Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 65 Number 3: 155-159 - December 2003

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Morphology of the caves of Missouri
Joseph E. Dom and Carol M. Wicks


The morphology of solution caves differs from region to region based on the recharge mechanisms and the dominant type of porosity. The pattern of cave passages representative of the entire Salem and Springfield Plateaus and of the Perryville and Hannibal karst areas was determined. The number of closed loops and the tortuosity of the passages were used to statistically determine the morphology of 633 mapped caves in Missouri. The 633 caves were from 17 counties and from each of the karst areas in Missouri. For most caves in the Salem and Springfield Plateaus and the Perryville karst area, as determined by passage length, the pattern of development is branchwork (71.7, 83.4, and 84.4%, respectively) and rudimentary (16.5, 10.3, and 14.8%, respectively). The Hannibal area shows 2 distinct patterns of development. Three caves are network mazes (81.2%) and the remainder are either branchwork (13.1%) and rudimentary (4.9%). The morphologies of the caves from the Salem and Springfield Plateaus and the Hannibal and Perryville karst areas suggest the distribution of caves within Missouri is similar to that found by Palmer (1991) for cave passages worldwide. However, there is higher percentage of rudimentary caves due to extensive stream incision. Given the high percentage of branchwork and rudimentary patterned caves in Missouri, the origin of Missouri’s caves was likely driven by point-source recharge that flowed along bedding plane partings.

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