County Geologic Atlas Program

Karst and Springs


Karst in Minnesota

Karst: A terrain with distinctive landforms and hydrology created primarily from the dissolution of soluble rocks. It is characterized by sinkholes, caves, springs, and underground drainage dominated by rapid conduit flow.

In karst, fractures and joints in the bedrock are enlarged by dissolution. These solutionally enlarged features form a network of underground conduits that can carry groundwater very rapidly (speeds up to miles per day). The landscape above the karst in some areas of the state is an expression of the underlying karst drainage system. In those areas, sinkholes, blind valleys, karst windows and springs are found on the land surface. Karst also occurs in areas with few or none of these land surface features.

Minnesota Regions Prone to Surface Karst Feature Development: GW-01

This information depicts areas prone to the development of karst features within 50 feet of the surface. GIS data can be used alone or in conjunction with the Minnesota Karst Features Database.



Statewide Spring Inventory

Spring: focused natural discharge where water emerges from the ground.

The DNR is currently embarked upon a program to locate Minnesota’s springs, thanks to funding by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Spring information from agency records is being collected for a statewide spring database. Citizens across the state have been extremely helpful in supplying spring information for the current project.

Help Find Minnesota Springs

If you know of springs in your neighborhood or elsewhere, please send us the exact locations (GPS coordinates, or a verbal description) and any other information about them, like flow rate, geology, local name, history, and a photo.

Some telltale clues are water that is unfrozen in winter, unusually cold in summer, and contains plants such as watercress and willows. Some springs even appear to “boil” the surface of lakes and streams.

Send to:

Boiling springs of Lawndale Creek in Wilkin County, western Minnesota. Video courtesy of Neil Haugerud, DNR (20 sec).

For more information contact:

Gregory Brick
State Spring Inventory Data Analyst



Springshed Mapping

Springsheds: areas within groundwater and surface water basins that contribute to springs.

Mapping Subterranean Waters

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer article by Michael A. Kallok.
A seven-year project to learn more about southeastern Minnesota's hydrology brings new awareness to the interconnectedness of land and water.

Springshed Assessment Methods for Paleozoic Bedrock Springs of Southeastern Minnesota

The UMN, the DNR, and a group of experienced local cavers have been actively working on mapping springsheds in southeastern Minnesota for several decades. This work has been compiled into the following report, a summary of the hydrology and spring characteristics of the conduit-flow dominated bedrock units in southeast Minnesota (2014).

  1. Report of Methods PDF icon (6 MB)
  2. Springshed Map PDF icon (6 MB)

Innovative Springshed Mapping for Trout Stream Management

The UMN and the DNR identified and mapped karst springs and their recharge areas that supply water to southeastern Minnesota's trout streams, and assessed the impacts of both land and aquatic development on springs (2007).

  1. Final Report PDF icon 
  2. LCCMR M.L. 2007 springshed project link
  3. Project definition, scope, and publication links to dye trace reports

For more information contact:

Jeff Green, Hydrogeologist, Southeast Minnesota Special Projects - Karst