Bulletin of the National Speleological Society - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 29 Number 3: 73-90 - July 1967

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Geology of Dutton's Cave, Fayette County, Iowa
James A. Hedges


Dutton's Cave, developed in the Edgewood limestone where it crops out in the face of the Niagara escarpment in Fayette County, northeastern Iowa, is an early or middle Pleistocene shallow-phreatic cavern of modest size. Discovered by Lorenzo Dutton in 1848, it soon became a favorite resort of local inhabitants and, in 1963, was purchased by the Fayette County Conservation Board and developed as a park.

The principal feature of the cave is a vertical-seepage vertical shaft ("domepit") which is similar to those of the Central Kentucky Karst region but which possesses a cherty limestone rather than a sandstone caprock. Other vertical shafts probably exist nearby.

The valley of Dutton's Cave stream includes three strongly contrasting elements: the broad upland valley indenting the plateau above and beyond the cave, the narrow retreatal gorge into which the cave opens, and the less confined valley below the foot of the gorge. A retreat by the entrances of Dutton's and other, similar caves, of about 200 feet since Iowan time is indicated by the lengths of these retreatal gorges.

The West Union Talus, a morphostratigraphic unit, occupies the deeper parts of the gorges, underlies Iowan terrace materials in the less confined valleys below the gorges, and clothes the sides of those valleys.

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