What Is Karst Topography

Karst topography is created when groundwater dissolves sedimentary rock. These unique landscapes, possessing aboveground and underground features, are incredibly scenic and ripe for exploration.


When rain falls through the atmosphere, it picks up carbon dioxide and forms carbonic acid. This carbonic acid seeps into the bedrock and creates slow-moving groundwater, the combination of which erodes the landscape and creates Karst topography.


Common components of Karst topography include caves, sinkholes, shafts, tunnels, natural springs, losing streams, natural bridges and seeps.

Time Frame

The geological process of erosion can take thousands of years to form Karst topography.


Karst topography develops over regions of soluble calcium carbonate rock such as limestone and dolomite. The United States is home to the most extensive Karst topography in the world. Other areas rich in Karst landscapes are China, England, France, Ireland and Turkey.

Fun Fact

Karst topography is named for the Kras plateau in Slovenia. Karst is derived from the German word Kras meaning “barren land.”

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