Karst Hydrogeology of the Haney Limestone, South-Central Kentucky


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South-central Kentucky has one of the world’s most intensively studied karst areas, with most work focusing on the Mammoth Cave System and related caves and aquifers. However, slightly higher in the stratigraphic section than Mammoth Cave, the Haney Limestone is a locally important but less well studied carbonate aquifer. This research provides the most comprehensive synthesis to date of the karst hydrogeology of the Haney Limestone of south-central Kentucky, focusing on the distribution and controls on cave and karst features developed within. In contrast to drainage systems within the major limestones below, joints are the most dominant control on passage development in the Haney Limestone within the study area and the orientation of these joints is consistent with that of regional joint sets. Bedding planes and the presence of insoluble rock at the base of the Haney also exert control on conduit development in the Haney Limestone. Most of the caves of the study area developed in the Haney Limestone are singleconduit caves that receive water through direct, allogenic sources. Cave entrances are frequently perennial spring resurgences and the presence of active streams suggests that the caves function within the contemporary landscape, acting as drains for localized recharge areas. The hydrology of the Haney Limestone plays an important, if localized, role in the regional hydrology of south-central Kentucky, integrated into the current system of surface and subsurface drainage of the regional karst landscape. Evidence supports the idea that caves of the Haney Limestone are, geologically, relatively recent phenomena. A majority of the cave passages in the study area are hydrologically active, the water resurging from the sampled springs is typically undersaturated with respect to limestone, and the caves in some case appear to be developed along potential stress release fractures associated with small, apparently young valleys. This suggests that caves in the Haney Limestone were not directly influenced by the incision of the Green River over vast periods, like Mammoth Cave, but that cave development is a largely contemporary process.