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Groundwater Flow, Quality, and Mixing in the Wind Cave National Park Area, South Dakota

Project Period: 2007-2010
Cooperator: National Park Service
Project Chief: Andrew Long

Executive Summary

A study of groundwater flow, quality, and mixing in relation to Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota was conducted during 2007–11 by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the National Park Service because of water-quality concerns and to determine possible sources of groundwater contamination in the Wind Cave National Park area.

Established in 1903, Wind Cave and the surrounding land became the eighth national park in the United States and the first one created to protect a cave. Wind Cave is located in western South Dakota and is the fifth longest cave in the world with 218 kilometers (km) of accessible passages. Groundwater is an important resource for the park and, in particular, for Wind Cave. Groundwater drips from the ceiling of the cave at numerous locations and exists in ponds, lakes, and streams on the cave floor. The water table of the Madison aquifer is accessible at the deepest part of this cave, where subterranean lakes exist. These lakes are in hydraulic connection with the regionally extensive Madison aquifer, which exists in the northern Great Plains in several States, including South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. To understand the hydrology and hydrochemistry of Wind Cave, it is essential to understand the surrounding Madison aquifer within which the cave exists.

Objective

The objective of this study was to characterize groundwater flow, quality, and mixing in the Wind Cave National Park area. This objective was carried out by assessing or estimating (1) groundwater gradients, flow directions, and transit times; (2) the occurrence and geospatial distributions of arsenic and nitrate and possible associations with trace metals; (3) groundwater sources for Wind Cave and sources of arsenic in the park, and (4) the relative proportions of different source waters contributing to Wind Cave and other areas of interest.

Publications

Long, A.J., and Valder, J.F., 2011, Multivariate analyses with end-member mixing to characterize groundwater flow—Wind Cave and associated aquifers: Journal of Hydrology, v. 409, no. 1-2, p. 315-327, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.08.028.

Long, A.J., Ohms, M.J., McKaskey, J.D.R.G, 2012, Groundwater flow, quality (2007–10), and mixing in the Wind Cave National Park area, South Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5235, 50 p.

report cover

Valder, J.F., Long, A.J., Davis, A.D., and Kenner, S.J., 2012, Multivariate statistical approach to estimate mixing proportions for unknown end members: Journal of Hydrology, v. 460-461, p. 65-76, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.06.037.


Filtering water samples from Beaver Creek Spring

U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service personnel filtering water samples from Beaver Creek Spring. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

U.S. Geological Suyrvey Hydrologist, Andrew Long, sampling water from Beaver Creek Spring.

U.S. Geological Suyrvey Hydrologist, Andrew Long, sampling water from Beaver Creek Spring. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.


National Park Service personnel leading team to the water in Wind Cave

National Park Service personnel leading team to the water in Wind Cave. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

National Park Service personnel downloading temperature data collected from Highland Creek

National Park Service personnel downloading temperature data collected from Highland Creek. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

Measuring the physical properties of water from Stairway Spring

National Park Service personnel measuring the physical properties of water from Stairway Spring.

Fluorescein dye in Windy City Lake in Wind Cave, a lake that merged with Calcite Lake prior to 2000

Fluorescein dye in Wind Cave in Windy City Lake, a lake that merged with Calcite Lake before the end of 1999. Dye was injected into What the Hell Lake in February 2008 by National Park Service staff and was detected in Windy City Lake 2 months later. This photograph was taken November 2008 by Peter Sprouse, National Park Service.

Collecting chlorofluorocarbon samples from the inflow to What the Hell Lake in Wind Cave

Collecting chlorofluorocarbon samples from the inflow to What the Hell Lake in Wind Cave. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

Squeezing through a narrow place above What the Hell Lake in Wind Cave

Squeezing through a narrow place above What the Hell Lake in Wind Cave. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

Collecting samples of dripping water from the ceiling of Room Draculum in Wind Cave

Collecting samples of dripping water from the ceiling of Room Draculum in Wind Cave. Photograph by Jason Walz, National Park Service.

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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Jan-2013 11:03:38 EST