North-Central Section - 39th Annual Meeting (May 19–20, 2005)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


JOHNSON, Sarah, Physics and Geology, Northern Kentucky University, Nunn Drive, Highland Heights, KY 41099 and ANDREWS Jr, William M., Kentucky Geological Survey, Univ of Kentucky, 228 MMRB, UK, Lexington, KY 40506-0107,

A cooperative multi-department project is underway to characterize and interpret the geology, geomorphology, and paleo-environments of a unique geological and paleontological site in northern Kentucky. Big Bone Lick has been internationally known for over 200 years for its collection of vertebrate fossils. Now a Kentucky state park, it is located in the Big Bone Creek valley in northern Kentucky, 2.75 miles northeast of its confluence with the Ohio River. Late Pleistocene vertebrate fauna were attracted to the site by abundant salt springs flowing from alluvial terraces at the site. The formation of these alluvial terrace deposits, and the prominent lacustrine terrace found along the valley walls of the park are closely linked with the glacial history of the Ohio River valley.

Although previous work has been done on the geology and history of the park, there are still many questions regarding terrace development, and the source and chemistry of the groundwater. Under the supervision and coordination of the Kentucky Geological Survey, and utilizing the five cores and monitoring well drilled in 2004 by the USGS, researchers from KGS, the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Cincinnati are conducting investigations into the water and sediment chemistry, clay mineralogy, isotope chemistry, grain size, dating, and mapping landforms. In addition to the academic goals of the project, practical considerations for park management, including soil engineering properties, use of groundwater, and a comprehensive presentation for the general public are important goals of this study.

High-level fluvial deposits left by the ancestral Kentucky River prior to the incision of the Ohio River valley are found at the highest elevations in the park. During the “Deep Stage” drainage reorganization, the Ohio River Valley and its tributaries including Big Bone Creek were incised into the Upper Ordovician bedrock. These tributaries were subsequently dammed during the Illinoian and Wisconsin glaciations, forming the lacustrine terraces preserved along Big Bone Creek valley, among others. Incised into this terrace are the alluvial terrace deposits with their prominent fossil assemblage, and the modern floodplain with its five currently active springs.