The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 39 Number 1: 19-26 - January 1977

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Karst Hydrology in the Upper Elk River Basin, West Virginia
Douglas M. Medville


Characteristics of subsurface flow through a karsted limestone aquifer in eastern West Virginia wre studied, using stream tracing techniques and surface and subsurface surveys. The aquifer consists of gently dipping limestones of the (Mississippian) Greenbrier Group and can be characterized as free-flowing with capping and perching beds. The locations of major resurgences are inflluenced by these beds. The study area is 92 sq mi in area and comprises the upper part of the Elk River drainage basin. Although carbonate rock in the area crops out over only 6 sq mi, it is exposed in and immediately adjacent to the stream beds of the area. Consequently, while karst features are limited, all runoff from the area enters the aquifer, flows generally downdip for distances up to 9 mi and, ultimately, rises at a second-magnitude alluviated spring at the northern end of the area. Subsurface flow is usually well behaved. The valley are underdrained, generally via solutionally enlarged bedding-plane partings. The northern part of the sutdy area is traversed by a major lineament trending N65°E. Over half of the known cave passages in the area are developed along this lineament. The entire flow of the Elk River sinks as it crosses the lineament, and interbasin transfer of water takes place along it. Previous findings, that the water table is represented by the major cave streams at base-level and, indeed, that these streams determine their own water-table gradients, are confirmed.

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