Hydrogeology of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Murray County, Oklahoma

Department of the Interior

U.S. Geological Survey

Water Resources Investigations Report 94-4102




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The Travertine District (Park) of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, operated and maintained by the National Park Service, is near the City of Sulphur in south-central Oklahoma. The Park was established in 1902 because of its unique hydrologic setting, which includes Rock Creek, Travertine Creek, numerous mineralized and freshwater springs, and a dense cover of riparian vegetation. Since the turn of the century several flowing artesian wells have been drilled within and adjacent to the Park. Discharge from many of these springs and the numbers of flowing wells have declined substantially during the past 86 years. To determine the cause of these declines, a better understanding of the hydrologic system must be obtained. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, has appraised hydrologic information obtained for the Park from several studies conducted during 1902-87.

The principal geologic units referred to in this report are the Arbuckle Group and the overlying Simpson Group. These rocks are of Upper Cambrian to Middle Ordovician age and are composed of dolomitic limestone, with some sandstones and shales in the Simpson Group. Surface geologic maps give a general understanding of the regional subsurface geology, but information about the subsurface geology within the Park is poor.

The Simpson and Arbuckle aquifers are the principal aquifers in the study area. The two aquifers are not differentiated readily in some parts of the study area because of the similarity of the Simpson and Arbuckle rocks; thus, both water-bearing units are referred to frequently as the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. The aquifers are confined under the Park, but are unconfined east and south of the Park. Precipitation on the outcrop area of the Arbuckle aquifer northeast and east of the Park recharges the freshwater springs (Antelope and Buffalo Springs) near the east boundary of the Park. The source of water from mineralized springs located in the central part of the Park, and flowing wells within and north of the Park, is believed to be a mix of waters from rocks of the Arbuckle and Simpson Groups. The source of water from two highly mineralized springs, Bromide and Medicine, that ceased to flow in the early 1970’s is believed to be from the Simpson Group. Water-quality characteristics reflect the sources of ground water in the study area. The highly mineralized springs near the western end of the Park are a sodium chloride type with dissolved solids greater than 4,500 mg/L. The freshwater springs near the eastern end of the Park are a calcium bicarbonate type with total dissolved solids of less than 400 mg/L.

Flow from the artesian wells has declined substantially during the past 86 years and the wells are estimated to currently discharge only about 10 percent of the total flow reported in 1939. The depletion is believed to be caused by a gradual lowering of the hydraulic head within the aquifer. The influence on the hydrologic system of local municipal and industrial pumping from the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer is difficult to discern because the system is much more sensitive to precipitation than to pumpage. Ground-water levels and spring flows in this region respond rapidly to precipitation. The effects of withdrawals from the City of Sulphur and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company power-plant water-well fields are not discernible at wells and springs. The hydrologic system may be influenced by pumping, particularly during extended dry periods of several years, but the impact of pumping on the system cannot be determined without further investigation.




Purpose and Scope


Geography and Geology







Surface Water


Ground Water

Principal Aquifers

Occurrence and Movement

Ground-Water-Level and Flow-Discharge Fluctuations

Ground-Water Withdrawals

Hydraulic Characteristics


Water Quality

Discussion of Results

Effect of Precipitation on the Hydrologic System

Effect of Geology on the Hydrologic System

Relation Between Ground-Water Levels and Discharge from Springs and Artesian Wells

Effect of Ground-water Withdrawals on the Hydrologic System

Summary and Conclusions

Selected References

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