top of page

Thu, Apr 20


Brewer's Alley

AEG-DMV April 2023 Meeting

Hiding in Plain Sight : Evidence for a Mesozoic Genesis of the Phreatic Karst Network in the Appalachian Great Valley

AEG-DMV April 2023 Meeting
AEG-DMV April 2023 Meeting

Time & Location

Apr 20, 2023, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Brewer's Alley, 124 N Market St, Frederick, MD 21701, USA

About the event

Presenter: Bob Denton, CPG, LPSS, LRS with Terracon Consultants, Inc.

Topic: Hiding in Plain Sight : Evidence for a Mesozoic Genesis of the Phreatic Karst Network in the Appalachian Great Valley 

Ever since the seminal research of William Davis in the early 20th century, the paradigm for the development of Appalachian cavern systems has regarded regional downcutting and lowering of the base level since the Late Miocene epoch as the primary mechanism of speleogenesis. The majority of cave systems were considered no older than the Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age (Early through Middle Pleistocene), based on dating of vertebrate index fossil remains found in cavern fill sediments. Nevertheless, since the mid-19th century, there have been reports that suggest the parent phreatic network of the Appalachian Great Valley region may be far older.

Paleogene dates were first suggested for lignite deposits found in karst depressions at Brandon, Vermont, and Pond Bank, Pennsylvania, as early as 1864. Studies of the iron deposits along the west pediment of the Blue  Ridge revealed a continuous lineament of karst-related features, often associated with kaolin and lignite. In the 1940s, kaolin and karst bauxite deposits stretching from Virginia to Alabama were discovered. Subsequent palynological analysis of the cave fill and lignite revealed these features ranged from the Turonian stage (93.8 – 89.8 Ma) of the Late Cretaceous through the Early Miocene (20.4 – 16.0 Ma), with most dating from the Early Paleogene.

We propose that the majority of karst-associated laterites (kaolin, bauxite) were probably formed by intense weathering during the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), although a brief period of warming during the Late Miocene may have contributed to the development of laterites present at the Brandonlignite locality. Fossil pollen in karst fills as old as the Turonian stage of the Late Cretaceous suggest an Early Mesozoic age for the probable hypogene speleogenesis of the parent network. Thus, the existing epikarst cavern systems of the Great Valley may be the exposed remnants of an ancient phreatic network that has been repeatedly filled and emptied of sediment since its origin. The recent discovery of karst bauxite in a cave in Virginia suggests that ancient sediments may be more widespread in existing cavern systems than previously thought, but may have been overlooked.


  • 45 minutes


  • 45 minutes


1 more item available

Share this event

bottom of page