Galatia Channel:Other Channels Related to the Galatia Channel: Difference between revisions

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Revision as of 20:59, 10 July 2020

Several paleochannels have been mapped that are similar to the Galatia channel in age and mode of formation. Previous authors have named some of these channels; others are named herein.

Sullivan Channel

A large paleochannel that interrupts the Springfield Coal in Sullivan and Knox Counties, Indiana (Plate 1), is here named the Sullivan channel. Several previous authors have mapped portions of the Sullivan channel and described some of its effects. Wier and Powell (1967) mapped two elongate areas where the Springfield Coal is absent in Knox County. Eggert (1982, Figure 2) showed on a small-scale map “known contemporaneous channels” in Knox and Sullivan Counties, and suggested that they join the Galatia channel. Eggert and Adams (1985) discussed these features in more detail. Harper (1988) and Harper and Eggert (1995) presented further maps and information.

  • Figure 2 Correlation chart showing the positions of key units within the Pennsylvanian Subsystem. Global and provincial stage boundaries and ages in millions of years (Ma) are after Gradstein et al. (2012)[1].

Combining information from these sources with newly acquired coal company data, we present a more complete picture of the Sullivan channel (Plate 1). The Sullivan channel is a nearly straight to strongly sinuous belt about 0.6 to 1.6 mi (1 to 2.5 km) wide where clastic rocks occupy the position of the Springfield Coal. Drilling indicates a “precursor” valley, filled largely with sandstone and extending as deep as 213.3 ft (65 m) below the position of the Springfield. This channel truncates the Houchin Creek and Survant Coals, cutting within 16.4 ft (5 m) of the Colchester Coal. Channel filling generally fines upward, grading to siltstone or claystone at the level of the Springfield. These strata are basically identical to the Galatia Member as it occurs in the main Galatia channel.

Belts of interlaminated coal and carbonaceous shale, like those found along the Galatia channel, border the Sullivan channel. For example, at the eastern margin of the channel in the Oaktown Mine in Knox County, the Springfield Coal was thicker than 13.1 ft (4 m) but contained approximately 70% carbonaceous shale laminae (Figure 28). Fossil plant stems (Sigillaria) and foliage (Pecopteris, Neuropteris) were abundant in the shale layers. Shale content gradually diminished eastward, yielding coal with no clastic layers about 5.6 ft (1.7 m) thick at 0.6 mi (1 km) from the channel. The floor also changed from a massive siltstone having few roots and slickensides close to the channel to a well-developed claystone paleosol away from the channel. Shaly coal also occurs along the western margin of the Sullivan channel in the Carlisle Mine, about 9.3 mi (15 km) north of Oaktown in Sullivan County (Figure 29). As in the Oaktown Mine, shale laminae contain abundant fossil plants, including Calamites stems and broken leaves of Neuropteris and Macroneuropteris. In this same area, the floor of the Springfield consists of laminated shale that contains abundant fossil plants and can be lifted out in large sheets. Core drilling demonstrates that shaly coal borders both sides of the channel in Sullivan County.

  • Figure 28 Photograph of interlaminated carbonaceous shale and bright to dull coal close to the margin of the Sullivan channel in the Oaktown Mine in Knox County, Indiana.
  • Figure 29 Photograph of interlaminated carbonaceous shale and bright to dull coal close to the margin of the Sullivan channel in the Oaktown Mine in Knox County, Indiana.

Although details are sparse, previous authors (Kottlowski 1954; Wier 1954; Harper 1988; Harper and Eggert 1995) reported that numerous abandoned underground mines encountered areas of “dirty” or “shaly’ coal, along with lenses of shale or sandstone, near the margins of the Sullivan channel.

Several sizeable tracts of thick, low-sulfur (0.4 to 1%) coal flank the Sullivan channel. Most of the thickest coal, ranging from 6.6 to 10.8 ft (2.0 to 3.3 m) thick, occurs in steep-sided structural depressions. As usual, low-sulfur coal is overlain by thick gray shale, siltstone, and sandstone of the Dykersburg Member. The largest of these areas was the Glendora district in northern Sullivan County (Plate 1), where the coal lay in a structural basin about 29.5 ft (9 m) deep and was topped by up to 29.5 ft (9 m) of Dykersburg shale and sandstone (Kottlowski 1954; Wier 1954; Harper 1988). Nearly surrounded by thin, shaly coal, the Glendora district appears to lie between branches of the Sullivan channel. The active Carlisle and Oaktown Mines both contain steep-sided troughs where the coal thickens markedly and has a gray, siliciclastic roof. However, in most areas of these mines, the Turner Mine Shale lies directly on the coal.

Thus, the Sullivan channel shares all the attributes of the Galatia channel. The Sullivan is either a direct northward continuation of the Galatia or a major tributary.

Effingham Channel

Across most of the basin, the upward-coarsening Delafield Member underlies the Springfield Coal. However, Potter’s (1962, 1963) maps depict several large meandering and dendritic sand bodies, evidently paleochannels, that replace the Delafield Member below the Springfield Coal. The largest of these paleochannels trends southeast from central Illinois to southwestern Indiana (Figures 1 and 8; Plate 1). This feature is hereby named the Effingham channel after the city of Effingham, Illinois, which lies near its course. Comparing Potter’s map (Figure 30) with those of Hopkins (1968), Treworgy and Bargh (1984), and Treworgy et al. (1999), we observe:

  • The Effingham channel widens toward the southeast, and several tributaries are “barbed” toward the northwest. Thus, it evidently flowed southeast.
  • The Effingham channel crosses the southwest-trending Galatia channel at a right angle.
  • The Effingham channel does not interrupt the Springfield Coal, and the coal does not appreciably thicken along its margins.
  • The Effingham channel exhibits meander-belt geometry (in map view) similar to the Galatia channel.
  • No Dykersburg Shale is associated with the Effingham channel.
  • Figure 1 Map of the Illinois Basin showing the extent of Pennsylvanian rocks, thickness of the Springfield Coal, and channels interrupting the coal. From Finley et al. (2005)[2]. Straight lines separating polygons are artifacts of mapping protocol in original.
  • Figure 8 Map from Potter (1962)[3], showing the thickness (in feet) of sandstone between the Houchin Creek and Springfield Coals, with the Galatia channel (from Hopkins 1968[4]) superimposed.
  • Plate 1 Map of the southeastern part of the Illinois Basin showing the thickness of the Springfield Coal, channels that affect the coal, and major structural features
  • Figure 30 Map from Potter (1962)[5] showing the Effingham channel as described in this report.

Cross sections (Plate 4, Plate 4 map overview and Plate 5, Plate 5 map overview) show that the Effingham channel, like the Galatia, has a wide, nearly flat bottom and steep sides. The base is cut close to the Houchin Creek Coal. Many wireline logs indicate two sedimentary sequences filling the Effingham channel. The lower sequence is largely sandstone, fining upward and ranging from about 19.7 to 49.2 ft (6 to 15 m) thick. A few logs show a thin, highly resistive bed at the top of the lower sequence. A density–neutron log (Figure 31) from the Berry Petroleum #11-14 Pitcher well in Jasper County confirms that the resistive bed is coal. The upper sequence is 19.7 to 32.8 ft (6 to 10 m) thick and is mostly shale and siltstone. In some cases, the sequence fines upward from basal sandstone, but other logs show an upward-coarsening profile. The best record is continuous core from the ISGS #1 Elysium borehole in Richland County (Figure 32). The lower sequence is about 16.4 ft (5 m) thick and is largely sandstone, fining upward from an erosive lower contact. Cross-bedding in the lower part gives way to planar lamination having well-developed neap–spring tidal couplets near the top. The upper sequence is 23 ft (7 m) thick and is largely sandstone, grading to blocky, rooted claystone at the top beneath the Springfield Coal.

  • Plate 4 - Map overview Cross section of the Effingham channel at Olney in Richland County, Illinois
    Download Full Resolution Image: HERE
  • Plate 4 Cross section of the Effingham channel at Olney in Richland County, Illinois
    Download Full Resolution Image: HERE
  • Plate 5 - Map overview Cross section of the Effingham channel near Stewardson in Effingham and Shelby Counties, Illinois
    Download Full Resolution Image: HERE
  • Plate 5 Cross section of the Effingham channel near Stewardson in Effingham and Shelby Counties, Illinois
    Download Full Resolution Image: HERE
  • Figure 31 Gamma-ray–neutron log from the Berry Petroleum No. 11-14 Pitcher well in Jasper County, Illinois, indicating coal in the upper part of the Effingham channel fill.
  • Figure 32 Graphic log of core from Richland County, Illinois, showing filling of the Effingham channel. The core shows two upward-fining sequences, the lower having tidal rhythmites in the upper part. The borehole is ISGS No. 1 Elysium (Hazel Farm) in sec. 27, T4N, R9E (county no. 25922).

The Springfield Coal locally thickens above the Effingham channel, as shown by the map by Treworgy et al. (2000). This is most obvious along the west branch of the channel in southern Shelby County (Plate 5), which suggests that the channel was incompletely filled, leaving a trough to be filled with thicker peat. There is no shaly coal or other evidence for an active stream occupying the channel during the time of peat formation.

Cross-cutting relationships indicate that the Effingham channel is older than the Galatia channel (Figure 33). After establishing its meander belt, the Effingham system was abandoned and backfilled with sediment. Locally, small peat deposits developed in the abandoned waterway before a second stage of fluvial activity completed backfilling of the channel.

  • Figure 33 Interpretive cross section of the Effingham channel in Richland County, Illinois, showing two stages of infilling, with local coal at the top of the lower stage.

This scenario introduces complications into how the Effingham channel fits into eustatic cycles. A possible solution will be explored in the Discussion section.

Leslie Cemetery Channel

Eggert (1978, 1982, 1984, 1994), Eggert and Adams (1985), and Willard et al. (1995) described a belt of “split” Springfield Coal in southwestern Indiana and called this feature the Leslie Cemetery channel (Figure 34). Further information comes from observations in active surface mines by ourselves and other ISGS geologists. A revised map of the channel (Figure 35) is based on newly available data from active mines and boreholes. In addition, a cross section (Plate 6) has been constructed using borehole data.

The Leslie Cemetery channel is slightly sinuous in map view and varies from about 0.9 to 3.7 mi (1.5 to 6 km) wide. It trends northwest from the outcrop in Warrick County into eastern Gibson County, where it intersects the Galatia channel. In sectional view (Plate 6), the Leslie is lens-shaped, reaching 65.6 ft (20 m) thick along its central axis. Unlike the Galatia channel, the Leslie Cemetery splits the Springfield Coal, with the upper “bench” of coal overriding the clastic rocks that fill the channel (Figure 36, Plate 6). The Turner Mine Shale and St. David Limestone directly overlie the upper coal bench.

The lower bench of the Springfield Coal is generally 2 to 3.9 ft (0.6 to 1.2 m) thick and lacks clastic layers. Ash and sulfur content are moderate to low. In terms of petrography and palynology, the lower bench is similar to Springfield Coal near the Galatia channel elsewhere (Willard et al. 1995). The lower bench dips into a trough below the channel (Figure 36) and is nearly continuous, except in a few places where the channel truncates the coal.

Filling the Leslie channel is a succession of gray mudstone, siltstone, and fine-grained sandstone that Eggert (1982) named the Folsomville Member. Near the margins of the channel, the Folsomville consists largely of nonfissile, slickensided claystone and thinly laminated, organic-rich carbonaceous shale. As the Folsomville thickens, it changes to layered gray mudstone and siltstone containing laminae and lenses of sandstone along with siderite nodules and concretions. Toward the axis of the Leslie Cemetery channel, sandstone becomes more prevalent and commonly shows cut-and-fill features. Cross-bedding is unidirectional and indicates paleocurrent toward the northwest; no indications of tidal sedimentation have been recognized (Willard et al. 1995). Fossil plants are locally abundant in the finer grained rocks, especially prone stems and logs of lycopsids and pteridosperm foliage, along with roots of lycopsids, pteridosperms, and calamites. A rooted “seat earth” commonly occurs below the upper coal bench (Willard et al. 1995). Eggert (1982) reported fossil tree stumps in growth position, and we observed several at the Cypress Creek Mine near the margin of the channel. These stumps were rooted in, or a short distance above, the lower coal bench. Spirorbid worm tubes, as reported by Willard et al. (1995), are the only invertebrates.

The upper bench of coal ranges from a few inches (centimeters) to 2.3 ft (0.7 m) thick and carries much higher ash and sulfur content than the lower bench. In places, the upper bench grades to carbonaceous shale or to thinly interlaminated coal and shale (Figure 36). In some places, the upper coal is continuous above the channel, but in other sites, it pinches out. The flora is dominated by lycopsids accompanied by calamites, pteridosperms, and tree ferns; but ground-cover plants are uncommon (Willard et al. 1995). Calcareous coal balls occurred in the upper bench at both the Lemmon Brothers and Lynnville Mines, on opposite margins of the channel (Willard et al. 1995; Phillips and DiMichele 1998). Conodonts were recovered from coal balls near the top of the upper bench in the Lynnville Mine.

Like the Galatia channel, the Leslie Cemetery channel overlies an older “precursor,” which Eggert (1984) named the Francisco channel. The well-log cross section (Plate 6) illustrates this relationship. Underlying the Springfield Coal, the Francisco channel truncates the Delafield Member and is filled with an upward-fining succession of sandstone, siltstone, and shale. Borehole data (Eggert 1982) indicate that underclay is at least locally absent below the lower coal bench, which rests directly on sandstone. The Francisco channel is less deeply incised than the Galatia channel; the Francisco does not cut out the Houchin Creek Coal. Evidently, the Francisco was a tributary to the Galatia channel.

The observations outlined above suggest the Leslie Cemetery channel developed by the following sequence of events (Figure 37). The Francisco channel was a northwest-flowing tributary of the Galatia precursor channel. Prior to the onset of peat formation, the Francisco channel was filled with clastic sediments and abandoned (Figure 37a). The channel course, however, remained as a trough through the peat swamp; the lower coal bench formed in this trough (Figure 37b). Partway through peat formation, flowing water reoccupied the trough, depositing clastic sediment in the Leslie Cemetery channel. The active channel migrated laterally, and plants grew in standing water along its margins. Peat and sediments compacted, making space for more sediment. During later stages of Springfield peat development, the channel again was largely abandoned, and peat accumulated above channel sediments (Figure 37c). Marine transgression finally terminated peat formation. Coal balls developed, and the Turner Mine and St. David Members were deposited above the Leslie Cemetery channel (Figure 37d).

Other Channels

Potter (1962, 1963) mapped other channel-form sandstone bodies below the Springfield Coal that do not correspond to interruptions in the coal. These include a series of branching, strongly meandering channels in southern Illinois, largely Franklin, Hamilton, Saline, and Gallatin Counties (Figure 8). Widths are in the range of 0.6 to 1.9 mi (1 to 3 km). Portions appear dendritic with tributaries, but the overall drainage direction is unclear. These likely represent more than one channel; one segment appears to cross the Galatia channel at nearly a right angle. More channels mapped by Potter are in Bond, Clinton, Washington, and Perry Counties of southwestern Illinois. These sinuous features branch and rejoin but do not exhibit (as mapped) an integrated drainage. We have not investigated these channels and will offer no further comments.

Friedman (1956, 1960) mapped an area near Terre Haute, Indiana, where the Springfield Coal is split and partly replaced by sandstone and shale. He called this feature the Terre Haute channel. Friedman’s map (Figure 38) shows a southwest-trending channel about 1,312.3 ft (400 m) wide, with several short branches joining from the southeast. In one area, the coal divides into a continuous lower bench and an upper bench that thins and pinches out toward the channel axis. In another area, shale layers occur in the coal along a linear trend, although the coal is not cut out. Sandstone is largely confined to the main channel. Maximum clastic thickness is about 39.4 ft (12 m). Harper (1985, p. 19–20) discussed the Terre Haute channel in relation to the Dresser underground coal mine but did not shed further light on the nature of the disturbance. Friedman inferred a dendritic fluvial system that was active during later stages of peat formation. The Terre Haute channel may be similar to the Leslie Cemetery channel, but not enough data are at hand to offer a theory of its origin.

Primary Source

Nelson, W.J., S.D. Elrick, W.A. DiMichele, and P.R. Ames, 2020, Evolution of a peat-contemporaneous channel: The Galatia channel, Middle Pennsylvanian, of the Illinois Basin: Illinois State Geological Survey, Circular 605, 85 p., 6 pls.


  1. Gradstein, F.M., J.G. Ogg, M.D. Schmitz, and G.M. Ogg, 2012, The geologic time scale 2012, 1st ed.: Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1,144 p.
  2. Finley, R., and Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, 2005, An assessment of geological carbon sequestration options in the Illinois Basin: Illinois State Geological Survey, final report to U.S. Department of Energy, contract DE-FC26-03NT41994, 477 p.
  3. Potter, P.E., 1962, Shape and distribution patterns of Pennsylvanian sand bodies in Illinois: Illinois State Geological Survey, Circular 339, 36 p., 3 pls.
  4. Hopkins, M.E., 1968, Harrisburg (No. 5) Coal reserves of southeastern Illinois: Illinois State Geological Survey, Circular 431, 25 p., 2 pl.
  5. Potter, P.E., 1962, Shape and distribution patterns of Pennsylvanian sand bodies in Illinois: Illinois State Geological Survey, Circular 339, 36 p., 3 pls.