Investigation of the Tar Kiln Cave Conduit System Elliot County, KY

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CONFERENCE: Posters-at-the-Capitol

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This study investigates groundwater flow and conduit networks associated with the Tar Kiln Creek valley. The Tar Kiln valley is situated between two limestone ridges capped with sandstone rock formations. This is a karst valley through which drainage is primarily underground with very little surface water flowing along the valley floor; within and on the perimeter of the valley are numerous sink points. Tar Kiln Cave, one of the largest caves in Eastern Kentucky with over 10,000 feet of surveyed passage, is located in the ridge that forms the northeastern wall of the valley. In the lower end of the valley, two significant springs discharge from opposite sides of the valley, near the contact zone of the Carter Cave Sandstone and the Newman Limestone formations. Dye tracing was used to determine if the springs are hydrologically linked and to map possible cross-connections between the two systems. The traces revealed that the two springs are hydrologically separate during low-flow conditions, with cross-connections occurring through surface overflow during higher flow conditions. This indicates a separate, presently inaccessible, conduit system developed along the southwestern valley wall, paralleling the Tar Kiln Cave system. The presence of parallel conduit systems provides support for the stress-relief hypothesis of karst conduit formation, which suggests that such conduits form in valleys along fracture patterns resulting from erosive removal of bedrock.