Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

William A. Thomas


The primary goal of this project is to develop a relative chronology of events in the geologic history of the Kentucky River, and to consider the geologic controls on those events. This study utilized published geologic and topographic data, as well as field observations and extensive compilation and comparison of digital data, to examine the fluvial record preserved in the Kentucky River valley in central Kentucky. Numerous fluvial features including abandoned paleovalleys, fluvial terraces and deposits, bedrock benches, and relict spillways between adjacent river valleys were identified during the course of the study. The morphology of the modern valley coincides with bedrock lithology and can be used to describe the distribution and preservation of modern and ancient fluvial deposits and features in the study area. Bedrock lithology is the dominant control on valley morphology and on the distribution and preservation of fluvial deposits and features in the study area. Some stream trends are inherited from the late Paleozoic drainage of the Alleghanian orogeny. More recent inheritance of valley morphology has resulted from the erosion of the river from one lithology down into another lithology with differing erosional susceptibility, thus superposing the meander patterns of the overlying valley style onto the underlying lithology. One major drainage reorganization related to a pre-Illinoisan glacial advance disrupted the northward flow of the Old Kentucky River toward the Teays River system and led to organization of the early Ohio River. This greatly reduced the distance to baselevel, and led to abrupt incision and a change in erosional style for the Kentucky River. The successful projection of valley morphologies on the basis of bedrock stratigraphy, the history of erosion suggested by fission track data and the results of this study, as well as soil thickness and development, all argue against the existence of a midto late-Tertiary, low-relief, regional erosional surface. This study instead hypothesizes that the apparent accordance of ridge-top elevations in the study area is a reflection of a fluvially downwasted late Paleozoic depositional surface.



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