The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 41 Number 3: 70-79 - July 1979

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Solutional Landforms on Carbonates of the Southern Teton Range, Wyoming
Douglas M. Medville, John C. Hempel, Charles Plantz, and Eberhard Werner


Well-developed karst landforms occur on the western and southern flanks of the Teton Range at two stratigraphic levels: the Mississippian Mission Canyon and Cambrian Death Canyon limestones. Other karst development occurs within the Mississippian Lodgepole Limestone and the Ordovician Bighorn Dolomite. These formations are part of a 3000-ft thick sequence of carbonate rocks which crop out at elevations of 7000 to 10,600 ft. Karstification is controlled by local structural setting, lithology, and nature of recharge to the carbonate aquifers. Karst development differs significantly in four types of settings:

1) Structural surfaces. These contain the largest exposures of limestones. Solution at depth occurs only on the periphery of these areas where aggressive runoff water reaches the limestone. Most solution is by uniformly distributed thin films of meteoric water at depths of less than 30 ft, resulting in classical karren forms.

2) Closed basins (cirque-dolines) with limestone dipping toward major peaks. These areas are usually smaller than structural surfaces. Most water is concentrated runoff from other rock types and is highly aggressive when it reaches the limestone. Subsurface piracy occurs through conduits which are usually partly traversble. Subsurface flow paths 2 to 4 mi long with elevation losses up to 2000 ft have been dye-traced.

3) Shelves parallel to westward-flowing streams. These have topographic and solutional characteristics of both the structural surfaces and the closed basins.

4) Cliff faces. These are the setting for some the the larger karst springs in the area. Several of these springs issue from traversable solution channels.

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