The Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky offers a unique opportunity to study the occurrence of ground water in limestone under natural conditions. Ground water occurs as perched and semiperched bodies in alternate sandstone, shale, and limestone formations and under water-table conditions at the approximate level of the Green River in thick soluble limestone. Three continuous recorders that operated for 5 years indicate that precipitation on the Mammoth Cave plateau recharges the underlying sandstone rapidly. Ground water from the sandstone discharges horizontally to the edges of the plateau and vertically to underlying formations. Some of the precipitation recharges underlying formations almost immediately through overland flow to sinkholes and free fall through open shafts to pools at the water table.
Much of the precipitation on the Pennyroyal plain flows overland into sinkholes and then through solution openings to the Green River. Water from the Green River flows into limestone solution channels under Mammoth Cave plateau at some stages, and this water discharges again to the Green River downstream. The presence of salt water, high in chloride in the Green River, makes it possible to trace the movement of the river water through the underground streams. Graphs show relationships of chloride concentration, stage of the Green River, time, precipitation, ground-water levels, and stratigraphy.
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USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology of the cavernous limestones of the Mammoth Cave area, Kentucky