Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Ronald Dillamarter, Nicholas Crawford, Noland Fields

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Southwest of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is the Western Pennyroyal, is a karstified area which has been neglected in the study of its ground water. About 100 square miles near Adairville were chosen for analysis to help rectify this lack of knowledge. The area is dominated by Sinking Creek, a surface-subsurface drainage system.

The main purpose of the study was to map the underground flow in the Sinking Creek area. The drainage system seemed to be typical for the Western Pennyroyal and exhibited many similarities to flow paths known in the Central Kentucky Karst.

The investigation proved to be of basic value to future studies dealing with water well location, pollution of subsurface streams and karst-related flooding problems.

The geographic scope of the study area extends from the rise of Sinking Creek to the origin of its headwaters in the residual outlying knobs of the Dripping Springs Escarpment to the north. Most of the area is a sinkhole plain developed mainly on the Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis limestones of Mississippian age.

Map and field reconnaissance of the study area revealed the presence of 12 sinking streams, 6 resurgences and 5 caves, all occurring at or below 600 feet in elevation.

On the basis of the physical features mentioned, two hypotheses were devised to explain their development and their relationship to the hydrology of the area.

The first hypothesis was that the sinking stream and resurgences in the study area are connected in a single drainage system. This hypothesis was testable by physically determining subsurface connections in the field.

The second hypothesis was that the sinking streams are controlled by the stratigraphy of the lithologic units. Diversion of surface streams occurs at or near the 600 foot elevation level, upon flowing from the Ste. Genevieve to the St. Louis limestone. This hypothesis was field tested by standard geologic methods.

The determination of surface-subsurface stream connections was carried out by standard water tracing techniques using Rhodamine W.T. dye (20 percent solution) and fluorescein dye. The dye was injected into the streams, and samples were collected and then analyzed in the laboratory with a Turner fluorometer. Positive dye connections were obtained in all 5 traces.

In addition to dye tracing, a large amount of field reconnaissance and subsurface mapping was necessary to determine the nature of the geologic controls on the surface-subsurface drainage system. Numerous rock outcrops and 5 caves were explored; one cave was mapped for over 4,000 feet. The lithologic studies proved to be inconclusive for the entire study area, but enough evidence was collected to support lithologic stream control in one cave stream segment.

The culmination of the research design was to present the results of dye tracing and field work with a written description, graphs, and especially a map showing the connections established by the research.


Earth Sciences | Geology | Hydrology | Speleology

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