Geologic context of large karst springs and caves in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri

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The ONSR is a karst park, containing many springs and caves. The “jewels” of the park are large springs, several of first magnitude, that contribute significantly to the flow and water quality of the Current River and its tributaries. Completion of 1:24,000-scale geologic mapping of the park and surrounding river basin, along with synthesis of published hydrologic data, allows us to examine the spatial relationships between the springs and the geologic framework to develop a conceptual model for genesis of these springs. Based on their similarity to mapped spring conduits, many of the caves in the ONSR are fossil conduit segments. Therefore, geologic control on the evolution of the springs also applies to speleogenesis in this part of the southern Missouri Ozarks.

Large springs occur in the ONSR area because: (1) the Ozark aquifer, from which they rise, is chiefly dolomite affected by solution via various processes over a long time period, (2) Paleozoic hypogenic fluid migration through these rocks exploited and enhanced flow-paths, (3) a consistent and low regional dip of the rocks off of the Salem Plateau (less than 2° to the southeast) allows integration of flow into large groundwater basins with a few discreet outlets, (4) the springs are located where the rivers have cut down into structural highs, allowing access to water from stratigraphic units deeper in the aquifer thus allowing development of springsheds that have volumetrically larger storage than smaller springs higher in the section, and (5) quartz sandstone and bedded chert in the carbonate stratigraphic succession that are locally to regionally continuous, serve as aquitards that locally confine groundwater up dip of the springs creating artesian conditions. This subhorizontal partitioning of the Ozark aquifer allows contributing areas for different springs to overlap, as evidenced by dye traces that cross adjacent groundwater basin boundaries, and possibly contributes to alternate flow routes under different groundwater flow regimes.

A better understanding of the 3-dimensional hydrogeologic framework for the large spring systems in the ONSR allows more precise mapping of the contributing areas for those springs, will guide future studies of groundwater flow paths, and inform development of groundwater resource management strategies for the park.

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Geologic context of large karst springs and caves in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri
DOI 10.1130/abs/2016AM-282679
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Conference Title GSA Annual Meeting
Conference Location Denver, CO
Conference Date 2016
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