Geomorphology and groundwater origin of amphitheater-shaped gullies at Fort Gordon, Georgia, 2010-2012

Open-File Report 2013-1230

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Army Environmental and Natural Resources Management Office of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon



Seven amphitheater-shaped gullies at valley heads in the northern part of Fort Gordon, Georgia, were identified by personnel from Fort Gordon and the U.S. Geological Survey during a field investigation of environmental contamination near the cantonment area between 2008 and 2010. Between 2010 and 2012, the amphitheater-shaped gullies were photographed, topographic features were surveyed using a global positioning system device, and the extent of erosion was estimated using Light Detection and Ranging imagery. The seven gullies are distributed across a broad area (and most likely are not the only examples) and have a similar geomorphology that includes (1) an amphitheater (semicircular) shaped escarpment at the upgradient end on a plateau of Upper Eocene sands of no readily discernible elevated catchment area or natural surface-water drainage; (2) a narrow, trench-shaped, flat-bottomed incisement of low-permeability marl at the downgradient end; and (3) steep-sided valley walls, some formed by landslides. Surface-water runoff is an unlikely cause for the amphitheater-shaped gullies, because each valley has a relatively small drainage area of sandy terrain even at those gullies that have recently received discharge from stormwater drains. Also, presumed high rates of runoff and gully formation associated with historic land uses, such as clearcutting, cotton production, and silviculture, would have occurred no later than when the fort was established in the early 1900s. The lack of an elevated catchment area at the headward scarps, the amphitheater shape, and presence of low permeability marl at the base of each feature provides the most convincing lines of evidence for headward erosion by groundwater sapping. The absence of current (2013) seeps and springs at most of the amphitheater-shaped gullies indicates that the gullies may have been formed previously by groundwater sapping under conditions of higher and (or) sustained precipitation amounts, local water-table altitudes, and seepage than current (2013) conditions. One gully characterized by groundwater seepage may support a unique ecological niche that, if assessed to contain endangered species or rare plants, could require protection under State laws.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geomorphology and groundwater origin of amphitheater-shaped gullies at Fort Gordon, Georgia, 2010-2012
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
South Atlantic Water Science Center
v, 19 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Fort Gordon
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):