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Mammoth Cave Geologic History

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beth combs

on 2 March 2015

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Transcript of Mammoth Cave Geologic History

Age of the Rocks
Earth Movements & How They Affected the Cave Area
The Mesozoic period had crustal movements of the earth that caused the seas to withdraw from this area, causing the region to warp upward.
Scallops~ asymmetrical solution hollows formed by turbulent water flow
Cave Passages
I hope you had as much fun learning about Mammoth Cave and carbonate caves as i did!
Mammoth Cave Kentucky
This will show you some history of the geology of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

Harris, Ann G, Esther Tuttle, and Sherwood D. Tuttle. Geology of National Parks. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co, 2004. Print.
Mammoth Cave Geologic History
Beth Combs glg 141
Karst topography
- surface depressions caused by underground cave ins

Mammoth Cave is located in west-central Kentucky, it is one of the most famous cave regions, and it has the longest cave in the world. It is a small national park, only about 82 sq. miles.
Rumor has it that a hunter named Houchins chased a wounded bear into a cave in the 1700's and that is how this beautiful place was discovered. The park was established on July 1, 1941.
The average temperature in the cave is between 55 and 57 degrees on a yearly basis.
Mammoth Cave is not the only National Park to have carbonate caves, there are 2 others
one is
the other one is
During this time, rivers flowed over the newly formed land surface depositing layers of sand and gravel, later to be covered by other layers above to form rocks to be known as Pennsylvanian in age.
The close of the Paleozoic Era, the earth's crust was warped upward into an domed structure called the Cincinnati Arch.
Later on the area experienced erosion, when much rock was removed from the Cincinnati Arch.
Some of the sediment from this erosion helped form the younger rocks of the Purchase area in western Kentucky.
river that flows through the park
The rocks in the park started as sediments on the floor of a sea that covered most of southern North America during the Mississippian Period, about 350 to 325 million years ago.
Limestone was the most common type of rock, but sand, silt, and clay were carried in from the land area of the north.
Three different limestone formations surround Mammoth Cave. The oldest is St Louis Limestone, the middle one in age, Ste. Genevieve Limestone, and the baby, the Girkin Formation.
Mammoth Cave is related to the hydrology & geomorphic evolution of the surrounding landscape. The majority of the runoff in this humid area goes underground through karst features in the land surface, which include sinkholes, funnel shaped depressions where soil has subsided into enlarged cracks in the limestone.
Many long, winding, almost horizontal tunnels that go for miles without stopping.
Many different levels of caves are superimposed on each other. The Green River erodes downward and the water in the cave goes to lower areas and forms new passages.
Mammoth Cave seems to be a crazy 3-D maze because of this.
The passages have water flow that forms them and this determines the shapes.
The Graphic below shows two types, the vadose zone and the phreatic zone
Vadose zone is created by water flowing downward through various cracks & pores in the limestone, mainly by force of gravity
After the vadose zone the water reaches the phreatic zone, where all openings in the rock get filled with water, by both gravity and pressure.
Solutional features in the cave
parallel grooves formed in cave walls by water dripping vertically or flowing down a steep slope
Anastomoses~ small winding tubes that interconnect in a braided pattern, along bedding-plane partings
speoleothems~ most are precipitated by vadose water seeping into the cave
Cave Deposits
where the water runs over a cave wall it forms a~flowstone
stalactites-icicle shaped deposits that are formed by water dripping from the ceiling, stalagmites are formed at the base of the cave and grow up
helictites~are formed when water is not enough to form drops, it is help to speoleothems by surface tension.
Irregular topography caused by dissolution of limestone in the subsurface.
sinking streams
~streams that flow into the subsurface via fractures and come out somewhere else
Cenozoic Era
Cave formation
Regional uplift
Formation of Illinois Basin

Deposition of terrestrial sandstones
Deposition of mainly insoluble rocks-form cap rocks
Deposition of Limestone during the Mississipian Period
350~325 Million years ago
Deposition of mostly detrital rocks late in Missippian and Pennsylvanian Period
produced the rocks of the Chester series
Mammoth Cave was formed more than 10 million years ago, in late Tertiary time
earliest passages were tubular and cave passages that are now 570~690 above sea level
Development of lower cave levels during the Pleistocene Epoch
the Ohio river used to be smaller, and drainage from the Appalachian Mountains went through Northern Indiana into the Mississippi River. early Pleistocene glaciers blocked this path, forcing it to divert to the Ohio river making it larger.
Green River
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Official Map and Guide. Washington, D.C.: The Service, 1994. Print.
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