IGNIS
Big Clifty Formation

Age:

Mississippian

Type designation:

Named: The name "Big Clifty Sandstone" is generally credited to Norwood (1876); however, he did not specifically indicate the source of the name (Gray, 1986). Presumably it derives from Big Clifty Creek in Grayson County, Kentucky (Butts, 1917, p. 87; Atherton and others, 1975, p. 157; Gray, 1986).

Principal reference sections:
(1) An exposure of the formation in a railroad cut about 3 miles (4 km) east of Shoals in sec. 28, T. 3 N., R. 3 W., Martin County (Gray and others, 1957, p. 14-16) was designated as a principal reference section of the Big Clifty Formation in Indiana by Gray (1986, p. 13).

(2) The cored interval from 223.0 to 261.4 ft (68 to 79.7 m) Indiana Geological Survey drill hole (SDH) 48 (Indiana Geological Survey Petroleum Database Management System No.106886) in sec. 32, T. 2 N., R. 2 W., Orange County (Gray, Jenkins, and Weidman, 1960, p. 75-77), was also designated as a principal reference section of the Big Clifty Formation in Indiana by Gray (1986, p. 13-14).

History of usage:

Miscorrelation: A major part of the Big Clifty Formation on the outcrop in Indiana is a prominent cliff-forming sandstone that for many years was referred to as the Cypress Sandstone (Malott, 1931, 1952; Gray, 1970, 1986).

Revised: When the name “Big Clifty” was adopted for use in Indiana, it was modified to the present form by Gray, Jenkins, and Weidman (1960, p. 40-41), and the unit was redefined to include the gray shale and mudstone that are now designated the Indian Springs Shale Member (Gray, 1970, 1986).

Description:

In many places the Big Clifty Formation is composed in descending order of 3 to 14 ft (1 to 4 m) of gray fossiliferous shale and interbedded limestone, 3 to 10 ft (1 to 3 m) of varicolored mudstone and siltstone, 25 to 40 ft (8 to 12 m) of thin-bedded fine-grained sandstone, and in places as much as 6 ft (2 m) of black pyritiferous shale at the base (Gray, 1986). The two upper units are assigned to the Indian Springs Shale Member. On the outcrop the sandstone member of this formation is a conspicuous cliff former of great lateral extent (Gray, Jenkins, and Weidman, 1960, p. 40-41), but downdip in the subsurface of southwestern Indiana the formation is primarily shale, and the sandstone, sometimes referred to by drillers as the Jackson Sand, occurs as isolated lenses (Gray, 1986). In the subsurface the Big Clifty Formation ranges in thickness from 40 to 100 ft (12.2 to 30.5 m) (Droste and Keller, 1995).

Distribution: The Big Clifty Formation is recognized on the surface from Owen County southward to the Ohio River and in the subsurface from central Clay County southwestward (Gray, 1986).

Boundaries:

The formation conformably overlies the Beech Creek Limestone and is overlain conformably by the Haney Limestone or disconformably by the Mansfield Formation (Pennsylvanian) (Gray, 1986).

Correlations:

The Big Clifty Formation of Indiana usage is equivalent to the Fraileys Shale of the standard Chesterian section, but in Illinois the term “Big Clifty” is applied to a sandstone member of the Fraileys Shale (Swann, 1963; Atherton and others, 1975, p. 156-157; Gray, 1986).

The fossiliferous shale and limestone of the Indian Springs Shale Member at the top of the Big Clifty contain wing plates of the crinoid Pterotocrinus, which elsewhere in the Illinois Basin is restricted to the Golconda Group and is especially characteristic of the Fraileys Shale and Haney Limestone (Welch, 1978; Gray, 1986). The Big Clifty corresponds to rocks within North American foraminiferal Zone 16s of Mamet and Skipp (1971) and within Zone V3cs of the type Visean sequence in Belgium. The Big Clifty is within the conodont-based Gnathodus bilineatus-Cavusgnathus altus Assemblage Zone of Collinson, Rexroad, and Thompson (1971) (Gray, 1986).

Regional Indiana usage:

Illinois Basin (COSUNA 11)
Supergroup: none
Group: Stephensport Group
Formation: Big Clifty Formation
Illinois Basin Margin (COSUNA 12)
Supergroup: none
Group: Stephensport Group
Formation: Big Clifty Formation

Misc/Abandoned Names:

Cypress Sandstone, Jackson Sand

Geologic Map Unit Designation:

Mbcy

Note: Hansen (1991, p. 52) in Suggestions to authors of the reports of the United States Geological Survey noted that letter symbols for map units are considered to be unique to each geologic map and that adjacent maps do not necessarily need to use the same symbols for the same map unit. Therefore, map unit abbreviations in the Indiana Geologic Names Information System should be regarded simply as recommendations.

COSUNA areas and regional terminology

Names for geologic units vary across Indiana. The Midwestern Basin and Arches Region COSUNA chart (Shaver, 1984) was developed to strategically document such variations in terminology. The geologic map (below left) is derived from this chart and provides an index to the five defined COSUNA regions in Indiana. The regions are generally based on regional bedrock outcrop patterns and major structural features in Indiana. (Click the maps below to view more detailed maps of COSUNA regions and major structural features in Indiana.)

Map showing the COSUNA areas (heavy black line) that approximate regional bedrock outcrop patterns and major structural features in Indiana, and the COSUNA numbers (large bold font) for these areas. The COSUNA boundaries are limited to state and county boundaries that facilitate coding.

COSUNA areas and numbers that approximate regional bedrock outcrop patterns and major structural features in Indiana.

Map showing major tectonic features that affect bedrock geology in Indiana.

Major tectonic features that affect bedrock geology in Indiana.

References:

Atherton, Elwood, Collinson, Charles, and Lineback, J. A., 1975, Mississippian System, in Willman, H. B., Atherton, Elwood, Buschbach, T. C., Collinson, Charles, Frye, J. C., Hopkins, M. E., Lineback, J. A., and Simon, J. A., Handbook of Illinois stratigraphy: Illinois State Geological Survey Bulletin 95, p. 123-163.

Butts, Charles, 1917, Mississippian formations of western Kentucky: Descriptions and correlations of the Mississippian formations of western Kentucky: Kentucky Geological Survey, ser. 4, v. 5, pt. 1, 119 p.

Collinson, Charles, Rexroad, C. B., and Thompson, T. L., 1971, Conodont zonation of the North American Mississippian: Geological Society of America Memoirs 127, p. 353-394.

Droste, J. B., and Keller, S. J., 1995, Subsurface stratigraphy and distribution of oil fields of the Stephensport Group (Mississippian) in Indiana: Indiana Geological Survey Bulletin 64, 21 p.

Gray, H. H., 1970, Big Clifty Formation, in Shaver, R. H., Burger, A. M., Gates, G. R., Gray, H. H., Hutchison, H. C., Keller, S. J., Patton, J. B., Rexroad, C. B., Smith, N. M., Wayne, W. J., and Wier, C. E., Compendium of rock-unit stratigraphy in Indiana: Indiana Geological Survey Bulletin 43, p. 14-15.

Gray, H. H., 1986, Big Clifty Formation, in Shaver, R. H., Ault, C. H., Burger, A. M., Carr, D. D., Droste, J. B., Eggert, D. L., Gray, H. H., Harper, Denver, Hasenmueller, N. R., Hasenmueller, W. A., Horowitz, A. S., Hutchison, H. C., Keith, B. D., Keller, S. J., Patton, J. B., Rexroad, C. B., and Wier, C. E., Compendium of Paleozoic rock-unit stratigraphy in Indiana–a revision: Indiana Geological Survey Bulletin 59, p. 13-14.

Gray, H. H., Dawson, T. A., McGregor, D. J., Perry, T. G., and Wayne, W. J., 1957, Rocks associated with the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian unconformity in southwestern Indiana: Indiana Geological Survey Field Conference Guidebook 9, 42 p.

Gray, H. H., Jenkins, R. D., and Weidman, R. M., 1960, Geology of the Huron area, south-central Indiana: Indiana Geological Survey Bulletin 20, 78 p.

Hansen, W. R., 1991, Suggestions to authors of the reports of the United States Geological Survey (7th ed.): Washington, D.C., U.S. Geological Survey, 289 p.

Malott, C. A., 1931, Geologic structure in the Indian and Trinity Springs locality, Martin County, Indiana: Indiana Academy of Science Proceedings, v. 40, p. 217-231.

Malott, C. A., 1952, Stratigraphy of the Ste. Genevieve and Chester formations of southern Indiana: Ann Arbor, Michigan, Edwards Letter Shop, 105 p.

Mamet, B. L., and Skipp, B. A., 1971, Lower Carboniferous calcareous Foraminifera–preliminary zonation and stratigraphic implications for the Mississippian of North America: Sixieme Congres International de Stratigraphie et de Geologie du Carbonifere Sheffield, 1967, Compte rendu, v. 3, p. 1,129-1,146.

Norwood, C. J., 1876, Report on the geology of the region adjacent to the Louisville, Paducah, and Southwestern Railroad: Kentucky Geological Survey Report of Progress 1, new ser., p. 355-448.

Shaver, R. H., coordinator, 1984, Midwestern basin and arches region–correlation of stratigraphic units in North America (COSUNA): American Association of Petroleum Geologists Correlation Chart Series.

Swann, D. H., 1963, Classification of Genevievian and Chesterian (Late Mississippian) rocks of Illinois: Illinois State Geological Survey Report of Investigations 216, 91 p.

Welch, J. R., 1978, Pterotocrinus rugosus Lyon & Casseday from the middle Chesterian of the Illinois Basin: Journal of Paleontology, v. 52. p. 904-915.



For additional information contact:

Nancy Hasenmueller (hasenmue@indiana.edu)
Date last revised: June 8, 2017

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