Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area landform origins in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri, USA

Authors

Abstract:

Topographic map interpretation methods are used to interpret landform origins in the Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area located in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri. The Chariton River flows in a south direction along the study region western boundary and south of the study region joins the southeast and east oriented Missouri River. Immediately east of the Chariton River valley in Schuyler County, at the study region’s north end, are headwaters of south-southeast and southeast oriented Fabius River tributaries, with the Fabius River flowing in an east direction to join the south-oriented Mississippi River. Further south, just east of the Chariton River valley, are south-southeast and southeast oriented headwaters of North Fork Salt River tributaries, with the Salt River also flowing in an east direction to the Mississippi River. South of the south-southeast oriented North Fork Salt River tributaries are headwaters of south-oriented Little Chariton River tributaries and of south-southeast and southeast oriented Middle Fork Salt River tributaries, with the Little Chariton River joining the Missouri river and the Middle Fork Salt River joining the Salt River, which flows to the Mississippi River. Missouri River-Mississippi River drainage divide area landforms in the study region evolved during immense south oriented floods as the deep Chariton River and Little Chariton River valleys and Little Chariton River tributary valleys eroded headward along channels in what was an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the east-oriented Salt River valley and its tributary valleys (in sequence from south to north) beheaded south-oriented flood flow channels to what was then the newly eroded Missouri River valley and diverted flood waters to the Mississippi River valley. Next Fabius River valley and tributary valley headward erosion (also in sequence from south to north) beheaded flood flow routes to newly eroded Salt River tributary valleys. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet located north of the study region.

Preface:

The following interpretation of detailed topographic map evidence is one of a series of essays describing similar evidence for all major drainage divides contained within the Missouri River drainage basin and for all major drainage divides with adjacent drainage basins. The research project is interpreting evidence in the context of a previously unexplored deep glacial erosion paradigm, which is fundamentally different from most commonly accepted North American glacial history interpretations. Project essays available at this site may be found by selecting desired Missouri River tributaries and/or states from this essay’s sidebar category list.

Introduction:

  • The purpose of this essay is to use topographic map interpretation methods to explore the Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area landform origins in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri, USA. Map interpretation methods can be used to unravel many geomorphic events leading up to formation of present-day drainage routes and development of other landform features. While each detailed topographic map feature provides detailed evidence to be explained, the solution must be consistent with explanations for adjacent area map evidence as well as solutions to big picture map evidence puzzles. I invite readers to improve upon my solutions and/or to propose alternate solutions that better explain evidence and are also consistent with adjacent map area and big picture evidence. Readers may do so either by making comments here or by writing and publishing their own essays and then by leaving a link to those essays in a comment here.
  • This essay is also exploring a new geomorphology paradigm in which erosional landforms are interpreted as evidence left by immense glacial melt water floods. Implied in that interpretation is the immense floods were derived from a thick North American ice sheet that created a deep “hole” in the North American continent and also melted fast. The previously unexplored paradigm being tested in this and other essays in the Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project is a thick North American ice sheet, comparable in thickness to the Antarctic ice sheet, occupied the North American region usually recognized to have been glaciated, and through its weight and erosive actions created a deep North American “hole”. The southwestern rim of that deep “hole” is today preserved in the high Rocky Mountains. The ice sheet through its weight and deep erosion (and perhaps deposition along major south-oriented melt water flow routes) caused significant crustal warping and tectonic change, through its action of melting fast produced immense floods that flowed across the continent, and through its action of melting fast systematically opened up space in the ice sheet created “hole” so headward erosion of newly developed north-oriented drainage systems captured immense south-oriented melt water floods and diverted immense melt water floods north into space the ice sheet had once occupied.
  • If this previously unexplored paradigm is correct the geographic region explored by this essay should contain evidence of immense floods that were captured by headward erosion of new valley systems so as to cause the floods to flow in a different direction. Ability of this previously unexplored paradigm to explain Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area landform evidence in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm (see menu at top of page for paradigm related essay). This essay is included in the Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essay collection.

Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Chariton River-Mississippi drainage divide area location map (select and click on maps to enlarge). National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 1 provides a location map for the Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri. Missouri is labeled and north of Missouri is the state of Iowa. East of Iowa and Missouri is the south-oriented Mississippi River and then the state of Illinois. The Missouri River flows in an east-northeast direction from Kansas City (near west edge in figure 1 southwest quadrant)  to Brunswick, Missouri and then flows in a southeast, south, and southeast direction to Jefferson City. From Jefferson City the Missouri River flows in an east direction to join the Mississippi River a short distance north of St. Louis. The Chariton River is a Missouri River tributary and originates in southern Iowa and flows in an east direction to Rathbun Lake (just west of the figure 1 north center edge area). From Rathbun Lake the Chaiton River turns to flow in a south direction to Novinger in northern Missouri. From Novinger the Chariton River flows in a south and south-southwest direction to join the southeast oriented Missouri River south of Keytesville. East of the south-oriented Chariton River in figure 1 are two unlabeled south and south-southwest oriented streams which originate south of La Plata and which join near Salisbury to form a south-oriented stream which then joins the Missouri near Glasgow. The two unlabeled streams are the Middle and East Forks of the Little Chariton River and the Little Chariton River is formed where they meet. North and east of the Little Chariton River headwaters are headwaters of south-southeast and southeast oriented Salt River tributaries, with the Salt River flowing in an east-northeast direction to join the Mississippi River a short distance downstream from Hannibal, Missouri. Note how the south-southeast and southeast oriented Salt River tributaries flow roughly parallel to each other prior to joining to form the Salt River. North and east of the south-southeast and southeast oriented Salt River tributaries are southeast oriented Fabius River tributaries, which join to form the east-oriented Fabius River which flows to the Mississippi River near Taylor, Missouri (opposite Quincy, Illinois). Again note how the southeast-oriented Fabius River tributaries are oriented so as to be roughly parallel with each other and also parallel with southeast-oriented Mississippi River tributaries further to the north. West of the south-oriented Chariton River are south-oriented tributaries to the southeast- and south-oriented Grand River, which joins the Missouri River near Brunswick, Missouri.
  • The Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri is located east of the Chariton River and the East Fork Little Chariton River, south of the Iowa-Missouri state line, north of Moberly, Missouri, and includes headwaters of southeast-oriented Fabius River tributaries and of south-southeast and southeast oriented Salt River tributaries. The Chariton River and tributary drainage divide area landform origins in Appanoose County, Iowa essay describes drainage divide areas to the north and the Little Chariton River-Missouri River drainage divide area landform origins in Chariton, Randolph, and Howard Counties, Missouri essays describes drainage divide areas to the south. Additional regional drainage divide areas can be located by selecting Chariton River from the sidebar category list. Based on topographic map evidence presented in this essay as well as evidence presented in numerous other Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays the figure 1 map area was eroded by immense south-oriented glacial melt water floods. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet, which at the time figure 1 drainage routes were established was located north of the figure 1 map area. The ice sheet had been comparable in size to the modern-day Antarctic Ice Sheet and had been located in a deep “hole”, although almost all topographic evidence of the deep “hole’s” southern rim has been removed by deep melt water flood erosion. Initially melt water floods overwhelmed whatever drainage systems existed and flowed across the entire figure 1 map area (and a much larger region) in a south direction directly to the Gulf of Mexico. Headward erosion of the deep Mississippi River valley and its tributary valleys from the Gulf of Mexico systematically captured the south-oriented flood flow, with tributary valleys eroding headward from the actively eroding Mississippi in sequence from south to north.
  • For example, in the state of Arkansas, south of the figure 1 map area, the deep southeast-oriented Arkansas River valley and its tributary valleys eroded headward to capture the south-oriented flood flow prior to headward erosion of the southeast-oriented White River valley and its tributary valleys. Next, headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley and its east and northeast oriented Osage River tributary valley (just south of the figure 1 map area) captured the south-oriented flood flow and beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded White River valley (and tributary valleys). Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Missouri River and Osage River tributary valleys. Headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley west of the Jefferson City area (where the east and northeast oriented Osage River joins the Missouri River) beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Osage River valley and tributary valleys. South-oriented flood flow moving to the newly eroded Missouri River valley north wall then began to erode south oriented tributary valleys headward along what were south oriented flood flow channels in an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. The Chariton River, Little Chariton River, Middle Fork Little Chariton River, and East Fork Little Chariton River valleys, among many other south-oriented valleys, were eroded headward along such south oriented flood flow channels. At the same time the east-oriented Salt River tributary valley was eroding headward from the actively eroding Mississippi River valley and began to capture south-oriented flood flow channels moving flood waters to the newly eroded Missouri River valley and further north headward erosion of the east-oriented Fabius River valley began to capture south-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Salt River valley. South-southeast oriented headwaters of Salt River tributaries originated as south-oriented flood flow channels to the newly eroded Missouri River valley and were captured by Salt River and tributary valley headward erosion.

Detailed location map for Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area

Figure 2: Detailed location map for Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 2 is a more detailed location map for the Chariton River-Mississippi River drainage divide area in Schuyler, Adair, and Macon Counties, Missouri. County names and boundaries are shown. The Iowa-Missouri state line is located just north of the figure 2 north edge and is the Schuyler County north border. The Chariton River flows in a south direction along the Putnam-Schuyler County border and then in a south direction through Adair and Macon Counties to the figure 2 south edge. South of the figure 2 map area the Chariton River flows to the Missouri River. East of the Chariton River in Macon County and southern Adair County are south-oriented Little Chariton River tributaries. The south-oriented Middle Fork Little Chariton River and its south-oriented Sinking Creek tributary originate near Barnesville in northern Macon County and flow parallel to each other and the Chariton River before they join just south of the figure 2 south edge. A short distance to the east the south-oriented East Fork Little Chariton River originates near Millard in southern Adair County and flows in a south direction across Macon County to the figure 2 south edge. South of the figure 2 map area the East Fork turns to flow in a southwest direction to join the Middle Fork and to form the south-oriented Little Chariton River. Just east of the East Fork Little Chariton River is south-oriented Long Branch, which originates north of La Plata (on the Adair-Macon County line) and which flows parallel to the East Fork Little Chariton River before joining it north of Macon in Macon County. Note how the Chariton River and the Little Chariton River tributaries flow as closely spaced and parallel streams in a region drained by closely spaced  and parallel south-oriented streams which extends from the Macon County eastern border westward across the entire figure 2 map area. These closely spaced south-oriented drainage routes originated as south-oriented flood flow channels in what was once an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Deep south-oriented valleys eroded headward along the more successful of the south-oriented flood flow channels from the newly eroded Missouri River valley north wall.
  • East of the south-oriented East Fork Little Chariton River and its south-oriented Long Branch tributary in Macon County is south-oriented Middle Fork (Salt River) which originates near La Plata and which south of the figure 2 map area turns to flow in an east direction to join the east-oriented Salt River, which flows to the Mississippi River. The south-oriented Middle Fork Salt River valley in Macon County originally was a south-oriented flood flow channel to the newly eroded Missouri River valley, but was captured south of the figure 2 map area by headward erosion of the east-oriented Salt River-Middle Fork Salt River valley. North and east of the Middle Fork Salt River is the south-southeast North Fork Salt River which originates near Queen City in southern Schuyler County and which flows in a south-southeast direction across eastern Adair County and the Knox County southwest corner to and across Shelby County to the figure 2 south edge. The North Fork Salt River has several south-southeast oriented tributaries in the Adair and Macon County area including Bear Creek which originates near Kirksville and which flows across the Macon County northeast corner before joining the North Fork Salt River near Haggers Grove in western Shelby County. North and east of the south-southeast oriented North Fork Salt River are south-southeast oriented Fabius River tributaries including the South and North Fork of the South Fabius River, which flow across the Adair County northeast corner, southeast-oriented Middle Fabius River tributaries, which originate in Schuyler County, and the southeast-oriented North Fabius River, which flows across the Schuyler County northeast corner. Note how the drainage divide with the Chariton River is an asymmetric drainage divide with very few short Chariton River tributaries from the east, while there are multiple southeast-oriented drainage routes draining from near the south-oriented Chariton River valley east wall to the south-oriented Mississippi River, which can be seen along the figure 2 east edge. These multiple southeast-oriented drainage routes also originated as flood flow channels in what was probably a southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex, which was in the process of capturing flood waters from the south-oriented anastomosing channel complex further to the west. Headward erosion of the deep south-oriented Chariton River valley beheaded these southeast-oriented flood flow channels and deep valleys eroded headward along the captured southeast-oriented flood flow channels to create the southeast-oriented Chariton River tributaries seen in Putnam County and northeast Adair County.

Chariton River-Fabius River drainage divide area

Figure 3: Chariton River-Fabius River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 3 illustrates the Chariton River-Fabius River drainage divide area in Schuyler County. Glenwood is the town in the figure 3 north center area and Lancaster is the larger town east of Glenwood. Queen City is the town located along the figure 3 south center edge and Livonia is the town near the figure 3 west center edge. The south oriented Chariton River forms the Putnam-Schuyler County line near the figure 3 west edge. Elm Creek is the southwest-oriented tributary flowing from Glenwood to join the Chariton River near the figure 3 southwest corner. Winkler Creek is the northwest oriented stream flowing from near Queen City to join Elm Creek as a barbed tributary. Note other northwest-oriented streams flowing to join the south oriented Chariton River as barbed tributaries north of Elm Creek. Also note how those northwest-oriented Chariton River tributaries are aligned with south- and southeast-oriented Elm Creek tributaries and a shallow through valley linking a northwest-oriented Chariton River tributary valley with south-southeast oriented Elm Creek tributary valley (many additional shallow through valleys exist, but are so shallow more detailed topographic maps are needed to see them). The alignment of the tributaries and the shallow through valleys provide evidence of southeast-oriented flood flow channels captured by headward erosion of the southwest-oriented Elm Creek valley prior to beheading of the flood flow by headward erosion of the deep Chariton River valley. Chariton River valley headward erosion beheaded the southeast-oriented flood channels and flood waters on northwest ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode northwest-oriented tributary valleys (the northwest-oriented Winkler Creek valley was eroded in a similar way). The southeast and east-southeast oriented stream flowing near Lancaster is the North Fork Middle Fabius River and the southeast and east-southeast oriented stream originating in the figure 3 center area (south of Glenwood) is the South Fork Middle Fabius River. East and south of the figure 3 map area the North Fork and the South Fork turn to flow in southeast directions and eventually join to form the southeast-oriented Middle Fabius River which flows to east-oriented Fabius River. Note how the South Fork headwaters north of Queen City flow in a north-direction. The north-oriented South Fork headwaters valley and other north-oriented South Fork tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north ends of beheaded south-oriented flood flow channels. The asymmetric drainage divide, the multiple barbed tributaries, the alignment of tributaries, and shallow through valleys linking opposing tributary valleys all provide evidence of former south-oriented flood flow channels beheaded as deep valleys eroded headward into the figure 3 map area.

Detailed map of Elm Creek-South Fork Middle Fabius River drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Elm Creek-South Fork Middle Fabius River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 4 provides a detailed topographic map of the Elm Creek-South Fork Middle Fabius River drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 3 above. Elm Creek flows in a southwest direction across the figure 4 northwest corner. Note northwest-oriented Elm Creek tributaries west of the railroad line. The South Fork Middle Fabius River originates south of the figure 4 map area and flows in a north direction to the figure 4 south center edge (just west of highway) and then in a northeast and southeast direction to the figure 4 south edge (east of highway). Note southeast-oriented South Fork tributaries. Tipp Creek originates in section 27 and flows in a north-northeast and southeast direction to the figure 4 east edge (south of center). South and east of the figure 4 map area Tipp Creek joins the southeast-oriented South Fork Middle Fabius River. There is very little change of elevation along the Elm Creek-South Fork Middle Fabius River drainage divide although two slightly higher spots can be found. The map contour interval is 20 feet and the higher regions rise to more than 1000 feet while surrounding drainage divide areas have elevations in the 980 to 1000 foot range. The northern high region is near the figure 4 north center edge and the southern high region is in the section 33 southeast quadrant. While very subtle evidence the lower elevations between the high regions provide evidence of what was once a shallow southeast-oriented flood flow channel to what was then the actively eroding South Fork Middle Fabius River valley (and its Tipp Creek tributary valley). At that time the flood waters were flowing on an erosion (deposition?) surface at least as high as the present day Elm Creek-South Fork drainage divide and the Elm Creek valley (and Chariton River valley to the northwest) did not yet exist. Headward erosion of the deep southwest-oriented Elm Creek valley from the actively eroding south-oriented Chariton River valley head then beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow. Flood waters on northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode the northwest-oriented Elm Creek tributary valleys. While not seen in figure 4 headward erosion of the deep Chariton River next beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow, which had been captured by the newly eroded Elm Creek valley. Again flood waters on northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode northwest-oriented Chariton River tributary valleys (see figure 3 above to see the Chariton River-Elm Creek drainage divide).

Chariton River-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area

Figure 5: Chariton River-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 5 illustrates the Chariton River-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area located south of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Queen City is located just west of the figure 5 north center area. Greentop is the town south of Queen City and Sublette is located south of Greentop. The south-oriented Chariton River is located near the figure 5 west edge and south of the figure 5 map area eventually flows to the Missouri River. Note how the Chariton River has a number of northwest oriented tributaries or northwest oriented tributaries to west and southwest oriented tributaries. These northwest oriented tributaries provide evidence of flood flow reversals on northwest ends of beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow channels, which were beheaded by headward erosion of the deep Chariton River valley and its west and southwest oriented tributary valleys. Sand Creek for example is a southwest and west oriented Chariton River tributary with several northwest-oriented tributaries. The North Fork South Fabius River flows from just north of Queen City (near figure 5 north edge) in a south-southeast direction to the figure 5 east edge (near southeast corner). The North Fork South Fabius River flows to the east-oriented Fabius River, which in turn flows to the Mississippi River. Southeast oriented drainage routes in the figure 5 northeast corner region (including Brushy Creek) flow to the South Fork Middle Fabius River, which flows to the east oriented Fabius River. The stream originating on the east side of Queen City and flowing in a southeast, south-southwest, and south-southeast direction to the figure 5 south edge (just east of center) is the North Fork Salt River, which south of the figure 5 map area flows to the east-oriented Salt River, which flows to the Mississippi River. Winkler Creek is the northwest-oriented stream originating just west of Queen City and was better seen in figure 3. Note how the northwest-oriented Winkler Creek headwaters are aligned with southeast-oriented North Fork Salt River headwaters, suggesting the northwest-oriented Winkler Creek valley was eroded by a reversal of southeast-oriented flood flow moving to what was then the actively eroding North Fork Salt River valley. Note also the narrow and elongate south-oriented North Fork Salt River drainage basin seen in figure 5, which suggests valleys eroded headward along what were then diverging and converging flood flow channels in a large south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the east-oriented Salt River valley and its tributary North Fork Salt River valley captured flood flow moving on the North Fork Salt River valley alignment and the deep Salt River valley then eroded headward along those channels. Just to the west the deep Chariton River valley eroded headward along south-oriented flood flow channels from the deep Missouri River valley.

Detailed map of Sand Creek-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Sand Creek-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 6 provides a detailed topographic map of the Sand Creek-North Fork Salt River drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5 above. Greentop is the town located just west of the figure 6 south center area. Sand Creek flows in a southwest and west direction in the figure 6 northwest corner and has several identifiable northwest-oriented tributaries. The North Fork Salt River flows in a southeast direction to the section 36 southeast quadrant (near figure 6 northeast corner) and then turns to flow in a south-southwest direction to the figure 6 south edge ((just east of center) and has several identifiable southeast-oriented tributaries. South-oriented streams flowing to the figure 6 south edge west of Greentop are headwaters of Hazel Creek, which south and west of the figure 6 map area flows in a southwest, northwest, and southwest direction to eventually reach the Chariton River. Relief along the drainage divide areas is low although very shallow through valleys can be seen linking the northwest-oriented Sand Creek tributary valleys with southeast-oriented North Fork Salt River tributary valleys and also with the south-oriented Hazel Creek valley. Floors of the shallow through valleys are between 990 and 1000 feet in elevation (the map contour interval is ten feet) and elevations on either side of the through valleys rise to more than 1000 feet. These very shallow through valleys illustrate how south-oriented flood flow stripped material from the figure 6 map area as flood water erosion gradually lowered the figure 6 map area surface. There are no markers to indicate how deeply flood waters eroded the region, although it is possible significant thicknesses of surface material were removed prior to development of the present day erosion (deposition?) surface. Headward erosion of the deep Chariton River valley (west of the figure 6 map area) and its southwest and west oriented Sand Creek valley beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow moving to what was then the actively eroding North Fork Salt River valley. Flood waters on northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode the northwest-oriented Sand Creek tributary valleys.

Chariton River-Bear Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Chariton River-Bear Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 7 illustrates the Chariton River-Bear Creek drainage divide area located south of the figure 5 map area. Kirksville is the large town located south and west of the figure 7 center. Novinger is the town straddling the figure 7 west edge (just north of center). The Chariton River flows in a south direction along the figure 7 west edge. Note how the Chariton River again has northwest oriented tributaries from the east. Rye Creek is a northwest oriented tributary joining the Chariton River near Novinger. Forest Park Lake in the figure 7 southwest quadrant is flooding the valley of a south, southwest, and west oriented stream, which has at least three well-developed north oriented tributaries. Again these north and northwest oriented tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of south oriented flood flow on north and northwest ends of beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow channels which were diverging from a south-oriented flood flow channel on the present day Chariton River valley alignment. Headward erosion of the deep Chariton River valley and its west and southwest oriented tributary valleys beheaded diverging flood flow routes, which caused flood flow reversals. The North Fork Salt River flows in a south-southeast direction from the figure 7 north edge (east half) to the east edge (south half). Bee Branch is the south-southeast oriented tributary in the figure 7 northeast quadrant. Floyd Creek is the north and southeast oriented North Fork Salt River tributary with headwaters located north of Kirksville. North oriented Floyd Creek headwaters valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north ends of beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes. South of Floyd Creek is northeast and east-southeast oriented Steer Creek which originates in Kirksville and joins the North Fork Salt River near the figure 7 east edge. Steer Creek has north-oriented tributaries from the south and valleys of those north-oriented tributaries were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes. Bear Creek is the southeast-oriented stream originating at Ownbey Lake on the Kirksville south edge and flowing to the figure 7 south center edge. South of the figure 7 map area Bear Creek flows in a southeast direction to eventually join the south-southeast oriented North Fork Salt River. Note how the Bear Creek headwaters are aligned with northwest- and north-oriented streams flowing to Forest Lake. The alignment of these opposing drainage routes provides further evidence of former southeast-oriented flood flow channels.

Bear Creek-Long Branch drainage divide area

Figure 8: Bear Creek-Long Branch drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

 

Figure 8 illustrates the Bear Creek-Long Branch drainage divide area located south of the figure 7 map area. La Plata is the larger town in the figure 8 southeast quadrant. Gibbs is the town near the figure 8 northeast corner and Millard is the town near the figure 8 north center edge. The Chariton River flows in a south direction near the figure 8 west edge. Sugar Creek is the south and west oriented tributary in the figure 8 northwest quadrant and is joined by west and north oriented Turkey Run. Note how north-oriented Turkey Run has a significant south-oriented tributary from the east. This south-oriented tributary to a north oriented tributary to a south oriented river is further evidence of multiple south oriented diverging and converging flood flow channels which were captured by headward erosion of the deep Chariton River valley and its west-oriented Sugar Creek tributary valley, with flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversing flow direction to erode north-oriented valleys. The south-oriented stream flowing from the figure 8 north center edge (just west of Millard) to the figure 8 south center edge is the East Fork Little Chariton River, which originates a short distance north of the figure 8 map area. As seen in figures 1 and 2 the East Fork Little Chariton River south of the figure 8 map area flows in a south and south-southwest direction to join the Middle Fork Little Chariton River to form the Little Chariton River, which then joins the Missouri River. Long Branch is a south-southeast and south oriented stream originating near Millard and flowing just west of La Plata to the figure 8 south edge. South of the figure 8 map area Long Branch flows parallel to the East Fork Little Chariton River for a considerable before finally joining it. Bear Creek is the southeast oriented stream flowing across the figure 8 northeast quadrant. As previously noted Bear Creek flows to the North Fork Salt River, which flows to the Salt River, which in turn flows to the Mississippi River. South of Bear Creek is southeast and east oriented Titus Creek, which joins Bear Creek just east of the figure 8 map area. South of Titus Creek and originating on the east side of La Plata is the south-oriented Middle Fork Salt River. Note how headward erosion of the southeast and east oriented Titus Creek valley from the North Fork Salt River valley beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow routes to what was then the actively eroding Middle Fork Salt River valley. Also note how headward erosion of the south-oriented Long Branch valley (from the deep Missouri River valley) captured the southeast-oriented flood flow channel supplying flood waters to what was then the actively eroding Titus Creek valley. Further note how headward erosion of the Bear Creek valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow to the south-oriented Long Branch Valley (and north of the figure 8 map area beheaded south-oriented flood flow to the south-oriented East Fork Little Chariton River valley).

Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area

Figure 9: Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 9 illustrates the Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area located south of the figure 8 map area. Atlanta is the town located in the figure 9 northwest quadrant. The south-oriented Chariton River is located near the figure 9 west edge. Other streams (all south-oriented unless otherwise stated) crossing the figure 9 south edge proceeding eastward from the Chariton River are: Stinking Creek, Sweezer Creek (and its south-oriented Camp Branch), Middle Fork Little Chariton River, north-oriented Town Creek (which is a Middle Fork Little Chariton River tributary), the East Fork Little Chariton River (with its valley flooded by Long Branch Lake, with Long Branch located east of the East Fork and joining the East Fork just north of the figure 9 south edge), and Duck Creek. The south-oriented stream flowing along the figure 9 east edge and crossing the east edge just north of the figure 9 southeast corner is the Middle Fork Salt River. The Chariton River as previously mentioned is a Missouri River tributary. Stinking Creek, Sweezer Creek, and Town Creek are Middle Fork Little Chariton River tributaries. Duck Creek is an East Fork Little Chariton River tributary. South of the figure 9 map area the Middle Fork and East Fork join to form the Little Chariton River which flows to the Missouri River. The Middle Fork Salt River is flowing parallel to these south-oriented and gradually converging Missouri River tributaries (although the Chariton River and Little Chariton River only converge after joining the Missouri River), but near the figure 9 southeast corner begins to turn to the southeast and south and east of the figure 9 map area eventually joins the east-oriented Salt River, which flows to the Mississippi River. In other words, the north-south oriented highway in the figure 9 east half is located on the Missouri River-Mississippi River drainage divide, with south-oriented Long Branch to the west draining eventually to the Missouri River and the south-oriented Middle Fork Salt River to the east draining eventually to the Mississippi River. These closely spaced and parallel south-oriented valleys all began as diverging and converging flood flow channels in what was an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the deep east-oriented Salt River valley from the south-oriented Mississippi River valley captured south-oriented flood flow on the present day Middle Fork Salt River alignment and the deep valley eroded headward along that flood flow channel. Further to the west deep valleys eroded headward from the deep Missouri River valley to create the present day stream valleys. Perhaps the best evidence for converging and diverging flood flow channels linking the present day Missouri and Mississippi River drainage basins is seen south of Atlanta where the north-northeast oriented Bee Branch (which flows to the south-oriented Middle Fork Salt River as a barbed tributary) is aligned with south-oriented Duck Creek, which flows to the East Fork Little Chariton River. North-northwest Town Creek, which flows to the south-oriented Middle Fork Little Chariton River as a barbed is another illustration of a former diverging flood flow channel. In both cases headward erosion of deep valleys beheaded diverging south-oriented flood flow channels and flood waters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented (and barbed tributary) valleys.

Middle Fork Little Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area

Figure 10: Middle Fork Little Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 10 illustrates the Middle Fork Little Chariton River-Middle Fork Salt River drainage divide area located south and slightly east of the figure 9 map area. Macon is the larger town just east of the figure 10 north center edge area. Bevier is the smaller town straddling the figure 10 north edge west of Macon. Thomas Hill Reservoir floods the valley of the south-oriented Middle Fork Little Chariton River and its south-oriented Stinking Creek tributary in the figure 10 southwest quadrant (Stinking Creek is located west of the Middle Fork Little Chariton River). The East Fork Little Chariton River flows in a south direction from the figure 10 north center edge (just west of Macon) to the figure 10 south center edge (brown areas are strip mine areas). The Middle Fork Salt River flows in a south and then south-southeast direction from the figure 10 north edge (east of Macon) to the figure 10 east edge (south half). Narrows Creek is the southeast-oriented tributary joining the Middle Fork Salt River in the figure 10 east center area. Hoover Creek is the northeast oriented tributary joining the Middle Fork Salt River a short downstream from Narrows Creek. Mud Creek is the northeast and southeast oriented stream seen along the south edge of the figure 10 southeast corner area and south and east of the figure 10 map area Mud Creek turns to flow in an east direction to join the Middle Fork Salt River. South of the figure 10 map area there are additional east-oriented Salt River tributaries originating near the south oriented East Fork Little Chariton River valley. Note in figure 10 how tributaries to the East Fork Little Chariton River in figure 10 are very short and how several are oriented in northwest directions. Also note how Middle Fork Salt River tributaries originate almost along the East Fork Little Chariton River east valley wall and frequently originate as southeast-oriented streams. What has happened here is headward erosion of east-oriented Salt River valley and its tributary valleys captured south-oriented flood flow routes east of the south-oriented East Fork Little Chariton River valley. These captures occurred in sequence with southern Salt River tributary valleys capturing the flood flow first and each tributary valley to the north beheading flood flow to the newly eroded Salt River tributary valley immediately to the south. This process was repeated over and over again until Salt River tributaries finally beheaded south oriented flood flow to the south oriented East Fork Little Chariton River valley (see figures 7 and 8).

Additional information and sources of maps studied

This essay has provided only a sample of the detailed topographic map evidence supporting the flood erosion interpretation. Many additional illustrations could be provided. Readers are encouraged to look at mosaics of detailed topographic maps to see the abundance of available data. Maps used in this study were created and published by the United States Geologic Survey and can be obtained directly from the United States Geological Survey and/or from dealers offering United States Geological Survey maps. Hard copy maps can also be observed at United States Geological Survey map depositories which are located throughout the United States and elsewhere. Illustrations used here were created using National Geographic Society TOPO software and digital map data. TOPO software and map data can be obtained from the National Geographic Society and/or dealers offering National Geographic Society digital map data.

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