To help manage and understand the Platte River system in Nebraska, the Platte River Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST), a group of state and local governmental agencies, developed a regional ground-water model. The southern boundary of this model lies along the Republican River, where an area with insufficient geologic data immediately north of the Republican River led to problems in the conceptualization of the simulated flow system and to potential problems with calibration of the simulation. Geologic descriptions from a group of test holes drilled in south-central Nebraska during 2001 and 2002 indicated a possible hydrologic disconnection between the Quaternary-age alluvial deposits in the uplands and those in the Republican River lowland. This disconnection was observed near a topographic high in the Cretaceous-age Niobrara Formation, which is the local bedrock. In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the COHYST, collected surface geophysical data near these test holes to better define this discontinuity.
Two-dimensional imaging methods for direct-current resistivity and capacitively coupled resistivity were used to define the subsurface distribution of resistivity along several county roads near Riverton and Inavale, Nebraska. The relation between the subsurface distribution of resistivity and geology was defined by comparing existing geologic descriptions of test holes to surface-geophysical resistivity data along two profiles and using the information gained from these comparisons to interpret the remaining four profiles. In all of the resistivity profile sections, there was generally a three-layer subsurface interpretation, with a resistor located between two conductors. Further comparison of geologic data with the geophysical data and with surficial features was used to identify a topographic high in the Niobrara Formation near the Franklin Canal which was coincident with a resistivity high. Electrical properties of the Niobrara Formation made accurate interpretation of the resistivity profile sections difficult and less confident because of similar resistivity of this formation and that of the coarser-grained sediment of the Quaternary-age deposits. However, distinct conductive features were identified within the resistivity profile sections that aided in delineating the contact between the resistive Quaternary-age deposits and the resistive Niobrara Formation. Using this information, an interpretive boundary was drawn on the resistivity profile sections to represent the contact between the Quaternary-age alluvial deposits and the Cretaceous-age Niobrara Formation.
A digital elevation model (DEM) of the top of the Niobrara Formation was constructed using the altitudes from the interpreted contact lines. This DEM showed that the general trend of top of the Niobrara Formation dips to the southeast. At the north edge of the study site, the Niobrara Formation topographic high trends east-west with an altitude range of 559 meters in the west to 543 meters in the east. Based on the land-surface elevation and the Niobrara Formation DEM, the estimated thickness of the Quaternary-age alluvial deposits throughout the study area was mapped and showed a thinning of the Quaternary-age alluvial deposits to the north, approximately where the topographic high of the Niobrara Formation is located. This topographic high in the Niobrara Formation has the potential to act as a barrier to ground-water flow from the uplands alluvial aquifer to the Republican River alluvial aquifer as shown in the resistivity profile sections. The Quaternary-age alluvial deposits in the uplands and those in the Republican River Valley are not fully represented as disconnected because it is possible that there are ground-water flow paths that were not mapped during this study.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geophysical Characterization of the Quaternary-Cretaceous Contact Using Surface Resistivity Methods in Franklin and Webster Counties, South-Central Nebraska