Landslides and rockfalls are potential hazards in areas that have steep topography.  Most Missouri bluffs are fairly stable, but some can pose problems.  The most hazardous are bluffs that contain thick beds of sandstone or carbonate rock, underlain by shale.  The shale will often preferentially weather out to form a re-entrant beneath the harder rock, leaving large pieces of cantilevered rock.  Rocks that fall from bluffs typically collect at their base.  Geologists examine the bases of bluffs to estimate what size rockfalls they can produce.

Steep slopes of loess, till, thick colluvium, alluvium and shale can be prone to landsliding.  The problem is often exacerbated by seasonally high water tables.  In general, the higher and steeper the slope, the further and faster the slide will move.  Look for scallop-shaped scars along the slope and uneven or undulating ground at the base of slopes.  Modifying slope toes can cause problems, even on slopes that appear stable.  Care should be taken when modifying slopes and changing natural water courses in unconsolidated materials.  For more information about rockfalls or landslides contact the Geologic Resources Section at 573-368-2143 or email


Geologic Mapping for Natural Disasters

The Missouri Geological Survey partnered with the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to create two series of maps to assist Missourians in their planning and response to a disaster. The Geologic Hazards Map Series highlights the potential for geologic and natural hazards, while the Debris Management Map Series helps to provide guidance for the management of waste debris following a disaster. Mapping potential geologic hazards and determining preliminary site suitability for disposal of debris provide emergency planners and responders with vital information needed in the response of a disaster. The maps are available for viewing and downloading. Learn more.