Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 61 Number 2: 49-58 - August 1999

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Geology of Kartchner Caverns State Park, Arizona
David H. Jagnow


Kartchner Caverns is developed entirely within the Mississippian Escabrosa Limestone in an isolated fault block along the east flank of the Whetstone Mountains in southeastern Arizona. The geology of the cave, along with the detailed surface geology, was studied and mapped in preparation for commercial development of the cave. Seven black to dark-gray marker beds throughout the lower Escabrosa section provided the key for unlocking the geology of Kartchner Caverns and the surface area. A 130 m measured stratigraphic section shows the distribution of these key organic-rich marker beds. More than 60 mapped faults cut Kartchner Caverns and probably date to the Miocene emplacement of the Kartchner block. Three geologic cross-sections illustrate how Kartchner Caverns developed near the 1408 m msl base level, and then stoped upwards along faults to resistant ceiling beds. Kartchner Caverns has been stable in its development for >50Ka.

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