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Current address: Consulting Geologist, Wichita, Kansas 67226, U.S.A.

ABSTRACT

Lithologies, depositional environments, stratigraphic architecture, and conodont biostratigraphy of Lower to Middle Mississippian rocks in the western Ozarks comprise five depositional sequences in ramps on the southern Burlington shelf. Aggradational ramps in the Kinderhookian to early Osagean St. Joe group were relatively strongly overprinted by Ouachita-related tectonism involving inferred recurrent passage of fore-bulge highs and associated basins across central and southern parts of the outcrop area. Significant effects of tectonism are southward facies shallowing onto the broad Kanoka ridge paleotopographic high associated with locally extensive marine and lesser subaerial erosion, sediment thickening and deposition of generally northward down-lapping, resedimented wedges with dislodged reef blocks and conglomerates into relatively rapidly subsiding basins, and formation of a regionally extensive paleosol at the top of the group. Back-stepping subsidence due to middle Osagean foundering of the Kanoka ridge was followed by rapid, long-distance progradation of middle- and outer-ramp facies in the Bentonville and Reeds Spring limestones. Tectonism at this time resulted variously in local folding, uplift, marine and subaerial erosion, and reversal of shelf bathymetry. Southward erosion of the Reeds Spring and Bentonville occurred at least in Oklahoma on rejuvenated segments of the Kanoka ridge. Overlying lower Meramecian limestones are shallow-water deposits truncated by a major unconformity.

INTRODUCTION

Lower to Middle Mississippian rocks (Kinderhookian, Osagean, and Meramecian: Lower Carboniferous, Tournaisian to Visean) are exposed in the southern midcontinent U.S.A. (Craig and Varnes, 1979). Outcrops in the tri-state area of southwestern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas, and northeastern Oklahoma (Figure 1) are the focus of this study. These rocks were deposited on the southern Burlington shelf along the southwestern edge of the Ozark dome (Figure 1A). This shelf was an expansive carbonate bank that extended for approximately 1000 mi (1600 km) across the central midcontinent (Lane, 1978). Correlative strata are present in subsurface Kansas and northern Oklahoma and include prolific petroleum reservoirs (e.g., Lee, 1940; Curtis and Champlin, 1959; Goebel, 1968; Selk and Ciriaks, 1968; Montgomery et al., 1998; Rogers, 2001; Watney et al., 2001). Despite their scientific and economic significance, however, the lithostratigraphy of these rocks has been poorly understood for decades. The exposures in the tri-state outcrop area therefore are critical because they are the nearest analogs to the subsurface.

Figure 1.

(A) Setting of study area (after Lane, 1982). (B) Mississippian outcrop and locations of measured sections.

Figure 1.

(A) Setting of study area (after Lane, 1982). (B) Mississippian outcrop and locations of measured sections.

This chapter presents a synthesis of the lithostratigraphy, sedimentary facies, and conodont biostratigraphy of these exposed rocks (Figure 1B), specifically focusing on the Kinderhookian to lower Meramecian section. The results of this study serve as a template for interpreting similar attributes of their subsurface correlatives. A major tenet of this chapter is the tectonism during deposition, and we describe its effects on the lithostratigraphic architecture of these rocks.

SETTING, DATABASE, AND STRATIGRAPHY OF STUDY AREA

The study area is on the southern Burlington shelf, which was bordered to the east by the Ozark dome and to the north and northwest by the Transcontinental arch (Figure 1A). This area was 10°–15° south of the equator during the Osagean (Gutschick and Sandberg, 1983; Blakey, 2005) and was an expansive carbonate platform during the Kinderhookian to Osagean. According to Lane (1978), Lane and DeKeyser (1980), and Franseen (2006), it had low-energy, muddy carbonates and some evaporites on the inner shelf to the north and high-energy carbonate sands on the main shelf seaward of that (Figure 1A). Previous studies indicated that the study area comprises distal shelf facies of cherty lime mudstone with some reefs deposited on a slope that deepened southward into a starved and condensed section of basinal phosphatic and cherty shales (Lane, 1978, 1984; Lane and DeKeyser, 1980; Manger and Thompson, 1982; Gutschick and Sandberg, 1983; King, 1986). We show here that this model is not applicable in the study area and offer alternative paleobathymetric interpretations. A continent–continent convergence (subduction) zone and volcanic island–arc chain existed during the Early to Middle Mississippian south of the Burlington shelf near the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma and Arkansas (Thomas, 1985; Houseknecht, 1986; Viele and Thomas, 1989). These studies indicated that tectonic activity here persisted from late Meramecian into the Early Pennsylvanian. We present evidence that the study area was significantly affected by earlier pulses of tectonism beginning in the Kinderhookian and show that tectonism also affected correlative strata elsewhere in the midcontinent.

Our descriptions and interpretations of Mississippian rocks are based on measured sections at 94 localities (Figure 1B). Mississippian exposures in southeastern Kansas are stratigraphically incomplete and therefore are not included here. The stratigraphy of Lower to Middle Mississippian rocks in the study area was described by Thompson and Fellows (1970) and Thompson (1986). Mazzullo et al. (2013) revised their terminology, and this nomenclature is followed in the present paper (Figure 2). All of these formations are readily recognized throughout the study area (Mazzullo et al., 2013).

Figure 2.

Outcrop lithostratigraphy from Mazzullo et al. (2013). Xs denote tripolitic chert that extends up-dip into transitional Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata.

Figure 2.

Outcrop lithostratigraphy from Mazzullo et al. (2013). Xs denote tripolitic chert that extends up-dip into transitional Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata.

REGIONAL LITHOFACIES OF BACHELOR FORMATION AND ST. JOE GROUP

Bachelor Formation

The Kinderhookian Bachelor Formation is generally less than 2 ft (0.6 m) thick (Figures 3, 4A) and mostly unconformably overlies the Devonian Woodford Shale, Sycamore sandstone, or Lower Ordovician Cotter Dolomite. In the Buffalo National River area in Newton, Searcy, and Stone counties in Arkansas (Figure 1B), the formation instead variously overlies Silurian or Middle Ordovician carbonates or Upper Ordovician shales (Craig, 1988; McFarland, 1988). At most exposures the Bachelor is greenish to yellow-brown shale with crinoids and some sand-size quartz grains (Figures 3, 4A). Locally a bioturbated, white sandstone 0.7–1.2 ft (0.2–0.36 m) thick is present at its base (Figure 3B). The Bachelor grades upward into the Compton Limestone.

Figure 3.

(A, B) Thickness and lithologies in the Compton and Northview formations; arrows denote local unconformities in the Compton. Vertical scale in ft (m), and this scale and legend apply to ensuing figures. The Jane South exposure in panel A is also shown in Figure 17A. (C) Bioturbated siltstone channels in the Northview (1-32N-24W) in Polk Co., MO. (D) Outcrop with paleosols in Northview Formation.

Figure 3.

(A, B) Thickness and lithologies in the Compton and Northview formations; arrows denote local unconformities in the Compton. Vertical scale in ft (m), and this scale and legend apply to ensuing figures. The Jane South exposure in panel A is also shown in Figure 17A. (C) Bioturbated siltstone channels in the Northview (1-32N-24W) in Polk Co., MO. (D) Outcrop with paleosols in Northview Formation.

Figure 4.

(A) St. Joe group in southern study area. Some conodont zones are missing at the top of the Compton, and Pierson beds at the Jasper Hwy 7 and Big Creek localities are no higher than the Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. White arrows point to paleosols in the Pierson, and the black arrow at Big Creek points to vugs filled with red and/or green shale with quartz grains. (B) Thicknesses and lithologies in the Pierson Limestone. Arrow points to a local unconformity in the section.

Figure 4.

(A) St. Joe group in southern study area. Some conodont zones are missing at the top of the Compton, and Pierson beds at the Jasper Hwy 7 and Big Creek localities are no higher than the Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. White arrows point to paleosols in the Pierson, and the black arrow at Big Creek points to vugs filled with red and/or green shale with quartz grains. (B) Thicknesses and lithologies in the Pierson Limestone. Arrow points to a local unconformity in the section.

St. Joe Group

The conformably overlying, chert-poor St. Joe group varies from less than 3 ft to 106 ft (0.9–32.2 m) thick. It comprises the Kinderhookian Compton Limestone and Northview Formation and the lower Osagean Pierson Limestone.

Compton Limestone

Regional thickness of the Compton in the study area is shown in Figure 5A. It is about 8 ft (2.4 m) thick north of Springfield, Missouri, and 10–16 ft (3.1–4.9 m) thick south of there to about the latitude of central Taney to McDonald counties in Missouri (Figure 3). Lithology here is even-bedded lime mudstone and wackestone with crinoids and brachiopods and thin lenses and partings of green shale, and upper and lower contacts are conformable. Similar limestones, partly dolomitic, are present immediately north of our study area in St. Clair County, Missouri (Evans et al., 2011). In contrast, southward to just past the Arkansas border, the Compton generally is 5.5–12 ft (1.7–3.7 m) thick and consists of mudstone to wackestone, but there are numerous outcrops where it is as much as 31 ft (9.5 m) thick and composed of crinoid packstone to grainstone with accessory brachiopods and bryozoans (Figures 3B, 5A). Thinner sections composed partly of similar crinoidal sands also are present in this area (Figure 5A). The upper contact of the formation commonly is unconformable, and sand-size quartz grains and some glauconite are present locally in basal beds here. At some of these exposures stacked crinoidal sand beds, many with erosional bases, grade upward to packstone or wackestone and variously (1) down-lap or on-lap subjacent strata; (2) are truncated by top-lap beneath inferred reactivation surfaces; and (3) thicken and thin depositionally or because of slight erosion (Figure 6A). Some thick (about 6 ft [1.8 m]), generally northward-thinning, tabular cross-stratified sets with north dip are present at some exposures (Figure 3B). Most other crinoidal sand beds in thick sections here are more homogeneous with few of the features listed above. The formation thins in northern Arkansas and adjoining Oklahoma to about 9–22 ft (2.7–6.7 m) of mudstone to wackestone at some outcrops and mainly crinoidal sand at others (Figure 3B), but then it thins to less than 6.5 ft (2.0 m) of mainly the latter lithology with brachiopods and bryozoans farther south (Figures 4A, 5A). As indicated by conodont biostratigraphy, unconformities are present at the top of the formation at many outcrops here (Boardman et al., 2013).

Figure 5.

Isopach maps of (A)Compton, showing areas of thick and thin crinoidal sand; (B) Northview, showing localities with nearshore shales, tidal-flat deposits, and areas of erosion; and (C) Pierson, showing areas with thick and thin crinoidal sand and significant erosion of undisturbed beds.

Figure 5.

Isopach maps of (A)Compton, showing areas of thick and thin crinoidal sand; (B) Northview, showing localities with nearshore shales, tidal-flat deposits, and areas of erosion; and (C) Pierson, showing areas with thick and thin crinoidal sand and significant erosion of undisturbed beds.

Figure 6.

Crinoidal sands in the Compton at Branson Airport locality (A) and in the Pierson at Jane North outcrop (B) with reactivation surfaces and top-lapping (yellow arrows), on-lapping (black arrows), and down-lapping (white arrows).

Figure 6.

Crinoidal sands in the Compton at Branson Airport locality (A) and in the Pierson at Jane North outcrop (B) with reactivation surfaces and top-lapping (yellow arrows), on-lapping (black arrows), and down-lapping (white arrows).

Northview Formation

A maximum of 80 ft (24.4 m) of section is present in the northern part of the study area (Figure 5B). The rocks here are mainly green shale or thicker units of bioturbated siltstone and fossiliferous silty shale (Figure 3A), and the siltstones are lenticular (Figure 3C) or tabular bedded. Upper and lower contacts are conformable. The unit generally is 3–10 ft (0.9–3.1 m) thick southward into Missouri, northern Arkansas, and adjoining Oklahoma (Figure 5B), where the rocks are silty crinoidal shale and limestone with some marine hardgrounds, lenses of crinoidal red and green shale, and mostly gradational bounding contacts (Figures 3, 4A). An exception is the Chesnut ridge locality in Christian County, Missouri, where siltstone dominates (Figure 3B). The formation locally thins to 0–2 ft (0–0.6 m) in this area, however, and regionally it thins farther southward and eventually pinches out (Figures 3, 4A, 5B). Upper contact of the formation in these areas commonly is unconformable (Figure 4A). Conodont abundance is very low in siltstones and red and green shales and increases southward in limestones, although maximum abundance is less than in the Compton and Pierson (Boardman et al., 2013).

Pierson Limestone

The Pierson is about 5 ft (1.5 m) of mudstone to wackestone immediately north of our study area in St. Clair County, Missouri (Evans et al., 2011). Thompson (1986) indicated the formation is 2.5–3 ft (0.7–0.9 m) of fossiliferous dolomite farther north in central–western Missouri, although we believe it is pinched out here. Regional thickness of the formation in our study area is shown in Figure 5C. In northernmost exposures, it generally is 9.5–12 ft (2.9–3.7 m) thick of dolomitized wackestone (Figure 4B) with hardgrounds, crinoids, fenestrate bryozoans, and some brachiopods. Southward from there to about the latitude of central Christian County, Missouri, the formation is 17–43 ft (5.2–13.1 m) thick and composed of similarly fossiliferous, locally cherty, interbedded dolomite and lime wackestone (e.g., Turner Station locality; Figure 4B). Upper contacts in both areas appear conformable. Thickness south of there into northernmost Arkansas and adjoining Oklahoma varies from 11 to more than 72 ft (3.4–22+ m). Areas where the formation is thin are mainly wackestone locally with some interbedded crinoid packstone, but where it is thick, the rocks are mainly slightly cherty crinoid packstone to grainstone and some interbedded wackestone, both with thin lenses and partings of green and some red shale (Figures 4B, 5C). Accessory fossils include brachiopods and bryozoans. These sands are similar in terms of their sedimentary attributes to those in the Compton (Figure 6B), and at some exposures, there are northward-thinning, tabular cross-stratified crinoidal sands that dip northward like in the Compton. At other exposure, the cross-stratified units are mudstone to wackestone as much as 14 ft (4.3 m) thick that dip in the same direction (Figure 4B). Crinoidal sands in the Pierson as well as the Compton were noted throughout this area by previous workers (Laudon, 1939; Harbaugh, 1957; Troell, 1962; Anglin, 1966; Craig, 1988). Hardgrounds are present locally in wackestones near the base of the Pierson, as are crinoidal red shale and red-tinted, shaly crinoid wackestone to packstone (e.g., Branson Airport locality; Figure 4B). The red shales have lower conodont abundance than adjoining limestones (Boardman et al., 2013). Prominent beds a few inches (a few centimeters) to about 2 ft (0.6 m) thick of crinoidal green shale or sections of interbedded green shale and shaly limestone, both crinoidal, are present in the upper part of the formation at some localities here. Green shales have higher conodont abundance than red shales. The Pierson thins farther southward to less than is 2 ft (0.6 m), where many sections are mostly crinoid packstone to grainstone (Figures 4A, 5C). Whereas the upper contact of the formation typically is gradational into the Reeds Spring, it is unconformable at many exposures south of the latitude of Branson, Missouri.

Reefs in the Compton and Pierson Limestones

In-place, Waulsortian-type reefs are present in the lower to middle parts of the Compton and Pierson in the central study area. They were described by Laudon (1939), Harbaugh (1957), Troell (1962), Anglin (1966), Manger and Thompson (1982), Thompson (1986), Lasemi et al. (2003), Morris et al. (2013), and Unrast (2013). Many exposures described decades ago are no longer present or accessible, but existing reefs are within an east-trending belt parallel to the strike of the Burlington shelf (Figure 7A). According to Morris et al. (2013), only the upper parts of reefs often are exposed, and their tops are convex-upward (Figure 7B, C). Minimum Compton reef dimensions are 4–6 ft (1.2–1.8 m) thick and 18–40 ft long (5.5–12.2 m), and those in the Pierson are 13 ft (4 m) thick and 28 ft (8.5 m) in length. Reef cores are mud matrix-dominated, fenestrate bryozoan–crinoid bafflestones with ramose bryozoans and accessory brachiopods, ostracodes, spicules, and minor pelecypods. Partial marine lithification by radiaxial–fibrous calcite is indicated and some contain stromatactis cavities (Figure 7D, E). Such diagenetic attributes are known in Waulsortian reefs elsewhere (e.g., Lees and Miller, 1995). Reef cores pass laterally into thin-bedded crinoid packstone or shaly wackestone with interbeds of crinoidal green shale, and they are overlain, in some places unconformably (e.g., Figure 7C), by crinoidal sands. Inferred depositional setting of the reefs is low-energy environments in water a few tens of feet (several meters) deep (Morris et al., 2013).

Figure 7.

(A) Area of Compton and Pierson reefs. Locations in panels B and C are indicated by these letters. (B) Compton reef. (C) Exposed top of Pierson reef and crestal grainstone. Note unconformities and thinning and on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata over the reef. (D) Stromatactis cavities occluded by radiaxial-fibrous calcite in Compton reef. (E) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of radiaxial-fibrous calcite.

Figure 7.

(A) Area of Compton and Pierson reefs. Locations in panels B and C are indicated by these letters. (B) Compton reef. (C) Exposed top of Pierson reef and crestal grainstone. Note unconformities and thinning and on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata over the reef. (D) Stromatactis cavities occluded by radiaxial-fibrous calcite in Compton reef. (E) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of radiaxial-fibrous calcite.

Inferred Environments and Depositional Architecture

According to Boardman et al. (2013), the Bachelor, Compton, and Northview formations, and lower part of the Pierson Limestone are aggradational ramp strata wherein conodont biozones are superposed without areally diachronous offset (Table 1). The supra-unconformity Bachelor is interpreted as basal transgressive, nearshore-marine deposits. The Compton immediately north of our study area is nodular-bedded, dark gray, muddy limestone. Associated Kinderhookian limestones, which are not present in our study area, are dark-colored and phosphatic (Thompson, 1986). We interpret these rocks as relatively deep-water shelf deposits. By comparison, the thicker bedded and lighter color muddy limestones of the Compton in the northern part of our study area, and similar rocks immediately north in St. Clair County, are inferred low-energy facies of lesser water depth (e.g., James, 1979; Read, 1985). Dolomite and lime wackestone in the Pierson in this area and also immediately northward in Missouri, and muddy limestones in the Compton and lower Pierson farther south are similarly interpreted. Hardgrounds in the lower Pierson in our study area are consistent with this interpretation (e.g., Demicco and Hardie, 1994). Sections of mainly crinoidal sand in these formations in central and southern outcrops are inferred high-energy, shallow-water deposits (e.g., James, 1979; Smith and Read, 2001). Lasemi et al. (1998) described similar Mississippian sands in the Illinois Basin. Reefs in the Compton and Pierson are present in the mixed mudstone–crinoidal sand facies belt in central outcrops.

Table 1.

Conodont biostratigraphy of the Bachelor Fm. and part of the St. Joe group (Boardman et al., 2013).

Lower Pierson LstLower part of Lower Pseudopolygnathus multistriatus zone Polygnathus communis-carina—Upper Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Northview FormationSiphonodella cooperi hassi—Lower Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Compton LimestoneSiphonodella cooperi—Gnathodus delicatus Zone
Bachelor FormationSiphonodella crenulata–S. lobata Zone (in shale) Siphonodella sandbergi Zone (in basal sand where present)
Lower Pierson LstLower part of Lower Pseudopolygnathus multistriatus zone Polygnathus communis-carina—Upper Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Northview FormationSiphonodella cooperi hassi—Lower Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Compton LimestoneSiphonodella cooperi—Gnathodus delicatus Zone
Bachelor FormationSiphonodella crenulata–S. lobata Zone (in shale) Siphonodella sandbergi Zone (in basal sand where present)

The Northview Formation is 2–8 ft (0.6–2.4 m) of gray, silty shale and dolomitic siltstone north of our study area and it pinches out farther north in Missouri (Thompson, 1986; Evans et al., 2011). Hence Northview siliciclastics in our northern outcrops are part of a southward-thickening sediment wedge that, based on relative conodont abundances, regional lithofacies relationships, and bedding characteristics, are inferred nearshore-marine deposits (e.g., Smith and Read, 2001). Accordingly, limestone correlatives to the south are regarded as more offshore, low-energy facies. Hardgrounds in the rocks are consistent with this interpretation (e.g., Demicco and Hardie, 1994). Overall low conodont abundance suggests shallower water environments than the Compton and most of the Pierson (Boardman et al., 2013). Based on low conodont abundance, red shale in the Northview and Pierson are inferred very nearshore, shallow-water deposits. Green shale and shaly limestone in the Pierson in central outcrops are considered slightly more offshore deposits because of higher conodont abundance.

REGIONAL LITHOFACIES OF THE BOONE GROUP

The Osagean Reeds Spring and Bentonville limestones and the basal Meramecian Ritchey limestone comprise the Boone Group in the study area (Figure 2). The group is 230–332 ft (70–101 m) thick and very cherty.

Reeds Spring Limestone

The Reeds Spring Limestone is the thickest formation in the study area. It is mainly thin-bedded, very cherty, and shaly limestone (Figure 8A). It is present south of a line from Joplin to just north of Springfield, Missouri (inset map in Figure 9A), and it is 60 ft (18.3 m) thick along this line. Thickness increases southward to about 110 ft (33.6 m) near Branson in Taney County, Missouri, and maximum measured thickness is 194 ft (59.2 m) in McDonald County, Missouri. In Oklahoma, the formation thins to 130–140 ft (39.7–42.7 m) in Cherokee County. According to Laudon (1939) and Huffman (1958, 1959), it thins progressively from there to 50 ft (15.3 m) in southwestern Adair County and then 13 ft (4.0 m) in north–central Sequoyah County. We were unable to verify these thicknesses because of limited exposures. The formation is absent to the immediate south in Sequoyah County, and according to these workers, thinning was the result of pre-Bentonville erosion rather than depositional pinchout. To the east, the formation likewise thins southward into Arkansas to about 72 ft (22 m) in Searcy County. Farther south, in Johnson County, Arkansas (Figure 1B), the subsurface Boone group comprises only post-Reeds-Spring strata based on core descriptions in Davis (2007). Hence the formation also pinches out just beyond the southern limit of the outcrop belt, but whether it does so by erosion as in Oklahoma or by depositional thinning could not be determined.

Figure 8.

(A) Thin-bedded Reeds Spring in quarry near Beaver Lake dam (10-20N-27W) in Carroll Co., AR. (B) Chondrites and smaller Planolites burrows in multi-generational Reeds Spring chert; locality as above. (C) Mudstone wedge in middle Reeds Spring at No-Head Hollow. (D) Incised mudstone-filled channel in middle Reeds Spring, same locality. (E) Transitional upper Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata at Branson West (shown schematically in Figure 10C, column 1). (F) View to east of eroded anticline in lower Reeds Spring in quarry at Beaver Lake dam; same locality as in panel A.

Figure 8.

(A) Thin-bedded Reeds Spring in quarry near Beaver Lake dam (10-20N-27W) in Carroll Co., AR. (B) Chondrites and smaller Planolites burrows in multi-generational Reeds Spring chert; locality as above. (C) Mudstone wedge in middle Reeds Spring at No-Head Hollow. (D) Incised mudstone-filled channel in middle Reeds Spring, same locality. (E) Transitional upper Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata at Branson West (shown schematically in Figure 10C, column 1). (F) View to east of eroded anticline in lower Reeds Spring in quarry at Beaver Lake dam; same locality as in panel A.

Figure 9.

(A) Progradational Reeds Spring Limestone with Pineville Tripolite at top, absence of this member to the east and far southwest, and deepest-water facies in the formation. (B) Lithologies in the Ritchey Limestone at its type locality.

Figure 9.

(A) Progradational Reeds Spring Limestone with Pineville Tripolite at top, absence of this member to the east and far southwest, and deepest-water facies in the formation. (B) Lithologies in the Ritchey Limestone at its type locality.

The formation mostly comprises stacked beds 1–4 ft (0.3–1.2 m) thick of dark gray, petroliferous, shaly lime mudstone or wackestone, most of which fine upward to calcareous shale or more shaly mudstone (Figure 8A). Crinoids, brachiopods, spicules, and some rugose corals and bryozoans are present. Chert averages about 70% of the rocks and is variously present as dark gray and black nodules, lenses, and laterally continuous to discontinuous beds (Figures 8A, 9A). Much of the chert is of multigenerational origin (Figure 8B; Mazzullo et al., 2011). Planolites and Chondrites burrows, and locally some Teichichnus and larger Ophiomorpha burrows, are common within and along the tops of fining-upward limestone beds or cherts that replaced them (Figure 8B). Burrows are present in all exposures beginning variable distances above the formation base. The lower half of the formation includes some southward-thinning mudstone wedges up to 5 ft (1.5 m) thick (Figure 8C) or incised, shallow (4–6 ft [1.2–1.8 m] and less) mudstone-filled channels up to 30 ft (9.1 m) wide (Figure 8D). Small rotational slides associated with soft-sediment deformation are noted in some beds.

In contrast, close to the up-dip pinchout of the formation, the rocks are lighter colored and commonly thicker bedded. At the Journagan Ozark quarry in northern Christian County, Missouri, for example, the lower 56 ft (17.1 m) are thin bedded, light and medium gray, bioturbated mudstone with dark and light gray, multigenerational chert with Planolites and Chondrites (Figure 10C, column 2). The overlying 25 ft (7.6 m) are thicker bedded mudstone to wackestone with similar light gray chert, and above that, the rocks grade upward into the Bentonville limestone through a section of interbedded mudstone–wackestone and crinoidal sand. The chert has Planolites and Chondrites in the lower part of this section and instead, comminuted crinoids, brachiopods, and bryozoan fragments in the upper part. At this and other localities with similar gradational contacts, the top of the Reeds Spring is picked at the highest occurrence of bioturbated, multigenerational chert. A 6 ft (1.8 m) thick section of tabular cross-stratified mudstone–wackestone and similar light-colored limestones are present in the formation below the Pineville tripolite at the Kirschman–Jeffries quarry in Jasper County, Missouri (Figure 9A). Similar light-colored rocks, including some dolomite, also are present in the upper part of the formation at several exposures well south of its up-dip limit, for example, at Branson West (Figures 8E, 10C, column 1), in roadcuts on Highway 65 in northwestern Boone County, Arkansas, and also along Highway 49–71 in southern Newton and northern McDonald counties in Missouri, in the spillway at Pensacola Dam in Mayes County, Oklahoma (Section 13 T23N-R21E), and at the Highway 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Figures 9A, 11A). There is an unconformity at the top of the formation at the latter exposure. Light and some medium gray, cherty mudstone and wackestone dominate eastward from a line from Springfield, Missouri, to Marshall, Arkansas (Figures 10D, 11D). Lenses of crinoidal sand (e.g., at the Branson North locality, Figure 9A; and Figure 10D), or incised channels in the middle of the formation as much as 3 ft (0.9 m) thick and 1–3 ft (0.3–0.9 m) wide filled with crinoidal sand (Figures 9A, 10A) are present locally in areas with light-colored limestone.

Figure 10.

(A) Up-dip pinchout of and conodont biozones in the Reeds Spring, which locally passes south into the Pierson. Legend supplements that in Figure 3, and both pertain to ensuing figures. (B) Clasts of Pineville Tripolite (t) and bioturbated Reeds Spring chert (c) in basal Bentonville at Jane North. (C) Some localities where Reeds Spring grades upward into the Bentonville; column 2 is near up-dip pinchout of the Reeds Spring. (D) Columnar section of representative light-colored Reeds Spring limestones in eastern outcrops overlying those in Figure 11D.

Figure 10.

(A) Up-dip pinchout of and conodont biozones in the Reeds Spring, which locally passes south into the Pierson. Legend supplements that in Figure 3, and both pertain to ensuing figures. (B) Clasts of Pineville Tripolite (t) and bioturbated Reeds Spring chert (c) in basal Bentonville at Jane North. (C) Some localities where Reeds Spring grades upward into the Bentonville; column 2 is near up-dip pinchout of the Reeds Spring. (D) Columnar section of representative light-colored Reeds Spring limestones in eastern outcrops overlying those in Figure 11D.

Figure 11.

(A) Youngest Reeds Spring and overlying strata, Hwy 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, OK (see columnar section in Figure 9A). (B) Pineville Tripolite with lenses of dark mudstone (arrows) grades downward into unaltered Reeds Spring at Jane North outcrop. (C) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of tripolite. (D) Extent of Pineville Tripolite in outcrops. (E) Highway 65 roadcut at Buffalo River (36-T16N-R17W) in Searcy Co., AR of unconformable top of Pierson and thin Buffalo River tripolite in light-colored Reeds Spring limestones. (F) Eroded Pineville Tripolite beneath younger Mississippian rocks, BuzziUnicem Quarry (25 and 36-21N-19E) in Mayes Co., OK.

Figure 11.

(A) Youngest Reeds Spring and overlying strata, Hwy 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, OK (see columnar section in Figure 9A). (B) Pineville Tripolite with lenses of dark mudstone (arrows) grades downward into unaltered Reeds Spring at Jane North outcrop. (C) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of tripolite. (D) Extent of Pineville Tripolite in outcrops. (E) Highway 65 roadcut at Buffalo River (36-T16N-R17W) in Searcy Co., AR of unconformable top of Pierson and thin Buffalo River tripolite in light-colored Reeds Spring limestones. (F) Eroded Pineville Tripolite beneath younger Mississippian rocks, BuzziUnicem Quarry (25 and 36-21N-19E) in Mayes Co., OK.

Inferred Depositional Environments

The Reeds Spring Limestone was recognized previously as a down-dip, deeper water facies of the Bentonville limestone (Thompson and Fellows, 1970; Lane, 1978; Thompson, 1986). We agree with this interpretation, adding that sedimentological attributes of the rocks are similar to many ancient outer ramp (e.g., Read, 1985) and also to some distal slope deposits (e.g., Cook and Mullins, 1983). The dark and lighter colored siliceous limestones are inferred distal and proximal outer-ramp facies, respectively. The fining-upward mudstone beds that comprise much of the formation are considered mud-suspensate deposits. Channels filled with crinoidal sand or mudstone are inferred gully-fill deposits, and the clinoform-like mudstone wedges resemble muddy sediment waves (e.g., Betzler et al., 2014). Light-colored rocks in eastern outcrops suggest regional shallowing toward the Ozark dome, which may have been exposed at this time (Lane, 1978). Conodonts show the formation is younger to the south–southwest (Figures 9A, 10A; Boardman et al., 2013), which indicates progradation over time. This interpretation is consistent with the presence of younger proximal limestones south–southwest of the up-dip pinchout of the formation.

Based on conodont abundances (Boardman et al., 2013), the formation deepens from east to west–southwest in outcrops, and maximum water depth is at the base of the formation from central McDonald County, Missouri, to northern Cherokee County, Oklahoma. These rocks are dark mudstone and gray, calcareous shale devoid of trace fossils (Figures 9A, 10A) that likely were deposited in suboxic to anoxic conditions. Overlying limestones with abundant trace fossils indicate at least suboxic conditions (e.g., Cook and Mullins, 1983). We have not found phosphate or significant biotic condensation in inferred maximum water depth deposits. There also is no evidence of such, or of depositional thinning into deeper water facies, along the southern part of the outcrop belt in Oklahoma or Arkansas. The upper part of the formation is proximal outer-ramp facies at the Highway 62–82 locality in Cherokee County, Oklahoma (Figures 9A, 11A) just north of its erosional pinchout. Although well-preserved conodonts are scarce in these rocks they suggest the section is in the middle to upper Middle Gnathodus “texanus”-pseudosemiglaber conodont biozone (Figure 9A), which is younger than exposures at the No-Head Hollow locality a few miles (a few kilometers) to the north.

Pineville Tripolite Member and Minor Tripolites

As much as 55 ft (16.8 m) of the Pineville tripolite are present at the top of the Reeds Spring in the western part of the outcrop (Figures 9A, 10A, 11B). Tripolites are low-density, light-colored rocks with much secondary microporosity (Figure 11C), vugs, in situ breccias, variable amounts of spicules, remnant dark lime mudstone (Figure 11B), and Planolites, Chondrites, and Teichichnus burrows. Mazzullo et al. (2011) referred to this unit as a facies of the Reeds Spring and described its stratotype, but it is now recognized as a formal member. It is in the Lower Gnathodus “texanus” to the lower Middle Gnathodus “texanus”–pseudosemiglaber conodont biozones (Figures 9A, 10A) and is absent in older Reeds Spring strata to the east (Figures 10A, 11D). The southernmost exposure of the member is in roadcuts along on Highway 10 in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, 2.1 mi (3.3 km) south of the No-Head Hollow outcrop. These rocks lie stratigraphically beneath youngest Reeds Spring beds at the Highway 62–82 locality (Figures 9A, 11A), which indicates the member is not regionally the top of the Reeds Spring as previously indicated (Mazzullo et al., 2011, 2013). Rather, it is slightly below that (Figure 2), although locally it is at the top of older Reeds Spring strata that are overlain by the Bentonville limestone (Figures 9A, 10A, 12A). A thin (~3 ft [0.9 m]) tripolite is present 11 ft (3.4 m) above the base of the Reeds Spring at a single locality in Searcy County, Arkansas (Figure 11E), and it is referred to informally as the Buffalo River tripolite (Figure 2). The tripolite that Mazzullo et al. (2013) referred to as the White River tripolite probably is in the lower part of the Pineville Member, and we no longer recognize it as a separate unit.

Figure 12.

(A) Hwy 49–71 roadcut (18-20N-30W) in Benton Co., AR of Pineville Tripolite overlain unconformably by Bentonville Limestone. (B) Hwy 65 roadcut (8-20N-21W) in Boone Co., AR of Bentonville with thin Short Creek Member overlain by Ritchey Limestone. (C) Regional conodont biostratigraphy of Osagean and lower Meramecian rocks (from Boardman et al., 2013); no vertical scale.

Figure 12.

(A) Hwy 49–71 roadcut (18-20N-30W) in Benton Co., AR of Pineville Tripolite overlain unconformably by Bentonville Limestone. (B) Hwy 65 roadcut (8-20N-21W) in Boone Co., AR of Bentonville with thin Short Creek Member overlain by Ritchey Limestone. (C) Regional conodont biostratigraphy of Osagean and lower Meramecian rocks (from Boardman et al., 2013); no vertical scale.

Tripolite Origin

Three attributes of the Pineville Tripolite are critical in interpreting its origin. First, tripolite intraclasts (Figure 10B) are present locally in basal Bentonville strata (e.g., at Kirschman–Jeffries Quarry and Jane North; Figures 9A, 10A). They indicate tripolitization prior to Bentonville deposition. Second, the upper contact of the member locally has considerable erosional relief developed after formation but prior to deposition of overlying strata (Figure 11F). Last, the member is recognized in the subsurface of Kansas and Oklahoma where its top is a major subaerial unconformity (Lee, 1940; Mazzullo and Wilhite, 2015). These rocks locally are petroleum reservoirs (Rogers et al., 1995; Mazzullo et al., 2010; Snyder, 2015) charged with hydrocarbons generated no later than Late Pennsylvanian to late Permian (Higley, 2014).

We believe hydrous chert (opal-CT) formed syndepositionally in Reeds Spring lime muds below the sediment–water interface (Mazzullo and Wilhite, 2010a, b; Mazzullo et al., 2011). Source of silica likely was from dissolution of spicules (e.g., Watney et al., 2001) and possibly also of quartz and feldspar silt, which is moderately abundant in the rocks, and volcanic ash. Mississippian ash-fall volcanism is known in the Ouachita convergence zone (Niem, 1977). During immediate pre-Bentonville subaerial exposure, this chert was unstable in the meteoric environment and dissolved, and in its place microcrystalline silica was reprecipitated. Tripolites in correlative up-dip Reeds Spring and lower Bentonville strata (Figure 2) also formed at this time. We invoke a similar origin for the older Buffalo River tripolite. Pockets of breccia formed in the tripolite at this time, and dissolution of calcitic fossils in tripolite and unaltered chert also occurred during or after tripolitization. Although some remnant limestones in the Pineville may have been partly dissolved or silicified during or after tripolitization, their presence (Figure 11B) suggests they were fairly resistant to alteration. Coarser crystalline silica and other minerals later precipitated in some pores in the tripolite (e.g., Manger, 2014; Price and Grammer, 2015). Subaerial exposure and tripolite formation apparently were of relatively short duration as no conodont biozones are missing between upper Reeds Spring and basal Bentonville strata (Thompson, 1986; Boardman et al., 2013). Price and Grammer (2015) invoked a tripolite origin without meteoric exposure but did not present supportive evidence. Thompson and Fellows (1970) and Manger (2014) related tripolitization to fluid movement along modern faults, and the latter worker believed it occurred later in the Paleozoic. These interpretations are not consistent with the observations presented above.

Bentonville Limestone

Exposures of the Bentonville limestone with both upper and lower contacts are not common in the study area (Figure 12A, B); therefore, regional thickness distributions are difficult to determine. Where such contacts are present we measured maximum thicknesses of 81–110 ft (24.7–33.6 m; e.g., Kirschman–Jeffries Quarry, Figure 9A). Thompson and Fellows (1970) and Thompson (1986) reported 141 ft (43 m) of section near Springfield, Missouri, which we were unable to verify. Huffman (1958) indicated the formation generally is 60–80 ft (18.3–24.4 m) thick in Oklahoma but that locally as much as 176–250 ft (53.7–76.3 m) are present in central Cherokee and southwestern Adair counties. We were unable to verify these greater thicknesses due to limited exposures. The southernmost exposure that we encountered is the Highway 62–82 locality in Cherokee County (Figures 9A, 11A). Here about 2 ft (0.6 m) of light-colored mudstone to wackestone unconformably overlies the Reeds Spring and is overlain by the Short Creek Oolite, the latter with a disconformable top. Huffman (1958, 1959) showed the formation is absent farther south in Oklahoma by pre-Meramecian erosion. In Arkansas relatively thick Bentonville sections (80 ft [24.4 m] or greater) are present as far south as Benton and central Searcy counties (Figure 13). Farther south the formation is poorly exposed because of pre-St. Louis erosion.

Figure 13.

Measured Bentonville Limestone section in central Searcy County, AR.

Figure 13.

Measured Bentonville Limestone section in central Searcy County, AR.

The Bentonville overlies Reeds Spring Limestone and chert in northeastern and eastern outcrops (Figure 10A) and the Pineville tripolite elsewhere (Figures 9A, 10A, 12A). Lithology is dominantly moderately cherty, medium- to thick-bedded, relatively fine-grained wackestone and more abundant lenses and interbeds of locally cross-stratified, coarser grained skeletal packstone and grainstone. Crinoids dominate in the rocks, which contain accessory brachiopods, ramose and fenestrate bryozoans, some rugose corals, and other taxa. Chert is ubiquitous and comprises about 20%–40% of the rocks. It is distinct from Reeds Spring chert in that it is mostly light gray to yellowish gray, and it typically is fossiliferous or has abundant fossil molds of crinoids, bryozoans, and other taxa. Meter-thick sections that coarsen and thicken upward from wackestone–packstone to packstone–grainstone are present locally but such cycles are not present everywhere. Instead, the rocks commonly include stacked beds that either fine upward from mainly crinoidal sands to dominantly wackestones and then coarsen-upward back into crinoidal sands (e.g., Kirschman–Jeffries Quarry; Figure 9A and Turner Station; Figure 10C) or which fine upward from packstone to grainstone. Many skeletal sand beds have erosional bases. Very coarse-grained, low-angle tabular cross-stratified packstones to grainstones with abundant brachiopod shell-rich layers are conspicuous in the lower part of the formation in Searcy County, Arkansas (Figure 13), and many of the shells are oriented convex-up. The lower part of the formation in a narrow, east–west trending belt along Interstate 44 from Joplin to Springfield, Missouri (Figure 1B), is mostly very coarse-grained crinoid grainstone.

The Short Creek Member is thick-bedded, generally noncherty, locally cross-stratified, ooid grainstone that is present from the northern outcrop to as far south as Cherokee County, Oklahoma (Figure 11A). Thickness is 1.5–11 ft (0.5–3.4 m) and is greatest in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. Unaltered ooid cortices suggest original calcite mineralogy. The member is thin to absent at some exposures (e.g., Figure 12B) and its upper contact is disconformable. We have not found unequivocal evidence of subaerial exposure or meteoric alteration of the rocks.

Inferred Depositional Environments

Up-dip correlatives of the Bentonville limestone north of our study area are mainly high-energy, shallow-water skeletal sands on the main shelf of the Burlington shelf (Figure 1A; Lane, 1978; Lane and DeKeyser, 1980; Franseen, 2006), and the formation grades down-dip into the Reeds Spring Limestone. Based on these relationships and its mix of muddy and grainy lithologies, we infer Bentonville deposition in a moderate to periodically high-energy environment slightly deeper and down-dip of the sand facies tract to the north. In contrast, the Short Creek Member was deposited in a shallower water, higher energy environment as inferred for other midcontinent Mississippian oolites (e.g., Keith and Zuppann, 1993). There is no evidence that the Bentonville deepens southward. Rather, the thin section at the Highway 62–82 exposure in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is inferred shallow-water deposits, and much of the thick section in Searcy County, Arkansas, is inferred high-energy skeletal sands that are nearshore and possibly shoreface deposits (e.g., Friedman et al., 1992). Boardman et al. (2013) found no conodont zones missing between the Short Creek and basal Meramecian Ritchey limestone. Hence the disconformity at the top of the member suggests either marine erosion or only a brief period of subaerial exposure.

According to Thompson (1986) and others (e.g., Kaiser, 1950), brachiopods and crinoids in eastern outcrops define “Burlington-age” and overlying “Keokuk-age” strata in the Bentonville. The basal coarse-grained crinoidal sands along Interstate 44 from Joplin to Springfield are “Burlington-age” beds, and only “Keokuk-age” beds are present south and west of there (e.g., Huffman, 1958). These relationships suggest progradation to the southwest. Where “Burlington-age” strata are absent, the base of the formation was regarded as a minor unconformity by Huffman (1958, 1959) and Thompson (1986). If it is unconformable, the Burlington–Keokuk contact may be within tripolitic chert in the lower part of the formation at, for example, the Kirschman–Jeffries Quarry (Figure 9A).

Depositional Architecture of Reeds Spring and Bentonville Limestones

Based on conodonts (Figure 12C), the upper Pierson, Reeds Spring, and Bentonville limestones comprise a regionally diachronous, progradational stratal package of relatively shallow-water and coeval deeper water facies. The rocks are seaward of the low-energy “inner shelf” and the “main shelf” facies tract of high-energy, shallow-water skeletal sands on the Burlington shelf (Figure 1A), which at least in western Missouri and Kansas was a southward-deepening ramp (Lane, 1978; Lane and DeKeyser, 1980; Montgomery et al., 1998; Watney et al., 2001). Hence the “inner” and “main” shelf designations are synonymous with inner ramp and middle ramp, respectively, and the latter extends into our study area (Figure 1A). We therefore consider the upper Pierson and Bentonville limestones to be distal middle-ramp deposits whereas the Reeds Spring represents outer-ramp facies. Correlative rocks in north–central Missouri at least locally are somewhat more distally steepened ramps with inferred slope deposits (King, 1986).

Ritchey Limestone

This unit is not widely exposed because of pre-St. Louis erosion. Maximum thicknesses are 33 ft and 38 ft (10.1 and 11.6 m) in Missouri and Arkansas, respectively, it thins to 6 ft (1.8 m) or less in northeastern Oklahoma and is not present south of Ottawa County. Lithology, fossils, and sedimentologic architecture (Figure 9B) are similar to the Bentonville. Limestones near the formation base locally are slightly glauconitic and contain some ooid grainstone, and thin tripolites are present locally. Based on conodonts (Figure 12C), the Tahlequah limestone in and south of Cherokee County, Oklahoma, is coeval with the Ritchey limestone. Lithology is glauconitic skeletal packstone to grainstone with some reworked Short Creek ooids and clasts of ooid grainstone, and it has high conodont diversity and abundance (Godwin and Puckette, 2015). The formation is overlain unconformably by Chesterian-age rocks in the Mayes Group.

Inferred Depositional Environments

The Ritchey and Tahlequah limestones were deposited as transgressive, shallow-marine deposits in low- to high-energy environments similar to those inferred for the Bentonville limestone (Mazzullo et al., 2013; Godwin and Puckette, 2015). The Ritchey and Tahlequah are within a single conodont biozone (Figure 12C), and we cannot determine if they also were regionally progradational based on exposures.

ANOMALOUS LITHOSTRATIGRAPHIC ATTRIBUTES

There are several lithostratigraphic attributes of the Mississippian rocks in the study area that are anomalous relative to regional lithofacies patterns and previously published facies models of the Burlington shelf (e.g., Lane, 1978; Lane and DeKeyser, 1980). These anomalies are present at both local and regional scales. They are common in the St. Joe group and to a lesser extent in the Reeds Spring Limestone. No such anomalies are indicated in the Bentonville, Ritchey, or Tahlequah limestones.

Southward Shallowing of St. Joe Group Shelves

The St. Joe group shelf area is divided into discrete northern, central, and southern segments based on contrasting lithostratigraphic attributes (Figure 14A). Whereas the Compton in the northern segment deepens north of the study area, lithologies in it and the Pierson shallow dramatically into the central and southern shelf segments (Figures 3, 4). Here, low-energy mudstone–wackestone tracts are interspersed with lobate to elongate, approximately east–west oriented areas of both thick and thin stratal sections of high-energy crinoidal sands (Figure 5A, C). These formations are very thin in the southern segment yet they mostly maintain this lithology at many exposures (Figure 4A). On-lap of eroded formations onto an inferred paleo-high is suggested at some outcrops (Figure 14B). There also is evidence of local shallowing in the Northview in the central and southern shelf segments as variously indicated by (1) red and green shale of inferred nearshore-marine origin; (2) laminated silty lime mudstone with desiccation cracks interpreted as tidal-flat deposits (Mazzullo et al., 2013); or (3) red mudrock with peds interpreted as incipient paleosol (Figures 3A, B, D; 4A; 5B). Southward shallowing in the St. Joe group is counter to regional paleobathymetry inferred by Lane (1978, 1984), Lane and DeKeyser (1980), Manger and Thompson (1982), and Gutschick and Sandberg (1983) for the Mississippian section here.

Figure 14.

(A) Tectonic segmentation of study area. (B) Outcrop photo rotated so that St. Joe and Reeds Spring are horizontal, thus hinting at the apparent Compton and Pierson pinch-out against a paleo-high of eroded and tilted Woodford. Hanging Rock locality (12-17N-22E) in Cherokee Co., OK. Northview is not present here.

Figure 14.

(A) Tectonic segmentation of study area. (B) Outcrop photo rotated so that St. Joe and Reeds Spring are horizontal, thus hinting at the apparent Compton and Pierson pinch-out against a paleo-high of eroded and tilted Woodford. Hanging Rock locality (12-17N-22E) in Cherokee Co., OK. Northview is not present here.

Shallowing of the Reeds Spring Limestone

Pronounced shallowing of the upper Reeds Spring not related to the presence of proximal outer-ramp deposits is indicated in Barry and McDonald counties in southwestern Missouri. Here the tops of the Scaliognathus anchoralis–Doliognathus latus, Polygnathus mehli–sublineatus, and the lowermost Gnathodus bulbosus biozones pass southward through outer-ramp deposits into shallow-water Pierson limestones (Figure 10A).

Local Erosion and Folding in the St. Joe and Reeds Spring

In addition to regional southward thinning, there also are outcrops in the central and southern segments where formations in the St. Joe group are anomalously thin or replete with unconformities as verified by missing conodonts (Boardman et al., 2013). These unconformities are of local extent (e.g., Laudon, 1939; Huffman, 1958, 1959), and they are not present in the northern segment. Some Compton exposures along Highway 49–71 in McDonald County, Missouri, for example, are 30 ft (9.2 m) thick or greater that adjoin outcrops where an eroded section is less than 9.5 ft (2.9 m) thick (Figure 15A). Other occurrences of pre-Northview erosion of the Compton are present in southwestern and eastern McDonald and southwestern Taney counties in Missouri (Figure 5A). The Northview likewise is locally very thin to absent in the central segment as a result of pre-Pierson erosion and, in some exposures, possibly also nondeposition (Figures 4A, 5B, 7B, 14B, 15E). There also is evidence of periodic folding and erosion in St. Joe group formations at numerous exposures. Maximum Compton thickness of 29 ft (8.8 m) at Branson Airport (Figure 3B), for example, contrasts a much thinner section (13–19 ft [4.0–5.8 m]) at the north end of the roadcut where the rocks were folded into a low-relief, east–west trending anticline and eroded prior to Northview deposition (Figure 15B). Eroded, low-amplitude anticlines are present locally in the Northview (e.g., Café Scraper locality; Figure 4A). Crinoidal sands in the Pierson are 62 ft (18.9 m) thick at the exposure shown in Figure 15C, but less than 1 mi (1.6 km) away, the rocks were deformed into east–west trending folds and eroded down to the Upper multistriatus-cuneiformis Biozone (Figure 15D). A 9 ft (2.7 m) high buried hill in the Pierson (Figure 15E) likewise was folded and eroded down to this biozone prior to deposition of the Reeds Spring, and deeper erosion to the immediate west along this roadcut exhumed an underlying reef (Figure 7C). Reeds Spring beds on-lap both Pierson erosion surfaces. An angular unconformity between the Pierson and Reeds Spring is well exposed in a roadcut on Highway 65 in Boone County, Arkansas (Section 16 T21N-R21W), far from the exposure in Figure 14E. Pronounced erosion of undeformed Pierson strata also is indicated at several outcrops in the central segment (e.g., Figures 5C, 15F).

Figure 15.

(A) Eroded, undeformed Compton wackestone–packstone and thin Northview at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (34-21N-31W) immediately south of thicker exposure shown at south end of Figure 17A, southern McDonald Co., MO. (B) Compton folding and erosion, north end of exposure shown in Figure 6A. (C) Complete Pierson Limestone section and conodont biozones at Jane North. (D) Angular unconformity at top of folded Pierson at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (11-21N-32W) in McDonald Co., MO; erosion removed post-Gnathodus multistriatus Zone beds. Note on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata. (E) Buried hill of slightly folded Pierson Limestone and intraformational unconformities at Hwy 412 exposure cited in text. (F) Thin Pierson Limestone (25-21N-31W) in Benton Co., AR eroded down to Upper Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. Note shallow channel in the Reeds Spring.

Figure 15.

(A) Eroded, undeformed Compton wackestone–packstone and thin Northview at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (34-21N-31W) immediately south of thicker exposure shown at south end of Figure 17A, southern McDonald Co., MO. (B) Compton folding and erosion, north end of exposure shown in Figure 6A. (C) Complete Pierson Limestone section and conodont biozones at Jane North. (D) Angular unconformity at top of folded Pierson at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (11-21N-32W) in McDonald Co., MO; erosion removed post-Gnathodus multistriatus Zone beds. Note on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata. (E) Buried hill of slightly folded Pierson Limestone and intraformational unconformities at Hwy 412 exposure cited in text. (F) Thin Pierson Limestone (25-21N-31W) in Benton Co., AR eroded down to Upper Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. Note shallow channel in the Reeds Spring.

In the Reeds Spring, there is a beveled, low-amplitude anticline with an east–west axial trend in the lower part of the formation in a quarry in western Carroll County in Arkansas (Figure 8F). The Buffalo River tripolite is present only in Searcy County in Arkansas where there also is an unconformity at the top of the Pierson Limestone (Figure 11E). The top of the Reeds Spring is unconformable at the Highway 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. All of these features are of only local extent. The formation pinches out erosionally south of the latter locality (Huffman, 1958, 1959).

Marine versus Subaerial Erosion

There is no definitive evidence of subaerial exposure beneath many of the unconformities in the St. Joe group or in the Reeds Spring Limestone, which suggests sea-floor erosion (e.g., Baird, 2007; Payne et al., 2007). Yet, dissolution vugs in eroded Compton sections (Figure 4A), red mudrock with incipient peds interpreted as paleosols in the Northview (Figure 3D), and the Buffalo River tripolite in the Reeds Spring instead suggest local, periodic subaerial exposure. According to Morris et al. (2013), other evidence of local meteoric diagenesis in some Compton and Pierson reefs in the central shelf segment includes: (1) vugs and dissolution-enlarged fractures filled with siliciclastic silt (Figure 16A); (2) partial dissolution of marine cement and fossils concurrent with vug formation; and (3) partial to complete occlusion of dissolution pores by vadose calcite-crystal silt or equant calcite cement, the latter with depleted 18O and 13C isotopic compositions.

Figure 16.

(A) Dissolution vugs filled with siliciclastic and calcite-crystal silt in uppermost dislodged Compton reef blocks shown in Figure 17A. (B) Extent of eroded Pierson Limestone with paleosol at top in southern study area. (C) Columnar section (left) and photo (right) of this paleosol. (D) Slab of paleosol with symmetrical and asymmetrical pisoids (white and black arrows, respectively) with circum-granular cracks. (E) Paleosol with sheet-cracks filled with red and green shale (white and black arrows, respectively).

Figure 16.

(A) Dissolution vugs filled with siliciclastic and calcite-crystal silt in uppermost dislodged Compton reef blocks shown in Figure 17A. (B) Extent of eroded Pierson Limestone with paleosol at top in southern study area. (C) Columnar section (left) and photo (right) of this paleosol. (D) Slab of paleosol with symmetrical and asymmetrical pisoids (white and black arrows, respectively) with circum-granular cracks. (E) Paleosol with sheet-cracks filled with red and green shale (white and black arrows, respectively).

More significant, however, are the many Pierson outcrops in the central and southern segments with up to 7.5 inches (19 cm) of green to reddish shaly limestone or calcareous mudrock with incipient peds, symmetrical and asymmetrical pisolites with circumgranular cracks, and sheet-cracks filled with red and green clay at the top of eroded sections (Figure 16C–E). These rocks are interpreted as paleosols (e.g., Retallack, 1988; Bain and Foos, 1993), and their regional extent (Figure 16B) suggests broad subaerial exposure here in the early Osagean.

Down-Lapping Wedges and Conglomerates in the Compton Limestone

Wedges of down-lapping strata with dislodged reef blocks and limestone conglomerates are present in the Compton in southwestern Missouri (Figure 17A–E). Sections with such wedges are thicker (20–37 ft [6.1–11.3 m]) than adjoining strata. Down-lapping strata typically are mudstone to wackestone (Figure 17C–E), although crinoidal sand also is present at some exposures (Figure 17A). Reef blocks are 9–17 ft (2.7–5.2 m) thick and 6–34 ft (1.8–10.4 m) long, and smaller ones are 1–3 ft (0.3–1 m) long. Deformed or rounded block margins (Figure 17D, E) suggest they were semilithified when redeposited. Down-lapping strata dip mostly to the north–northwest, but the beds at the location in Figure 17D appear to dip generally eastward. Adjoining undisturbed strata are crinoid wackestone or crinoidal sand, and at some localities, wedges are on-lapped by upper Compton crinoidal sand (Figure 17A). Deformation of down-lapping muddy limestones is common (Figure 17C, E) and probably resulted from loading beneath large blocks. Clast-supported conglomerate up to 4 ft (1.2 m) thick is present at the distal ends of some wedges and pinches out laterally (Figure 17A). Clasts are reef-derived and also nonreef wackestone that average 2 inches (5 cm) in length.

Figure 17.

(A) Schematic of down-lapping Compton beds with dislodged reef blocks adjoining a thinner section with limestone conglomerate (left column is same as in Figure 3A) at Jane South (18-21N-31W) in McDonald Co., MO. White arrow points to limestone conglomerate bull-dozed ahead of the largest reef block. (B, C) Resedimented reef blocks here. (D, E) Roadcuts of dislodged reef blocks (outlined) in down-lapping Compton wackestone at Noel (15-T21N-R33W) and north of there (9-21N-33W), respectively, in McDonald Co., MO. Northview is not present here. Down-lapping strata in D pass SE along this roadcut to 9 ft (2.7 m) of non-down-lapping beds. (F) Depositional model of down-lapping strata, dislodged reef blocks and conglomerate in the Compton.

Figure 17.

(A) Schematic of down-lapping Compton beds with dislodged reef blocks adjoining a thinner section with limestone conglomerate (left column is same as in Figure 3A) at Jane South (18-21N-31W) in McDonald Co., MO. White arrow points to limestone conglomerate bull-dozed ahead of the largest reef block. (B, C) Resedimented reef blocks here. (D, E) Roadcuts of dislodged reef blocks (outlined) in down-lapping Compton wackestone at Noel (15-T21N-R33W) and north of there (9-21N-33W), respectively, in McDonald Co., MO. Northview is not present here. Down-lapping strata in D pass SE along this roadcut to 9 ft (2.7 m) of non-down-lapping beds. (F) Depositional model of down-lapping strata, dislodged reef blocks and conglomerate in the Compton.

Thin (<2 ft [<0.6 m]) beds of limestone conglomerate not obviously associated with down-lapping strata or reef blocks also are present at some Compton exposures in the central segment. Examples are the Chesapeake I-44 locality (Figure 3A) and a roadcut along Highway 49–71 (Section 12 T20N-R31W) in Benton County, Arkansas. The rocks are clast- or matrix-supported and the wackestone clasts are 1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm) long.

Northview Depocenter

The only anomaly present on the northern segment of the St. Joe group shelf is the east–southeast trending depocenter in the Northview Formation that is filled with about 80 ft (24.4 m) of nearshore, shallow-water siltstone and silty shale (Figure 5B). This anomalous thickness was noted by Thompson and Fellows (1970) and Thompson (1986).

SYNDEPOSITIONAL TECTONISM

We believe that the model that best explains these anomalous attributes of the St. Joe group and Reeds Spring Limestone is one that is related genetically to Ouachita tectonism (Figure 18) following Quinlan and Beaumont (1984) and Tankard (1986). That is, approximately east–west oriented, linear fore-bulge highs and leading shallow back-bulge depocenters formed and migrated generally northward across the study area during compressional phases, and they were uplifted further and back-tracked southward during intervening relaxation phases. Such structural behavior responded to temporal variations in sediment-loading and thrust-loading in the Ouachita orogen (e.g., Thomas, 1985; Viele and Thomas, 1989). Lithofacies mosaics in the Compton and Pierson in the central and southern shelf segments support this interpretation. They comprise generally low-energy deposits punctuated randomly by areas of shallow-water, high-energy crinoidal sand (Figure 5A, C) and localities with erosion and local folding. Scattered exposures of nearshore-marine shale, tidal-flat deposits, thin paleosols, and localities with erosion similarly punctuate low-energy facies in the Northview (Figure 5B). These mosaics argue against broad regional uplift as a cause of southward shallowing in the St. Joe group. Rather, we contend they suggest deposition on shelves affected by recurrent passages of fore-bulge highs and adjoining back-bulge basins of limited areal extent.

Figure 18.

Syndepositional tectonic model related to Ouachita tectonism (after Quinlan and Beaumont, 1984 and Tankard, 1986).

Figure 18.

Syndepositional tectonic model related to Ouachita tectonism (after Quinlan and Beaumont, 1984 and Tankard, 1986).

That is, fore-bulge highs were loci variously of folding, formation of local marine and subaerial unconformities, deposition of shallow-water crinoidal sand, nearshore shale, and tidal-flat deposits, and paleosol formation in the St. Joe group. Their presence also resulted in on-lap of eroded St. Joe group strata onto a presumed paleotopographic high (Figure 14B) and formation of the extensive paleosol at the top of the Pierson Limestone in the southern part of the study area. Evidence of fore-bulge highs is also present in the Reeds Spring, specifically where outer-ramp facies pass into Pierson shallow-water limestones onto an inferred positive feature in southwestern Missouri. Intraformational folding, local marine erosion, and development of the Buffalo River tripolite in the formation also occurred on fore-bulge highs. East–west oriented fold axes in the St. Joe and Reeds Spring are evidence of north–south compression consistent with Ouachita tectonic involvement. Conversely, we contend that areas with thick crinoidal sands in the Compton and Pierson in the central shelf segment and the thick (80 ft [24.4 m]) Northview to the north record deposition in associated shallow but relatively rapidly subsiding, back-bulge depocenters. North-dipping cross-stratified rocks in the Compton and Pierson (Figures 3B, 4B) are consistent with such an interpretation. Down-lapping strata, dislodged reef blocks, and conglomerates derived from older beds in the Compton likely were shed off of fore-bulge highs and redeposited in a general northward direction into adjoining back-bulge basins (Figure 17F). General eastward transport of such rocks in the Compton (Figure 17D) apparently occurred on the eastern edge of a fore-bulge high. All of these attributes of the St. Joe and Boone groups section support our contention of recurrent tectonism in the study area. Multiple fore-bulge highs and adjoining basins may have been present at given times during deposition.

Such in-board deformation during deposition is not restricted to our study area but is invoked elsewhere (e.g., Read and Dorobek, 1993; Smith and Read, 2001; Al-Tawil et al., 2003). On a regional scale, the onset of Reeds Spring deposition apparently was induced by foundering of the Kanoka ridge in the central and southern shelf segments. Rapid increase in subsidence along a newly formed hinge line, manifested as the up-dip limit of the formation, resulted in initial northward back-stepping of deep-water environments (e.g., Manger and Thompson, 1982; Thompson, 1986; Evans et al., 2011). Faulting likely accompanied tectonism at times, and some paleo-highs and depocenters may have been fault-bounded, although we have not found clear evidence of such. Ouachita tectonism is believed to have been most active from the late Meramecian into the Early Pennsylvanian (Thomas, 1985; Viele and Thomas, 1989; Poole et al., 2005; Whitaker and Engelder, 2006), although our evidence suggests it began during the Kinderhookian if not earlier. Others have also proposed early Ouachita tectonism (Ham and Wilson, 1967; Keller and Cebull, 1973; Johnson et al., 1988; Noble, 1993).

The Kanoka Ridge

The main focus of syndepositional tectonism was on the central and southern shelf segments during deposition of the St. Joe group, with lesser tectonism later. We refer to this area as the Kanoka ridge, which is traced westward into correlative subsurface rocks in Kansas and Oklahoma (Mazzullo et al., 2016). The regionally extensive paleosol at the top of the Pierson suggests that much of the southern study area was subaerially exposed during the latest early Osagean on a high part of the Kanoka ridge. The St. Joe group is very thin here (Figure 5) and is not present farther south, for example, in the subsurface of Johnson County in Arkansas (Davis, 2007). We contend that the group pinched out by on-lap and erosion against a higher part of the Kanoka ridge. Although the ridge foundered prior to Reeds Spring deposition, it was periodically reactivated after that. The Highway 62–82 exposure in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, for example, apparently was on part of a reactivated fore-bulge high on the Reeds Spring on which thin Bentonville strata on-lapped. Complete erosion of the formation farther south in Oklahoma likely occurred on even higher segments of this high. Similar reactivation of the subsurface Kanoka ridge is also indicated (Mazzullo et al., 2016). According to Huffman (1958, 1959), southward erosion of the Bentonville in Oklahoma resulted from uplift, northward tilting, and pre-Meramecian erosion. We contend that this tectonism reflects another period of reactivation of the southern segment of the Kanoka ridge. Because of limited exposures, we can not determine if either of these tectonic events occurred in Arkansas.

We have not found any evidence of shelf margins or of southward deepening in the St. Joe group, Reeds Spring, or Bentonville limestones as suggested by others (Manger and Shanks, 1977; Lane, 1978, 1984; Lane and DeKeyser, 1980; Sandberg and Gutschick, 1980; Manger and Thompson, 1982; Gutschick and Sandberg, 1983; King, 1986; Shelby, 1986; Childress and Grammer, 2015). According to Cook and Mullins (1983), for example, slope deposits are characterized by features such as slides and slumps, mud-supported conglomerates, steep sediment foresets, and extensive intraformational truncation surfaces. Except for dislodged reef blocks, none of these features is present in the study area. Significantly, Compton slumped reef blocks are within down-lapping strata that do not dip distally to the south. Hence we contend that the Kanoka ridge precluded development of a shelf margin in the Lower to Middle Mississippian section in the study area. Many of the workers cited above maintained that southward thinning reflects deepening into biotically condensed, starved basinal shale. None of them, however, actually identified exposures of deep-water shale or presented evidence of biotic condensation. Conodont biostratigraphy (Boardman et al., 2010, 2013) instead indicates the absence of biotic condensation in the St. Joe group and Reeds Spring Limestone in the southern study area. These workers also did not acknowledge that the Reeds Spring and Bentonville thin southward at least in Oklahoma by erosion rather than depositional thinning and that there is no evidence of pronounced southward thinning in outcrops in Arkansas. We contend that distal deepening in the study area at least in the St. Joe group and Reeds Spring Limestone was precluded by the existence of the Kanoka ridge.

SEQUENCE STRATIGRAPHY

Major unconformities bound the Kinderhookian to basal Meramecian section in the study area and throughout the midcontinent, and they are recognized globally (e.g., Ross and Ross, 1987, 1988; Kammer et al., 1990). Therefore they reflect eustatic sea-level drops, and the pre-St. Louis unconformity at the top of the Ritchey–Tahlequah limestones is the most prominent Mississippian erosion surface in the midcontinent (Witzke and Bunker, 2005; Boardman et al., 2013). These unconformities bracket an inferred supersequence, the duration of which was about 20 m.y. according to the timescale in Haq and Schutter (2008). It comprises five depositional sequences that thicken upward into the Reeds Spring and then thin upward above that (Figure 19A). Higher resolution cycles are present in some sequences, but their characterization is beyond the scope of this paper.

Figure 19.

(A) Depositional sequences and magnitude of syndepositional tectonism. Maximum flooding surfaces indicated by black arrows, TST and HST are transgressive and highstand systems tracts, respectively. (B) Depositional sequence and component parasequences in Mississippian stratotype area (from Witzke and Bunker, 1996). Their parasequences and our depositional sequences are numbered but no correlation is implied.

Figure 19.

(A) Depositional sequences and magnitude of syndepositional tectonism. Maximum flooding surfaces indicated by black arrows, TST and HST are transgressive and highstand systems tracts, respectively. (B) Depositional sequence and component parasequences in Mississippian stratotype area (from Witzke and Bunker, 1996). Their parasequences and our depositional sequences are numbered but no correlation is implied.

The unconformity at the top of the Pineville tripolite resulted from regional lowstand (Mazzullo et al., 2016). Although uplift and erosion at the end of the Osagean is indicated in northeastern Oklahoma (Huffman, 1958, 1959), we found no evidence of such in Arkansas. Hence we believe the disconformity at the top of the Short Creek Oolite also is of eustatic origin and reflects long-term sea-level fall during the Osagean (Ross and Ross, 1988; Haq and Schutter, 2008) overprinted in Oklahoma by tectonism. All other unconformities within the section were tectonically driven. Unconformity-capped, cross-stratified rocks in the Pierson (Figures 4B, 15C) are not a chronostratigraphic unit because, based on conodonts, they are separate diachronous rock bodies (Figure 19C). Hence they are of no sequence-stratigraphic significance.

Each depositional sequence (DS) includes a transgressive systems tract, maximum flooding surface (mfs) deposits of shaly lime mudstone to wackestone, and a highstand systems tract (Figure 19A). Inferred shallowing-upward in DS-1 is based on increasing siliciclastic content and decreasing conodont abundance (Boardman et al., 2013). Thompson (1986) and others recognized an unconformity at the top of the Northview but Boardman et al. (2013) found no biostratigraphic evidence for it. Hence an unconformable Kinderhookian–Osagean boundary suggested by Buggisch et al. (2008) and Kammer and Matchen (2008) is not indicated in the study area. DS-2 shallows upward to interbedded shaly limestones and green fossiliferous shales near the top of the Pierson (Figures 4B, 15C). Crinoidal, red shaly limestone and red shale near the base and middle of the formation (e.g., at Branson Airport, Figure 4B) are present only at a few exposures and reflect local shallowing. Higher resolution cycles and the presumed microkarsts in the Northview recognized by Childress and Grammer (2015) in our DS-1 and DS-2 can not be correlated to nearby exposures. Insofar as they are present in a tectonically active area, their sequence-stratigraphic significance is suspect.

DS-3 comprises uppermost Pierson beds and the Reeds Spring Limestone, and it shallows upward above the mfs to proximal outer-ramp facies overprinted locally by the Pineville tripolite. The top of this member is the upper sequence boundary in the encircled area in Figure 11D, and it formed immediately after deposition of the lower Middle Gnathodus “texanus”–pseudosemiglaber conodont biozone. An unconformity is not present at the top of the Reeds Spring to the east because these beds are older due to progradation. An equivalent unconformity likely is within the lower Bentonville here, but limited exposures precluded its identification. DS-4 comprises the Bentonville limestone, which shallows upward into the Short Creek Oolite. Price and Grammer (2015) noted higher resolution cycles in this sequence that also are not readily correlated to other exposures. To be significant, future studies of high-frequency cyclicity in the study area must establish temporal correlations between the diachronous wedges that comprise these progradational formations. DS-5 in the Ritchey shallows upward into crinoidal sand, some tripolite beds, and dissolution vugs in limestone and chert beneath the pre-St. Louis unconformity. Shallowing upward is not readily obvious in the Tahlequah limestone (Godwin and Puckette, 2015).

Haq and Schutter (2008) recognized seven depositional sequences in Kinderhookian to basal Meramecian strata, but Evans et al. (2011) inferred only three in these rocks in Missouri. Witzke and Bunker (1996) included correlative rocks in the Mississippian stratotype area into one sequence with six component parasequences (Figure 19B). Manger and Shelby (2000) likewise interpreted these rocks in Arkansas as a sequence, but Handford and Manger (1993) and Handford (1995) excluded basal Meramecian strata from it. Further studies clearly are needed to resolve these interpretive differences. According to Frakes et al. (1992) and Montañez and Poulsen (2013), evidence of significant continental glaciation during the Kinderhookian to early Meramecian is equivocal. Yet, Haq and Schutter (2008) invoked glacial intervals during this time. Hence the driving forces for cyclicity in the study area also require additional study.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

Mississippian rocks in the study area comprise a supersequence of about 20 m.y. duration within which five depositional sequences are present. The lithostratigraphic and architectural development of these rocks were affected by recurrent periods of tectonism related to early pulses of Ouachita plate convergence. Relatively pronounced tectonism during the Kinderhookian to early Osagean created the Kanoka ridge in the central to southern outcrop area. Southward shallowing in the St. Joe group onto this ridge was accompanied by local uplift along fore-bulge highs and some folding and development of marine and subaerial unconformities not related to eustatic lowstand. Tectonically dislodged limestone conglomerates and sediment wedges with reef blocks and limestone conglomerates in the Compton were shed from some highs and redeposited into adjoining back-bulge basins that also were loci of thick crinoidal sand deposition. The development of extensive paleosol at the top of the Pierson Limestone in the southern study area, and on-lap and pinchout of the St. Joe group, characterized the highest parts of the Kanoka ridge. Foundering of the ridge in the middle Osagean resulted in regional subsidence and northward back-stepping of deeper water environments. The up-dip limit of the formation is a hinge zone from which the Reeds Spring–Bentonville middle-ramp and outer-ramp facies system prograded. As much as 110 mi (177 km) of progradation across the study area is indicated. According to Haq and Schutter (2008), the duration of the Osagean is about 9 m.y., and if we arbitrarily assign 6 m.y. to these formations then their rate of progradation was 18 mi (30 km) per m.y. This rate surpasses that in other ancient systems such as the Permian Capitan reef (Garber et al., 1989). Extensive and rapid progradation likely were facilitated by interplay among several factors, including (A) decreasing subsidence and accommodation space over time concurrent with long-term eustatic fall; (B) deposition of most of the Reeds Spring in only moderate water depths as is suggested by trace fossils; and (C) prolific carbonate sediment production on the Burlington shelf and significant sediment transport into the outer-ramp (e.g., Schlager, 1992). Reactivation of the southern part of the Kanoka ridge during Reeds Spring deposition resulted in some local uplifts, folding, and marine and subaerial unconformity development. The formation was eroded farther south, at least in Oklahoma, presumably on a higher part of the ridge. There seemingly was no tectonism during deposition of younger limestones, although renewed uplift of the Kanoka ridge in Oklahoma resulted in pre-Meramecian erosion of the Bentonville limestone. Whether the Bentonville in Arkansas also was eroded or it pinched out depositionally remains to be determined. That notwithstanding, the presence of the Kanoka ridge in the study area precluded southward deepening of the Lower to Middle Mississippian section into starved, condensed basinal shales. The basal Meramecian Ritchey–Tahlequah limestones are mainly shallow-water limestones truncated by the pre-St. Louis unconformity.

Relevance to Other Areas in the Midcontinent

Exposures in the Mississippi River Valley stratotype contain some sedimentological and architectural attributes that are similar to those in our study area that are of inferred tectonic origin. Witzke and Bunker (2005), for example, indicated there was progressively more erosion of upper Kinderhookian limestones toward the southeast in Iowa, which is counter to regional paleo-slope. They and Witzke et al. (1990) considered that this and other instances of erosion occurred on sea-floor highs, which we contend may be Ouachita-related fore-bulge highs. Witzke et al. (1990) also showed evidence of syndepositional deformation of the Osagean Burlington Formation in southeastern Iowa and for widespread pre-Burlington erosion in western and central Illinois, both of which also may reflect such tectonism. Noble (1993) suggested that nondeposition and erosion by marine geostrophic currents explains the absence of Kinderhookian, Osagean, and locally basal Meramecian strata in the foreland immediately cratonward of the Ouachita fold-thrust belt in northwestern Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, northern Texas, and southeastern New Mexico. We instead put forth the suggestion that erosion and nondeposition may have occurred on high parts of the Kanoka ridge in Arkansas and similar fore-bulge highs to the south and southwest that formed as a result of Ouachita tectonism (Wilhite et al., 2011). Houseknecht et al. (2014) likewise suggested uplift and erosion of Mississippian strata in these areas.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Darwin Boardman passed away in January 2015. We dedicate this paper to the memory of our friend and colleague, who was an avid and extremely inquisitive geologist with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and discovery.

Mazzullo and Wilhite thank Woolsey Energy Co., and Mazzullo acknowledges the Berg Faculty Fellowship at Wichita State University for their support. Boardman and Godwin thank James Kemp and Jerry Arnold, Kemp Quarries, and Terry Byrne and Dan Tiller, BuzziUnicem Quarry, both in Oklahoma, for quarry access and logistical support, and we all thank John View, Journagan Construction Co., Springfield, Missouri, for access to the Journagan Ozark Quarry. Morris thanks AAPG, GSA, and the Kansas Geological Society Foundation for their support of his thesis research. We gratefully appreciate Tom Thompson for introducing us to Mississippian exposures in the tri-state area, and Jim Puckette and Zak Lasemi for reviewing the original manuscript.

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Figures & Tables

Figure 1.

(A) Setting of study area (after Lane, 1982). (B) Mississippian outcrop and locations of measured sections.

Figure 1.

(A) Setting of study area (after Lane, 1982). (B) Mississippian outcrop and locations of measured sections.

Figure 2.

Outcrop lithostratigraphy from Mazzullo et al. (2013). Xs denote tripolitic chert that extends up-dip into transitional Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata.

Figure 2.

Outcrop lithostratigraphy from Mazzullo et al. (2013). Xs denote tripolitic chert that extends up-dip into transitional Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata.

Figure 3.

(A, B) Thickness and lithologies in the Compton and Northview formations; arrows denote local unconformities in the Compton. Vertical scale in ft (m), and this scale and legend apply to ensuing figures. The Jane South exposure in panel A is also shown in Figure 17A. (C) Bioturbated siltstone channels in the Northview (1-32N-24W) in Polk Co., MO. (D) Outcrop with paleosols in Northview Formation.

Figure 3.

(A, B) Thickness and lithologies in the Compton and Northview formations; arrows denote local unconformities in the Compton. Vertical scale in ft (m), and this scale and legend apply to ensuing figures. The Jane South exposure in panel A is also shown in Figure 17A. (C) Bioturbated siltstone channels in the Northview (1-32N-24W) in Polk Co., MO. (D) Outcrop with paleosols in Northview Formation.

Figure 4.

(A) St. Joe group in southern study area. Some conodont zones are missing at the top of the Compton, and Pierson beds at the Jasper Hwy 7 and Big Creek localities are no higher than the Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. White arrows point to paleosols in the Pierson, and the black arrow at Big Creek points to vugs filled with red and/or green shale with quartz grains. (B) Thicknesses and lithologies in the Pierson Limestone. Arrow points to a local unconformity in the section.

Figure 4.

(A) St. Joe group in southern study area. Some conodont zones are missing at the top of the Compton, and Pierson beds at the Jasper Hwy 7 and Big Creek localities are no higher than the Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. White arrows point to paleosols in the Pierson, and the black arrow at Big Creek points to vugs filled with red and/or green shale with quartz grains. (B) Thicknesses and lithologies in the Pierson Limestone. Arrow points to a local unconformity in the section.

Figure 5.

Isopach maps of (A)Compton, showing areas of thick and thin crinoidal sand; (B) Northview, showing localities with nearshore shales, tidal-flat deposits, and areas of erosion; and (C) Pierson, showing areas with thick and thin crinoidal sand and significant erosion of undisturbed beds.

Figure 5.

Isopach maps of (A)Compton, showing areas of thick and thin crinoidal sand; (B) Northview, showing localities with nearshore shales, tidal-flat deposits, and areas of erosion; and (C) Pierson, showing areas with thick and thin crinoidal sand and significant erosion of undisturbed beds.

Figure 6.

Crinoidal sands in the Compton at Branson Airport locality (A) and in the Pierson at Jane North outcrop (B) with reactivation surfaces and top-lapping (yellow arrows), on-lapping (black arrows), and down-lapping (white arrows).

Figure 6.

Crinoidal sands in the Compton at Branson Airport locality (A) and in the Pierson at Jane North outcrop (B) with reactivation surfaces and top-lapping (yellow arrows), on-lapping (black arrows), and down-lapping (white arrows).

Figure 7.

(A) Area of Compton and Pierson reefs. Locations in panels B and C are indicated by these letters. (B) Compton reef. (C) Exposed top of Pierson reef and crestal grainstone. Note unconformities and thinning and on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata over the reef. (D) Stromatactis cavities occluded by radiaxial-fibrous calcite in Compton reef. (E) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of radiaxial-fibrous calcite.

Figure 7.

(A) Area of Compton and Pierson reefs. Locations in panels B and C are indicated by these letters. (B) Compton reef. (C) Exposed top of Pierson reef and crestal grainstone. Note unconformities and thinning and on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata over the reef. (D) Stromatactis cavities occluded by radiaxial-fibrous calcite in Compton reef. (E) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of radiaxial-fibrous calcite.

Figure 8.

(A) Thin-bedded Reeds Spring in quarry near Beaver Lake dam (10-20N-27W) in Carroll Co., AR. (B) Chondrites and smaller Planolites burrows in multi-generational Reeds Spring chert; locality as above. (C) Mudstone wedge in middle Reeds Spring at No-Head Hollow. (D) Incised mudstone-filled channel in middle Reeds Spring, same locality. (E) Transitional upper Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata at Branson West (shown schematically in Figure 10C, column 1). (F) View to east of eroded anticline in lower Reeds Spring in quarry at Beaver Lake dam; same locality as in panel A.

Figure 8.

(A) Thin-bedded Reeds Spring in quarry near Beaver Lake dam (10-20N-27W) in Carroll Co., AR. (B) Chondrites and smaller Planolites burrows in multi-generational Reeds Spring chert; locality as above. (C) Mudstone wedge in middle Reeds Spring at No-Head Hollow. (D) Incised mudstone-filled channel in middle Reeds Spring, same locality. (E) Transitional upper Reeds Spring-Bentonville strata at Branson West (shown schematically in Figure 10C, column 1). (F) View to east of eroded anticline in lower Reeds Spring in quarry at Beaver Lake dam; same locality as in panel A.

Figure 9.

(A) Progradational Reeds Spring Limestone with Pineville Tripolite at top, absence of this member to the east and far southwest, and deepest-water facies in the formation. (B) Lithologies in the Ritchey Limestone at its type locality.

Figure 9.

(A) Progradational Reeds Spring Limestone with Pineville Tripolite at top, absence of this member to the east and far southwest, and deepest-water facies in the formation. (B) Lithologies in the Ritchey Limestone at its type locality.

Figure 10.

(A) Up-dip pinchout of and conodont biozones in the Reeds Spring, which locally passes south into the Pierson. Legend supplements that in Figure 3, and both pertain to ensuing figures. (B) Clasts of Pineville Tripolite (t) and bioturbated Reeds Spring chert (c) in basal Bentonville at Jane North. (C) Some localities where Reeds Spring grades upward into the Bentonville; column 2 is near up-dip pinchout of the Reeds Spring. (D) Columnar section of representative light-colored Reeds Spring limestones in eastern outcrops overlying those in Figure 11D.

Figure 10.

(A) Up-dip pinchout of and conodont biozones in the Reeds Spring, which locally passes south into the Pierson. Legend supplements that in Figure 3, and both pertain to ensuing figures. (B) Clasts of Pineville Tripolite (t) and bioturbated Reeds Spring chert (c) in basal Bentonville at Jane North. (C) Some localities where Reeds Spring grades upward into the Bentonville; column 2 is near up-dip pinchout of the Reeds Spring. (D) Columnar section of representative light-colored Reeds Spring limestones in eastern outcrops overlying those in Figure 11D.

Figure 11.

(A) Youngest Reeds Spring and overlying strata, Hwy 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, OK (see columnar section in Figure 9A). (B) Pineville Tripolite with lenses of dark mudstone (arrows) grades downward into unaltered Reeds Spring at Jane North outcrop. (C) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of tripolite. (D) Extent of Pineville Tripolite in outcrops. (E) Highway 65 roadcut at Buffalo River (36-T16N-R17W) in Searcy Co., AR of unconformable top of Pierson and thin Buffalo River tripolite in light-colored Reeds Spring limestones. (F) Eroded Pineville Tripolite beneath younger Mississippian rocks, BuzziUnicem Quarry (25 and 36-21N-19E) in Mayes Co., OK.

Figure 11.

(A) Youngest Reeds Spring and overlying strata, Hwy 62–82 roadcut in Tahlequah, OK (see columnar section in Figure 9A). (B) Pineville Tripolite with lenses of dark mudstone (arrows) grades downward into unaltered Reeds Spring at Jane North outcrop. (C) Photomicrograph (cross-polars) of tripolite. (D) Extent of Pineville Tripolite in outcrops. (E) Highway 65 roadcut at Buffalo River (36-T16N-R17W) in Searcy Co., AR of unconformable top of Pierson and thin Buffalo River tripolite in light-colored Reeds Spring limestones. (F) Eroded Pineville Tripolite beneath younger Mississippian rocks, BuzziUnicem Quarry (25 and 36-21N-19E) in Mayes Co., OK.

Figure 12.

(A) Hwy 49–71 roadcut (18-20N-30W) in Benton Co., AR of Pineville Tripolite overlain unconformably by Bentonville Limestone. (B) Hwy 65 roadcut (8-20N-21W) in Boone Co., AR of Bentonville with thin Short Creek Member overlain by Ritchey Limestone. (C) Regional conodont biostratigraphy of Osagean and lower Meramecian rocks (from Boardman et al., 2013); no vertical scale.

Figure 12.

(A) Hwy 49–71 roadcut (18-20N-30W) in Benton Co., AR of Pineville Tripolite overlain unconformably by Bentonville Limestone. (B) Hwy 65 roadcut (8-20N-21W) in Boone Co., AR of Bentonville with thin Short Creek Member overlain by Ritchey Limestone. (C) Regional conodont biostratigraphy of Osagean and lower Meramecian rocks (from Boardman et al., 2013); no vertical scale.

Figure 13.

Measured Bentonville Limestone section in central Searcy County, AR.

Figure 13.

Measured Bentonville Limestone section in central Searcy County, AR.

Figure 14.

(A) Tectonic segmentation of study area. (B) Outcrop photo rotated so that St. Joe and Reeds Spring are horizontal, thus hinting at the apparent Compton and Pierson pinch-out against a paleo-high of eroded and tilted Woodford. Hanging Rock locality (12-17N-22E) in Cherokee Co., OK. Northview is not present here.

Figure 14.

(A) Tectonic segmentation of study area. (B) Outcrop photo rotated so that St. Joe and Reeds Spring are horizontal, thus hinting at the apparent Compton and Pierson pinch-out against a paleo-high of eroded and tilted Woodford. Hanging Rock locality (12-17N-22E) in Cherokee Co., OK. Northview is not present here.

Figure 15.

(A) Eroded, undeformed Compton wackestone–packstone and thin Northview at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (34-21N-31W) immediately south of thicker exposure shown at south end of Figure 17A, southern McDonald Co., MO. (B) Compton folding and erosion, north end of exposure shown in Figure 6A. (C) Complete Pierson Limestone section and conodont biozones at Jane North. (D) Angular unconformity at top of folded Pierson at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (11-21N-32W) in McDonald Co., MO; erosion removed post-Gnathodus multistriatus Zone beds. Note on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata. (E) Buried hill of slightly folded Pierson Limestone and intraformational unconformities at Hwy 412 exposure cited in text. (F) Thin Pierson Limestone (25-21N-31W) in Benton Co., AR eroded down to Upper Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. Note shallow channel in the Reeds Spring.

Figure 15.

(A) Eroded, undeformed Compton wackestone–packstone and thin Northview at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (34-21N-31W) immediately south of thicker exposure shown at south end of Figure 17A, southern McDonald Co., MO. (B) Compton folding and erosion, north end of exposure shown in Figure 6A. (C) Complete Pierson Limestone section and conodont biozones at Jane North. (D) Angular unconformity at top of folded Pierson at Hwy 49–71 roadcut (11-21N-32W) in McDonald Co., MO; erosion removed post-Gnathodus multistriatus Zone beds. Note on-lap of basal Reeds Spring strata. (E) Buried hill of slightly folded Pierson Limestone and intraformational unconformities at Hwy 412 exposure cited in text. (F) Thin Pierson Limestone (25-21N-31W) in Benton Co., AR eroded down to Upper Gnathodus multistriatus Zone. Note shallow channel in the Reeds Spring.

Figure 16.

(A) Dissolution vugs filled with siliciclastic and calcite-crystal silt in uppermost dislodged Compton reef blocks shown in Figure 17A. (B) Extent of eroded Pierson Limestone with paleosol at top in southern study area. (C) Columnar section (left) and photo (right) of this paleosol. (D) Slab of paleosol with symmetrical and asymmetrical pisoids (white and black arrows, respectively) with circum-granular cracks. (E) Paleosol with sheet-cracks filled with red and green shale (white and black arrows, respectively).

Figure 16.

(A) Dissolution vugs filled with siliciclastic and calcite-crystal silt in uppermost dislodged Compton reef blocks shown in Figure 17A. (B) Extent of eroded Pierson Limestone with paleosol at top in southern study area. (C) Columnar section (left) and photo (right) of this paleosol. (D) Slab of paleosol with symmetrical and asymmetrical pisoids (white and black arrows, respectively) with circum-granular cracks. (E) Paleosol with sheet-cracks filled with red and green shale (white and black arrows, respectively).

Figure 17.

(A) Schematic of down-lapping Compton beds with dislodged reef blocks adjoining a thinner section with limestone conglomerate (left column is same as in Figure 3A) at Jane South (18-21N-31W) in McDonald Co., MO. White arrow points to limestone conglomerate bull-dozed ahead of the largest reef block. (B, C) Resedimented reef blocks here. (D, E) Roadcuts of dislodged reef blocks (outlined) in down-lapping Compton wackestone at Noel (15-T21N-R33W) and north of there (9-21N-33W), respectively, in McDonald Co., MO. Northview is not present here. Down-lapping strata in D pass SE along this roadcut to 9 ft (2.7 m) of non-down-lapping beds. (F) Depositional model of down-lapping strata, dislodged reef blocks and conglomerate in the Compton.

Figure 17.

(A) Schematic of down-lapping Compton beds with dislodged reef blocks adjoining a thinner section with limestone conglomerate (left column is same as in Figure 3A) at Jane South (18-21N-31W) in McDonald Co., MO. White arrow points to limestone conglomerate bull-dozed ahead of the largest reef block. (B, C) Resedimented reef blocks here. (D, E) Roadcuts of dislodged reef blocks (outlined) in down-lapping Compton wackestone at Noel (15-T21N-R33W) and north of there (9-21N-33W), respectively, in McDonald Co., MO. Northview is not present here. Down-lapping strata in D pass SE along this roadcut to 9 ft (2.7 m) of non-down-lapping beds. (F) Depositional model of down-lapping strata, dislodged reef blocks and conglomerate in the Compton.

Figure 18.

Syndepositional tectonic model related to Ouachita tectonism (after Quinlan and Beaumont, 1984 and Tankard, 1986).

Figure 18.

Syndepositional tectonic model related to Ouachita tectonism (after Quinlan and Beaumont, 1984 and Tankard, 1986).

Figure 19.

(A) Depositional sequences and magnitude of syndepositional tectonism. Maximum flooding surfaces indicated by black arrows, TST and HST are transgressive and highstand systems tracts, respectively. (B) Depositional sequence and component parasequences in Mississippian stratotype area (from Witzke and Bunker, 1996). Their parasequences and our depositional sequences are numbered but no correlation is implied.

Figure 19.

(A) Depositional sequences and magnitude of syndepositional tectonism. Maximum flooding surfaces indicated by black arrows, TST and HST are transgressive and highstand systems tracts, respectively. (B) Depositional sequence and component parasequences in Mississippian stratotype area (from Witzke and Bunker, 1996). Their parasequences and our depositional sequences are numbered but no correlation is implied.

Table 1.

Conodont biostratigraphy of the Bachelor Fm. and part of the St. Joe group (Boardman et al., 2013).

Lower Pierson LstLower part of Lower Pseudopolygnathus multistriatus zone Polygnathus communis-carina—Upper Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Northview FormationSiphonodella cooperi hassi—Lower Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Compton LimestoneSiphonodella cooperi—Gnathodus delicatus Zone
Bachelor FormationSiphonodella crenulata–S. lobata Zone (in shale) Siphonodella sandbergi Zone (in basal sand where present)
Lower Pierson LstLower part of Lower Pseudopolygnathus multistriatus zone Polygnathus communis-carina—Upper Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Northview FormationSiphonodella cooperi hassi—Lower Gnathodus punctatus Zone
Compton LimestoneSiphonodella cooperi—Gnathodus delicatus Zone
Bachelor FormationSiphonodella crenulata–S. lobata Zone (in shale) Siphonodella sandbergi Zone (in basal sand where present)

Contents

GeoRef

References

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