Geology of the Kansas City Vicinity

Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Space-Age Atlas

James S. Aber

Table of Contents

Introduction Bedrock geology
Structural geology Glacial geology
Related sites References


Northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas are situated in the stable crustal platform of the midcontinent region. Ancient crystalline basement rocks are covered with flat-lying Paleozoic sedimentary strata. Well-consolidated limestone, sandstone and shale make up most of the surficial and shallow subsurface rocks of the region, and many of these rocks contain fossils of marine invertebrates--crinoids, corals, brachiopods, etc. Thick limestone beds of the Kansas City vicinity are important resources for building materials--cut stone, crushed aggregrate, and cement. The solid bedrock also provides a strong foundation for building construction. The region is tectonically stable, so earthquakes are rare.

Bedrock section near Eudora, Kansas. Interbedded limestone and shale layers are typical throughout northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri. The Stoner, Eudora, and Capitan Creek are members of the Stanton Limestone, which is the uppermost bedrock formation across much of Johnson County, Kansas. Photo date 1/77, © J.S. Aber.

The modern landscape of the region was shaped largely during the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Age) when continental ice sheets advanced into northeastern Kansas and northern Missouri. The major river valleys--Kansas and Missouri--came into being as meltwater drainage channels, and the upland region was blanketed with various glacial deposits as well as wind-blown dust, called loess. Erratic stones of quartzite and granite were transported by the ice sheets from the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Canada. Sand and gravel deposited in outwash rivers are now important sources for raw materials used in building and road construction. Remains of mammoth, giant beaver, stag moose and other ice age animals are frequently encountered within Pleistocene sediments of the region.

Glacial erratic boulders landscaped at 78th and State in Kansas City, Kansas. These boulders are Sioux Quartzite derived from southeastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota. Pink and red Sioux Quartzite is the most common type of glacial erratic seen in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. Photo date 8/83, © J.S. Aber.

Bedrock geology of the Kansas City vicinity.
Glacial geology of the Kansas City vicinity.

Related sites


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Last update Feb. 2005; © J.S. Aber.