of the sinkhole to evaluate stability of this slope, which is comprised of soil, and other mechanisms of sediment transport into the cave entrance. The investigation included engineering geologic mapping, sampling and laboratory testing of subsurface geologic materials, and slope-stability analysis. We found that the sinkhole slope that extends into the entrance of the cave is comprised of sandy and gravelly soil to the depths explored (6.4 meters). This soil likely was deposited as alluvium within a previous, larger sinkhole. Based on properties of the alluvium, geometry of the slope, and results of finite-element slope-stability analyses, we conclude that the slope is marginally stable. Future failures of the slope probably would be relatively thin and small, thus several would be required to completely close the cave entrance. However, sediment is accumulating within the cave entrance due to foot traffic of those accessing the cave, surface-water erosion and transport, and shallow slope failures from the other sinkhole slopes. We conclude that the entrance will be closed by sediment in the future, similar to another entrance that we identified that completely closed in the past. Several measures could be taken to reduce the potential for closure of the cave entrance, including periodic sediment removal, installation of materials that reduce erosion by foot traffic and surface water, construction of a sediment-retention wall, and excavation of the soil slope. Any measures taken must be carefully planned and executed so that they have no impact on organisms within the cave.

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Geologic Map and Cross Section of the Sinkhole Entrance to Logan Cave, Benton County, Arkansas logo