Assessing Structural Control on Groundwater Flow in the Morrell Cave Springshed, Sullivan County, Tennessee

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Geologic structure often controls the location of recharge points, flow paths, velocities, and discharge locations in karst regions such as Morell Cave and its springshed, Bluff City, Tennessee. This study explores groundwater recharge points, velocities, and discharge locations within the Morrell springshed and its associated cave. Two dye tracing experiments were conducted in the spring and fall of 2012 to identify recharge sources, delineate the springshed, and to interpret structural controls for groundwater flow. The experiments confirmed that allogenic recharge from the northern slopes of Holston Mountain enters the karst system through swallets and flows to the northwest following dominant joint trends that transect local folds. When the groundwater reaches Morell Cave, the flow is redirected northeast and parallels a shallow thrust fault, along which Morell Cave has developed, before resurging at Morell Spring. Using a joint-path flow model, groundwater velocities ranged from 0.04-0.007 m/s, which is consistent with typical groundwater velocities in karst systems.