Geologic controls on cave development in Burnsville Cove, Bath and Highland Counties, Virginia

GSA Field Guides
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Burnsville Cove in Bath and Highland Counties (Virginia, USA) is a karst region in the Valley and Ridge Province of the Appalachian Mountains. The region contains many caves in Silurian to Devonian limestone, and is well suited for examining geologic controls on cave location and cave passage morphology. In Burnsville Cove, many caves are located preferentially near the axes of synclines and anticlines. For example, Butler Cave is an elongate cave where the trunk channel follows the axis of Sinking Creek syncline and most of the side passages follow joints at right angles to the syncline axis. In contrast, the Water Sinks Subway Cave, Owl Cave, and Helictite Cave have abundant maze patterns, and are located near the axis of Chestnut Ridge anticline. The maze patterns may be related to fact that the anticline axis is the site of the greatest amount of flexure, leading to more joints and (or) greater enlargement of joints. Many of the larger caves of Burnsville Cove (e.g., Breathing Cave, Butler Cave–Sinking Creek Cave System, lower parts of the Water Sinks Cave System) are developed in the Silurian Tonoloway Limestone, the stratigraphic unit with the greatest surface exposure in the area. Other caves are developed in the Silurian to Devonian Keyser Limestone of the Helderberg Group (e.g., Owl Cave, upper parts of the Water Sinks Cave System) and in the Devonian Shriver Chert and (or) Licking Creek Limestone of the Helderberg Group (e.g., Helictite Cave). Within the Tonoloway Limestone, the larger caves are developed in the lower member of the Tonoloway Limestone immediately below a bed of silica-cemented sandstone. In contrast, the larger caves in the Keyser Limestone are located preferentially in limestone beds containing stromatoporoid reefs, and some of the larger caves in the Licking Creek Limestone are located in beds of cherty limestone below the Devonian Oriskany Sandstone. Geologic controls on cave passage morphology include joints, bedding planes, and folds. The influence of joints results in tall and narrow cave passages, whereas the influence of bedding planes results in cave passages with flat ceilings and (or) floors. The influence of folds is less common, but a few cave passages follow fold axes and have distinctive arched ceilings.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geologic controls on cave development in Burnsville Cove, Bath and Highland Counties, Virginia
Series title GSA Field Guides
DOI 10.1130/2017.0047(04)
Volume 47
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Publisher location Boulder, CO
Contributing office(s) Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center
Description 35 p.
Larger Work Title From the Blue Ridge to the Beach: Geological Field Excursions across Virginia
First page 89
Last page 123
Country United States
State Virginia
County Bath County, Highland County
Other Geospatial Burnsville Cove
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