Geology and Geomorphology


The basin lies mostly within the Ozark Plateau (Figure Ge01) with portions in the Springfield and Salem plateaus.


The basin is dominated by limestone, shale, and sandstone (Figure Ge02). The basin's floor consists of Jefferson City-Cotter dolomite followed in an upward direction by Compton limestone, Northview shale with siltstone, Pierson limestone, Elsey limestone, and the Burlington-Keokuk limestone formation. The top layer consists of Warsaw limestone (MDNR 1995a). The Northview shale acts as an aquitard, allowing for the emergence of many springs and seeps in the basin (Table Ge01, Figures 2A-D).


Six major soil complexes are found in the basin---Viraton-Wilderness, Eldon-Pembroke, Peridge-Wilderness-Goss-Pembroke, Nixa-Clarksville, Needleye-Viration-Wilderness, and Gasconade-Opequon-Clarksville (Allgood et al. 1979).

The Viraton-Wilderness complex, along with the Eldon-Pembroke and Peridge-Wilderness-Goss-Pembroke complexes, are part of the Ozark Border soils. The Ozark Border group of soils is characterized by narrow ridgetops and valleys. The native vegetation for this group of soils consists of forest with tall grasses in the open areas and glades. The Viraton-Wilderness complex is a moderately sloping complex of soils which is moderately to well drained. These soils have a fragipan and are typically found on uplands (Allgood et al. 1979).

The Eldon-Pembroke complex is comprised of deep, well drained soils. These are also upland soils with a gentle to steep slope (Allgood et al. 1979).

The Peridge-Wilderness-Goss-Pembroke complex is a deep, moderate to well drained soil complex found in upland areas. The slope of these soils can range from virtually flat to very steep (Allgood et al. 1979).

The last three complexes, Nixa-Clarksville, Needleye-Viraton-Wilderness, and Gasconade-Opequon-Clarksville, are part of the Ozark soils group. These soils are found on the narrow, limestone ridges and the steep side slopes of valleys. The vegetation of this group of soils consists of forest on the steep slopes with pastures or fields on the level upland areas. The Nixa-Clarksville complex is the first of this group of soils and is characterized by gentle to steep slopes with moderate drainage and fragipans located in upland areas (Allgood et al. 1979).

The Needleye-Viraton-Wilderness complex is characterized by moderately well drained soils with a fragipan. These soils have a level to steep slope (Allgood et al. 1979).

The Gasconade-Opequon-Clarksville complex is comprised of shallow and well drained soils. They have a gentle to steep slope and are found in upland areas (Allgood et al. 1979).

Soil erosion ranges from 18 to 24 tons/acre/year for tilled land, 2.5 to 5 tons/acre/year for permanent pasture, and 0.25 to 0.5 tons/acre/year for non-grazed forest. Gully erosion is slight (0 to 100 tons/square mile). Approximately 1.1 to 2 tons/acre/year of sediments reach impoundments or streams in the area. Of this total 89% is due to sheet and rill erosion, 3% is attributed to streambank erosion, and 7% comes from erosion due to sediments in urban and built-up areas (Anderson 1980).


The James River is a seventh order stream which originates in Webster County. The major streams of the basin (fourth order and above), with their lengths and orders, are listed in Table Ge02.


The James River watershed is 1,512 square miles. The basin has been divided into four major sub-basins (Upper James River, Lower James River, Finley Creek, and Flat Creek; Figures 3A-D). The watershed areas of the streams with orders of 5 or greater are listed in Table Ge03.


Channel gradients were calculated from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 7.5 minute topographic maps. Gradient plots for third order streams and above are available from MDC's Southwest Regional office in springfield MO.

The average channel gradients for the James River are:

  • Headwaters to Highway 125 - 15.2 ft/mi;
  • Highway 125 to Highway 65 - 4.04 ft/mi;
  • Lake Springfield Dam to Highway 14 - 5.4 ft/mi; and
  • Highway 14 to Galena - 4.3 ft/mi.

Figure Ge01: James River Basin

Physiographic Region of the James River

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Figure Ge02: Geology of the James River watershed

Geology map of the James River watershed

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Table Ge01: Springs of the James River Basin

Table of springs of the James River Basin

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Table Ge02: Major Streams in the James River Basin

Table of major streams in the James River Basin

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Table Ge03: Fifth order and larger streams in the James River Basin

Table of fifth order and larger streams in the James River Basin

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