Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 28 Number 3: 159-166 - July 1966

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Central Kentucky Karst Hydrology
R.A. Watson


Three aspects of underground flow in the Central Kentucky Karst are considered. First, the underground drainage pattern is examined as a set of systems tributary to the Green River. The relation of inputs such as vertical shafts to horizontal passages is delineated, and the extent to which structure determines passage alignment is evaluated. Calculations based on rainfall and spring-flow measurements indicate that a substantial portion of the input cannot be accounted for by the discharge of presently known springs and underground streams. Second, the quantity and quality of water flowing underground is examined, and new evaluations are made of the location, character, and extent of limestone solution in the area. Known and extrapolated cave passages cannot account for the amount of limestone removal indicated. Thrid, the underground drainage is examined as a set of transportation systems for mechanical sediment. Estimates are made of the amount and character of sediment moving from the surface of the region underground to the Green River. This sediment far exceeds the amount brought into the systems by back-up water during floods of the Green River.

It is concluded that the active underground drainage systems are more complex than their known parts indicate, with major water channels probably existing beneath the present-day base level; that a major amount of solutional activity occurs in the mantel and on the bedrock surface below it causing a general lowering of the land surface through removal of limestone which far exceeds that removed during the formation of cave passages; and that most of the sediment in the cave passages, even in back-up areas near the Green River, is provided by the flow which moves from the surface through the cave systems to the Green River.

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