Kentucky Geological Survey Map and Chart

Abstract

Paddys Bluff (Figs. 1-3) is located on the south side of the Illinois Basin on the Cumberland River, 1.7 miles downstream from Dycusburg in Crittenden County, Ky., in Carter coordinate section 23-I-16 and ecoregion 71f of the Western Highland Rim of Kentucky (Woods and others, 2002). This bluff is on a right-descending bend 18 liver miles above its junction with the Ohio River at Smithland, Livingston County. The bluff (Figs. 4A, B) is locally famous as the location for a scene from the classic 1962 film, "How the West Was Won,' a winner of three Academy Awards, starling James Stewart, John Wayne, and others.

We observed Paddys Bluff from the starboard Texas deck of the steamboat Della Queen one rainy morning in October 2005; the thick, persistent white bed midway in the bluff especially attracted our attention (Fig. 4). Paddys Bluff is the best natural exposure of Mississippian limestone between Barkley Dam and the Ohio River, a distance of 31 river miles. The bluff, some 1,700 feet long (Fig. 4), rises 160 feet above the Cumberland River and deflects it about 16° into a long westward reach, the river removing all talus at the base of the bluff. The bluff lies in a graben between two inferred faults st liking N40 to 45°E (Amos and Hayes, 1974). Readily seen in the limestones along the river at the base of the bluff is a prominent joint set parallel to these faults. This bluff is mapped on the Dycusburg geologic quadrangle map (Table 1) as the combined Salem and St. Louis Limestones (Amos and Hayes, 1974) and is capped by at least 15 feet of poorly exposed gravel of the Cretaceous Tuscaloosa Formation (Olive, 1980). Across the river less than 2 miles distant are scattered "continental deposits" of reddish brown Lafayette-type, sandy cobble-gravel (Olive, 1980), below which are outliers of the Cretaceous Tuscaloosa Formation; both cap hilltops of the same underlying Mississippian limestones.

Why is Paddys Bluff of interest? There are at least six reasons to study it. First, can the Salem and St. Louis Limestones be individually identified at the bluff? If, in fact, they can be separated, the upper boundary of sequence S4 recognized in the Lake Cumberland area of south-central Kentucky by Khetani and Read (2002, Fig. 12) extends much farther west. Still another challenge is the enigmatic, massive, fine-grained, whitish-weathering carbonate mudstone bed, unit C of our section, high in the bluff. What does it represent? How widespread is it? Why do beds below rt have a strong petroliferous odor and not those above it? Why are some of the coral heads (Fig. 5) at Paddys Bluff overturned and others not? The last challenge is the bluff itself: Why is it there and how long has it been there?

Publication Date

2009

Series

Series XII

Report Number

Map and Chart 195

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/kgs.mc195.12

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Geology Commons

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