Silurian rocks form a narrow arcuate outcrop belt about 100 mi long on the east side of the Cincinnati Arch in Kentucky. They range from as much as 300 ft thick in the north to a pinchout edge in the south. The nomenclature of this sequence is revised to reflect mappability and lithologic uniformity on the basis of detailed mapping at a scale of 1:24,000 by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Kentucky Geological Survey. The Silurian rocks are divided into two parts: the Crab Orchard Group, raised in rank from Crab Orchard Formation and redefined, in the lower part of the Silurian section, and Bisher Dolomite in the upper part of the section. The Crab Orchard Group is subdivided into the Drowning Creek Formation (new name) at the base of the Silurian, overlain by the Alger Shale (adopted herein) south of Fleming County and by the Estill Shale (elevated to formational rank) north of Bath County. The Brassfield Member (reduced in rank from Brassfield Dolomite or Formation) and the Plum Creek Shale and Oldham Members of the former Crab Orchard Formation are included as members of the Drowning Creek; the Lulbegrud Shale, Waco, and Estill Shale Members of the former Crab Orchard Formation are now included in the Alger.
The Drowning Creek Formation, 20 to 50 ft thick, is composed mainly of gray fine to coarse-grained dolomite with shale interbeds. The dolomite beds average several inches thick, with bedding surfaces that are locally smooth but generally irregular and are fossiliferous in many places; fossils include brachiopods, crinoid columnals, horn corals, colonial corals, trilobites, pelecypods, and bryozoans. The shale interbeds average several inches thick, except for its Plum Creek Shale Member which is entirely shale and as much as 12 ft thick, and are most abundant in the upper half of the formation. The members of the Drowning Creek intergrade and are indistinguishable in the northern part of the area.
The Alger Shale, as much as 170 feet thick, is predominantly grayish-green clay shale with a thin (0.5-3 ft) dolomite member (the Waco, or its northern equivalent, the Dayton Dolomite Member, reduced in rank from Dayton Limestone) near the base. North of Bath County, the Lulbegrud Shale and Dayton Dolomite Members are reassigned to the underlying Drowning Creek Formation, the Estill Shale Member is elevated to formational status, and the Alger is dropped.
The Bisher Dolomite, which overlies the Estill Shale in the northernmost part of the Silurian belt, ranges from 0 to 300 ft in thickness and is composed of medium-to coarse-grained, gray, fossiliferous dolomite.
The Silurian section overlies Upper Ordovician rocks in apparent conformity, although faunal studies suggest a minor hiatus, and is overlain by Middle to Upper Devonian rocks in a regional angular unconformity that truncates the entire Silurian section at the southwest end of the outcrop belt, where it is nearest the axis of the Cincinnati Arch. All of the units recognized in the Silurian appear to thicken eastward, away from the axis of the arch and towards the Appalachian basin. This, with the presence of isolated remnants of the Brassfield near the axis, suggest that formation of the arch was initiated in Early Silurian time by subsidence of its eastern flank.