In 1960, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Kentucky Geological Survey began a program to map the State geologically at a scale of 1:24,000 and to publish the maps as 707 U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Quadrangle Maps. Fieldwork was completed by the spring of 1977, and all maps were published by December 1978.
Geologic mapping of the State was proposed by the Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers in 1959. Wallace W. Hagan, Director and State Geologist of the Kentucky Geological Survey, and Preston McGrain, Assistant State Geologist, promoted support for the proposal among organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, industrial associations, professional societies, and among members of the State government. It was also arranged for the U.S. Geological Survey to supply mapping personnel and to publish the maps; the cost would be shared equally by the two organizations.
Members of the U.S. Geological Survey assigned to the program were organized as the Branch of Kentucky Geology. Branch headquarters, including an editorial staff, was at Lexington, Ky., but actual mapping was conducted from 18 field offices distributed throughout the State. The Publications Division of the U.S. Geological Survey established a cartographic office at Lexington to prepare the maps for publication.
About 260 people, including more than 200 professionals, were assigned to the Branch of Kentucky Geology by the U.S. Geological Survey at one time or another. The most geologists assigned any one year was 61. To complete the mapping and ancillary studies, 661 professional man-years were required, compared with an original estimate of 600 man-years.
A wide variety of field methods were used, but most geologists relied on the surveying altimeter to obtain elevations. Surface data were supplemented by drill-hole records, and several dozen shallow diamond-drill holes were drilled to aid the mapping. Geologists generally scribed their own maps, with a consequent saving of publication costs.
Paleontologists and stratigraphers of the U.S. Geological Survey cooperated closely with the program. Paleontologic studies were concentrated in the Ordovician of central Kentucky, the Pennsylvanian of eastern and western Kentucky, and the Mesozoic and Cenozoic of westernmost Kentucky.
In addition to financial support, the Kentucky Geological Survey provided economic data, stratigraphic support, and drillhole records to the field offices. Geologists of the State Survey made subsurface structural interpretations, constructed bedrock topography maps, and mapped several quadrangles.
Some of the problems encountered were the inadequacy of much of the existing stratigraphic nomenclature, the uneven quality of some of the mapping, and the effects of relative isolation on the professional development of some of the geologists.
The program cost a total of $20,927,500. In terms of 1960 dollars, it cost $16,035,000; this compares with an original estimate of $12,000,000. Although it is difficult to place a monetary value on the geologic mapping, the program has contributed to newly discovered mineral wealth, jobs, and money saved by government and industry. The maps are used widely in the exploration for coal, oil and gas, fluorspar, limestone, and clay. The maps are also used in planning highways and locations of dams, in evaluating foundation and excavation conditions, in preparing environmental impact statements, and in land-use planning.