Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area landform origins in Maries, Phelps, and Dent Counties, Missouri, USA

Authors

Abstract:

Topographic map interpretation methods are used to determine landform origins in the Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area in Maries, Phelps, and northern Dent Counties, Missouri. The Gasconade River and its major tributaries (from the east) flow in generally north directions with the Gasconade River flowing to the east, southeast, and northeast-oriented Missouri River, which flows to the south-oriented Mississippi River as a barbed tributary. East of the Gasconade River drainage basin are north-oriented Meramec River tributaries, which subsequently turn to flow in east and northeast directions to join the north, northeast, and south-southeast oriented Meramec River, which flows directly to the south-oriented Mississippi River. Barbed tributaries, elbows of capture, and shallow through valleys crossing present day drainage divides, among other evidence, suggest the present day north-oriented Gasconade River and tributary valleys and north-oriented Meramec River and tributary valleys by reversals of massive south-oriented glacial melt water floods. Flood waters were flowing on a high level erosion surface at least as high as present day drainage divides to what were then actively eroding south-oriented Current River tributary valleys and were systematically beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the deep Meramec River and Missouri River valleys. The systematic and massive flood flow reversals responsible for eroding the north-oriented valleys may have been aided by Ozark Plateau uplift, which may have occurred as flood waters were flowing across the 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 Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area landform origins in Maries, Phelps, and Dent 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 essay 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 Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area landform evidence in Maries, Phelps, and Dent 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.

Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Gasconade River-Meramec River 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 is a location map for the Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area in Maries, Phelps, and Dent Counties, Missouri. The south-oriented Mississippi River is located in the figure 1 east half and serves as the boundary between Missouri in the west and Illinois in the east (Kentucky is in the figure 1 southeast corner). While primarily oriented in a south-southeast direction in figure 1 the Mississippi River does make some unusual twists and turns. Perhaps the most unusual change of direction is north of St Louis where the Mississippi River flows in a north, southeast, and south-southwest direction before flowing in a south-southeast direction. Near the figure 1 southeast corner the Mississippi River turns to flow for a considerable distance south of figure 1 in a south-southwest direction. The Missouri River is a major Mississippi River tributary and flows in a southeast direction from the figure 1 north edge (west half) to Jefferson City, Missouri. From Jefferson City the Missouri River flows in an east-northeast, southeast, and northeast direction to join the Mississippi River as a barbed tributary just south of the Mississippi River’s northward jaunt. The Osage River flows from the Harry S. Truman Reservoir to the Lake of the Ozarks (another large reservoir) and then in a northeast direction to join the Missouri River near Jefferson City. The Gasconade River is a northeast and north-northeast oriented tributary originating near Seymour (in figure 1 southwest quadrant east of Springfield) and joining the Missouri River near Gasconade (downstream from Jefferson City). Gasconade River tributaries shown in figure 1 are all oriented in north-directions and include the Osage Fork (Gasconade River), Roubidoux Creek, and the Big Piney River. Note how north-oriented Gasconade River tributaries are roughly aligned with south-oriented streams flowing to the figure 1 south edge. The south-oriented streams are tributary to the southeast-oriented White River, which is located south of figure 1 in the state of Arkansas. The Meramec River and its Dry Fork tributary originate south and southeast of Rolla (near figure 1 center) and first flow in a north direction before turning to flow in a northeast direction to the southwest edge of St Louis. While difficult to see in figure 1 instead of joining the Missouri River the Meramec River makes a U-turn at St Louis to flow in a south-southeast direction to join the south-southwest oriented Mississippi River. A major Meramec River tributary seen in figure 1 is the Bourbeuse River, which originates near St James (east of Rolla) and which flows in a northeast direction to near Union, where instead of continuing to the Missouri River it turns to flow in a southeast direction to join the Meramec River.  This Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area in Maries, Phelps, and Dent Counties essay addresses regions between the Gasconade River and the north- and northeast-oriented Dry Fork (Meramec River) south of the Bourbeuse River headwaters. Other Gasconade River drainage divide area essays can be found by selecting Gasconade River from the sidebar category list.
  • Based on topographic map evidence illustrated and discussed in this essay and also on topographic map evidence illustrated and described in hundreds of other Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays landforms in the figure 1 map region (and in the entire Missouri River drainage basin) were eroded by massive 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 present day Antarctic Ice Sheet and had been located in a deep “hole”. The deep “hole” had been formed by a combination of deep glacial erosion and of crustal warping caused by the ice sheet’s great weight. The Ozark Plateau shown in figure 1 and which today serves as the location of major drainage divides, may have been uplifted as the deep “hole” developed. The deep “hole’s” southern rim is difficult to identify today because it was deeply eroded by immense south-oriented melt water floods. Initially melt water floods overwhelmed whatever drainage systems existed and flowed south across the entire figure 1 map area (and a much larger region) to the Gulf of Mexico. Headward erosion of the deep Mississippi River valley and its tributary valleys then captured the south-oriented flow and diverted flood waters to the actively eroding Mississippi River valley. Mississippi River tributary valleys and their tributary valleys eroded headward from the Mississippi River valley in sequence from south to north. For example, in the state of Arkansas, south of the figure 1 map area, headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Arkansas River valley and its tributary valleys captured the south-oriented flood flow prior to headward erosion of the southeast-oriented White River valley and its tributary valleys, which beheaded flood flow routes to the newly Arkansas River and tributary valleys. South-oriented tributary valleys then eroded headward from the newly eroded White River valley and some of those south-oriented White River tributaries are seen along the figure 1 south edge.
  • Next headward erosion of the south-southeast oriented Meramec River valley from the actively eroding Mississippi River valley in the St Louis area beheaded and reversed south-oriented flood flow routes (probably to shorter Mississippi River tributary valleys eroding headward south of St Louis). The flood flow reversal caused flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow routes to erode north-oriented valleys. At least some of these north-oriented valleys captured flood flow routes from further to the west, which resulted in more beheaded and reversed flood flow routes. Captured flood waters flowed in both southeast and northeast directions to reach what had become the actively eroding northeast-oriented Meramec River valley. The deep Meramec River valley eroded headward first along a beheaded and reversed flood flow route and then along a newly formed flood flow route to create a zig zag course that evolved into a series of incised or intrenched meanders. North-oriented Meramec River headwaters and tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on what had been flood flow routes to actively eroding Black River headwaters and tributary valleys, with the Black River being a south-oriented White River tributary. The Bourbeuse River valley eroded headward from the Meramec River valley and beheaded and reversed flood flow routes to the newly eroded Meramec River valley (and its tributary valleys) and also developed a course marked by numerous large incised meanders. Headward erosion of the Bourbeuse River valley proceeded faster than Meramec River valley headward erosion and in time beheaded most south-oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding Meramec River valley. Headward of erosion of the deep Missouri River valley was probably triggered when headward erosion of the deep Mississippi River valley beheaded and reversed a southwest-oriented flood flow route to the actively eroding Meramec River valley. However, when Missouri River valley headward erosion reached the region near Washington, Missouri it began to erode a southeast-oriented valley headward along and across south- and southeast-oriented flood flow routes (as opposed to eroding headward along and across reversed flood flow routes, which was what the Meramec and Bourbeuse River valleys were doing). By eroding headward along and across the south-oriented flood flow routes the Missouri River valley and its tributary valleys were able to capture south-oriented flood flow from much of western North America. Of concern in this essay is the Missouri River valley eroded headward faster than the northeast-oriented Bourbeuse River valley was able to erode headward and the Missouri River valley was able to behead and reverse south-oriented flood flow routes to actively eroding south-oriented White River tributary valleys west of the actively eroding Bourbeuse River valley head. The resulting flood flow reversal resulted in headward erosion of the north-northeast oriented Gasconade River valley and its north-oriented tributary valleys.

Detailed location map for Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area

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

 

  • Figure 2 provides a more detailed location map of the Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area in Maries, Phelps, and Dent Counties. County boundaries and names are shown. The Gasconade River flows in a north-northeast direction from the figure 2 southwest corner before turning to flow in a northwest direction to the figure 2 west edge (south half) and then turning to meander in a northeast and east-northeast direction to the Phelps County northwest corner. From the Phelps County northwest corner the Gasconade River then meanders in a north-northeast direction across central Maries County to the figure 2 north edge (and then to join the Missouri River). The Big Piney River is a north-oriented tributary joining the Gasconade River in eastern Pulaski County. Little Piney Creek is north-oriented stream along the Phelps County-Dent County border and after entering Phelps County turns to flow in a west-northwest direction to join the Gasconade River near Jerome and Newburg. Tick Creek is a northwest- and north-oriented Gasconade River tributary located north of Newburg. Spring Creek is a northwest, north, and northwest-oriented tributary originating near Rolla and joining the Gasconade River in Maries County. East of Spring Creek is north-northeast and east oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek, which joins the Bourbeuse River in the northern tip of the Phelps County panhandle. The Bourbeuse River originates north of St James in northeast Phelps County and after joining Little Borbeuse Creek meanders in a northeast direction to the figure 2 north edge (east half). Dry Fork originates in the Maries County northeast quadrant with north-oriented headwaters and then meanders in an east direction to join the Bourbeuse River. North and east of the figure 2 map area the Bourbeuse River joins the Meramec River, which flows directly to the Mississippi River (without joining the Missouri River). The Meramec River originates near the figure 2 south edge and flows in a north direction along and across the Clark National Forest west boundary in Dent County and then flows in a north-northwest direction to the Maries County-Crawford County line at a point located between Rolla and Steelville where the Meramec River turns to meander in an east-northeast and northeast direction to the figure 2 north edge (near figure 2 northeast corner). Of more significance to this essay is the Dry Fork (of the Meramec River) which flows in a north-northeast and north-northwest direction in the Dent County northwest quadrant and into eastern Phelps County where it turns to meander in an east-northeast direction to join the Meramec River near the Phelps-Crawford County line. Note how Dry Fork has northwest-oriented tributaries from the west and east of Dry Fork is north-oriented Little Piney Creek, which also has northwest-oriented tributaries from the west. The multiple north-oriented drainage routes and tributaries in the Maries, Phelps, Dent Counties and in adjacent counties suggest the drainage routes originated as channels in what was once a giant anastomosing channel complex. A logical and gigantic flood source existed north of the study region and massive south-oriented glacial melt water floods not only appear possible, but should have occurred. If so, the north-oriented valleys in which the figure 2 drainage routes now flow were eroded by massive flood flow reversals triggered by headward erosion of deep tributary valleys which eroded headward from the deep Mississippi River valley and perhaps aided by Ozark Plateau uplift, which may have occurred as flood waters flowed across the region.

Gasconade River-Little Bourbeuse Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: Gasconade River-Little Bourbeuse Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 3 uses a reduced size topographic map to illustrate the Gasconade River-Little Bourbeuse Creek drainage divide area located north of Rolla. Rolla is located south of the figure 3 south center edge. The Gasconade River flows in a north direction near the figure 3 west margin. Note how Gasconade River tributaries from the east are almost all oriented in northwest directions, while from the west there are some southeast-oriented tributaries including Bliss Hollow and West Coyote Hollow. The longer northwest, north, and northwest oriented tributary flowing from the figure 3 south center edge (near highway) to join the Gasconade River near the figure 3 north edge is Spring Creek. Spring Creek has few tributaries from the west and has north and northwest oriented tributaries from the east in addition to west and southwest-oriented tributaries. Note how the north oriented Spring Creek valley is linked by shallow through valleys with the northwest-oriented Gasconade River tributary valleys. The easiest to see through valley is located in the figure 3 southwest quadrant and links the northwest-oriented Bloom Hollow valley with the north oriented Spring Creek valley. The through valleys and the Gasconade River tributary valley orientations provide evidence of multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes which were beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the deep north oriented Gasconade River valley. East of the Spring Creek drainage basin in the figure 3 east half is the north and northeast oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek drainage system. Little Bourbeuse Creek flows in a northeast direction to the figure 3 northeast corner and its north-oriented tributary flowing from the figure 3 south edge to join Little Bourbeuse Creek near the word JOHNSON is Lanes Fork. Note southeast-oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek tributaries especially in the figure 3 northeast quadrant and how north-oriented Lanes Fork has northwest-oriented tributaries from the east and at least one south and southeast-oriented barbed tributary from the west (between the small towns of Light and Macedonia). Also note how north of Macedonia the north- and northeast-oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek valley is linked by a shallow through valley with a southwest-oriented Spring Creek tributary valley. The map contour interval is 20 meters and the through valley is defined by one contour line on each side. Figure 4 below provides a detailed topographic map of that region to better illustrate the through valley. The valley orientations, including the barbed tributary valley to the northwest- and north-oriented Spring Creek valley and the through valley provide evidence of diverging and converging south-oriented flood flow channels in what was at one time a south-oriented flood formed anastomosing channel complex.

Detailed map of Little Bourbeuse Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Little Bourbeuse Creek-Spring Creek 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 Little Bourbeuse Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 3 above. Spring Creek flows in a northwest direction from section 15 (near south edge west of center) to near the figure 4 west edge and then flows in a north, north-northwest, and northeast direction to and across the figure 4 northwest corner. Morresy Branch is a west and northwest oriented tributary joining Spring Creek in the northwest corner. South of Morresy Branch in section 3 is a southwest-oriented tributary joining Spring Creek in section 4. This barbed tributary is linked by a shallow through valley with a northwest oriented Morresy Branch tributary. The through valley and south oriented barbed tributary provide evidence of former south oriented flood flow. A much larger south oriented drainage system can be seen in sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, and 12 and flows to Spring Creek in section 15. This south oriented drainage system is further evidence of the south-oriented flood flow that existed prior to headward erosion of the north-oriented Spring Creek valley. North of this south-oriented drainage system in section 1 and flowing in a north direction through section 36 are headwaters of Little Bourbeuse Creek. Note how the north-oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek valley is linked by shallow through valleys in section 1 with the south-oriented Spring Creek tributary valley. The map contour interval is 20 feet and the lowest through valley floor elevations are between 1100 and 1120 feet. To the east elevations rise to more than 1150 along the border between sections 31 and 6. To the east elevations rise to 1158 (see Bench Mark in center of section 35). This through valley was eroded as a south-oriented flood flow channel prior to reversal of the flood flow which then eroded the north-oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek valley. The north-oriented stream flowing from the south edge to the north edge and located east of Little Bourbeuse Creek is Lanes Fork, which north of the figure 4 map area joins Little Bourbeuse Creek. Note how Lanes Fork has northwest and north oriented tributaries from the west and has at least some south- and southeast-oriented tributaries from the west. The largest of the south and southeast oriented barbed tributaries is located near the corner of sections 1, 6, 7, and 12 and is linked by through valleys in section 1 with the north-oriented Little Bourbeuse Creek valley. The shallow through valleys provide evidence south-oriented flood flow once moved from the Little Bourbeuse Creek valley to the Lanes Fork valley. The through valleys, barbed tributaries, and valley orientations all provide evidence the present day Gasconade River and Meramec River drainage basins evolved as deep valleys eroded headward into the region to capture massive south-oriented flood flow moving across the figure 4 map area.

Gasconade River-Little Piney Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Gasconade River-Little Piney Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 5 uses a reduced size drainage map to illustrate the Gasconade River-Little Piney Creek drainage divide area located south and slightly west of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Unfortunately the figure 5 map does not include contour lines except near the north edge (center and west areas only), however the drainage route information is important to better understand detailed topographic maps shown in figures 6, 7, and 8. Rolla is the large town in the figure 5 map area. Macedonia is the smaller town located on the highway north of Rolla. The Gasconade River meanders in a southeast direction from the figure 5 west edge (south half) and then turns to flow in a northwest, northeast, and north direction to near the figure 5 north edge where it turns again to flow in a south direction before turning to flow in a northeast direction to the figure 5 north edge. Jerome is the town at the Gasconade River meander in the figure 5 southwest quadrant. Little Piney Creek flows in a north direction across the figure 5 south edge (west of center) and then turns to flow in a west-northwest direction to join the Gasconade River near Jerome. Newburg is the town east of Jerome located on the Little Piney River west-northwest oriented valley north side. North and slightly east of Newburg is the smaller town of Doolittle and north of Doolittle are headwaters of west, northwest, and north oriented Tick Creek, which flows to the Gasconade River near the figure 5 north edge. Note how north oriented Tick Creek tributaries are aligned with south oriented Little Piney Creek tributaries. The tributary alignments suggest headward erosion of the Tick Creek valley (probably by reversed flood flow) beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow routes to south-oriented Little Piney Creek tributary valleys. North and east of Tick Creek is northwest-oriented Camp Creek, which also joins the Gasconade River near the figure 5 north edge. Originating slightly north and east of Rolla is northwest-oriented Spring Creek, which flows between Rolla and Macedonia and then turns to flow in a north direction to the figure 5 north center edge (this is the same Spring Creek as seen in figure 3). Several north oriented tributaries, including Wildcat Branch, flow to the northwest-oriented Spring Creek segment north and east of Rolla. Dry Fork meanders in a north direction along the east margin of the figure 5 southeast quadrant (east and south of Rolla) and east of the figure 5 map area joins the northeast oriented Meramec River. West of the Dry Fork meanders in the figure 5 southeast quadrant (and also south and east of Rolla) is north, northeast, southeast oriented Little Dry Fork, which joins Dry Fork near the figure 5 east edge. North and northeast-oriented drainage routes in the figure 5 northeast corner area are Bourbeuse River headwaters. Note how Little Dry Fork has several southeast-oriented tributaries flowing from the Rolla area and how those tributaries are roughly aligned with the north and northwest oriented Spring Creek headwaters and north-oriented tributaries and also with the north oriented Bourbeuse River headwaters. This evidence suggests the reversal of flood flow that eroded the north-oriented Spring Creek and Bourbeuse River valleys, reversed south- and southeast-oriented flood flow moving to what was then probably the newly eroded Little Dry Fork valley.

Detailed map of Tick Creek-Little Piney Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Tick Creek-Little Piney Creek 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 Tick Creek-Little Piney River drainage divide area seen in less detail (and without contour lines) in figure 5 above. Doolittle is the town near the figure 6 center. Newburg is the larger town north of west-northwest oriented Little Piney Creek near the figure 6 south edge (west half). West of the figure 6 map area Little Piney Creek flows to the north-oriented Gasconade River (see figure 5). Note how south and south-southwest oriented tributaries have eroded deep valleys into the Little Piney Creek valley north wall. Little Beaver Creek is the south-southwest oriented tributary located near the figure 6 east edge and joins Little Piney Creek south of the figure 6 map area near the point where Little Piney Creek changes from being a north-oriented stream to being a west-northwest oriented stream. Tick Creek is the west- and northwest-oriented stream located north of Doolittle and flows to the figure 6 north edge (west half). North of the figure 6 map area Tick Creek flows in a north direction parallel to the north-oriented Gasconade River until the Gasconade River makes an “S” turn to first flow in a south direction and then to flow in a northeast direction where it is joined by north-oriented Tick Creek. The purpose of the figure 6 map is to inspect the Tick Creek-Little Piney Creek drainage divide to determine if there is evidence the north-oriented Tick Creek valley was eroded along the alignment of what was once a south-oriented flood flow route, which was subsequently reversed to erode a north-oriented valley. In the east center area of section 10 west of Doolittle a shallow through valley links a north-oriented Tick Creek tributary valley with a south-oriented Little Piney Creek tributary valley. The map contour interval is 10 feet and the through valley floor elevation at its lowest point is between 950 and 960 feet. West of the through valley in section 9 southwest quadrant there is a spot elevation of 1018 feet. Continuing west of figure 6 map area is the Gasconade River valley where elevations are less than 700 feet, however further west elevations rise to more than 1200 feet. Proceeding east and north along the drainage divide from the through valley there is another northwest-southeast oriented through valley in section 6 linking the Tick Creek headwaters valley with the south-southwest Little Beaver Creek valley, which is a Little Piney Creek tributary valley. This northwest-southeast oriented through valley has a floor elevation of between 990 and 1000 feet. Continuing north and east along the drainage divide into section 6 finds elevations greater than 1060 feet near the figure 6 north edge and further east along the drainage divide elevations rise to more than 1200 feet. These elevations provide evidence of the former south-oriented flood flow channel which was beheaded and reversed to erode the north-oriented Gasconade River valley and also of parallel flood flow channels eroded into the floor of the larger channel. The massive flood flow reversal may have been aided by regional uplift, which occurred as flood waters flowed across the region. The uplift may have been a delayed response to the thick ice sheet weight or it may have been triggered by crustal unloading resulting from deep flood water erosion of the Ozark Plateau region.

Detailed map of Willdcat Branch-Beaver Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Detailed map of Wildcat Branch-Beaver Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 7 provides a detailed topographic map of the Wildcat Creek-Beaver Creek drainage divide area located north and east of the figure 6 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 6. Multiple south-oriented Little Beaver Creek headwaters stream valleys in sections 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 appear as a small-scale anastomosing channel complex, where at least some channels appear to diverge and then converge again. Supporting this anastomosing channel complex interpretation are shallow through valleys crossing some drainage divides and a shallow through valley in section 32 linking the south and south-southwest oriented Little Beaver Creek valley with northwest oriented Camp Creek, which drains to the figure 7 north edge (west half near highway). The shallow through valley is defined by lower elevations along the ridge linking a high point of more than 1180 feet (the map contour interval is 10 feet) in the section 32 northeast quadrant and a high point of more than 1130 feet in the section 31 southwest quadrant. Between those two high points are two low spots where the ridge elevation is less than 1050 feet. The two low spots represent former flood flow channel locations where south-oriented flood flow moved to what was then the actively eroding south-oriented Little Beaver Creek anastomosing channel complex. At that time flood waters were flowing south along the alignment of what is now the north-oriented Little Piney Creek valley, probably to what was then the actively eroding south-oriented Current River valley and its tributary valleys (Current River is a Black River tributary and the Black River flows to the White River). The north-oriented stream in section 34 flowing to the figure 7 north center edge is Wildcat Branch, which north of the figure 7 map joins   and north oriented Spring Creek (which flows to the Gasconade River). Other north oriented streams east of Wildcat Branch are also Spring Creek tributaries. Follow the drainage divide in a southeast direction from the high point (1180 feet plus) in the section 32 northeast quadrant to the north half of section 3 where a spot elevation reads 1200 feet. Between those two high points the ridge elevation decreases in the section 33 southwest quadrant to 1080 feet (see spot elevation). This elevation change along a ridge separating two valleys draining in opposite directions provides evidence of another south-oriented flood flow channel. Headward erosion of the deep Gasconade River valley north of the figure 7 map area triggered a massive, but systematic flood flow reversal with reversed flood flow in one channel flowing in a north direction while yet to be beheaded flood flow in adjacent channels was flowing in south directions. The complicated flood flow patterns resulting from such complex flood flow movements were responsible for eroding deep valleys into what had been a high level erosion (deposition?) surface at least as high as the highest figure 7 elevations today.

Detailed map of Spring Creek-Little Dry Fork drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of Spring Creek-Little Dry Fork drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 8 provides a detailed topographic map of the Spring Creek-Little Dry Fork drainage divide area located east of the figure 7 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 7. Spring Creek flows in a northwest direction in sections 30 and 25 near the figure 8 north edge. The north-northwest and north oriented valleys seen west of Spring Creek are Spring Creek tributary valleys. The north-oriented valley north of the Sewage Disposal Ponds (near north center edge) is where north-oriented Lanes Fork originates (remember Lanes Fork flows in a north direction to join Little Bourbeuse Creek, which then joins the Bourbeuse River, which is a Meramec River tributary. The south oriented valley south of the Sewage Disposal Ponds in section 32 is drained by south and south-southeast oriented Franz Branch, which joins northeast and southeast-oriented Little Dry Fork in section 8 (near figure 8 south center edge). The south- and southeast-oriented stream west of Franz Branch originating as a west-oriented stream in section 31 and flowing in a south direction in sections 36 and 1 before turning to flow in a southeast direction to join northeast-oriented Little Dry Fork just south of the figure 8 south center edge is Burgher Branch. The south-oriented stream draining regions in sections 33, 34, and 35 (south of the railroad) to Little Dry Fork is Bailey Branch. The northeast-oriented stream north of Bailey Branch is the Bourbeuse River. East of the figure 8 map area Little Dry Fork drains to Dry Fork which then drains to the Meramec River. Note how the northeast-oriented Bourbeuse River valley is linked by a shallow through valley with the south-oriented Bailey Branch valley. Again the through valley can be best visualized by following elevations along the drainage divide. Start in the section 32 northwest corner where there is a spot elevation of 1201 feet (the map contour interval is again 10 feet). Elevations drop to less than 1150 feet and then rise to more than 1180 feet in the section 32 center with the low area representing what was once a flood flow channel linking the Bourbeuse River valley with the Franz Branch valley. Continue east from section 32 and elevations drop to less than 1090 feet in sections 33 and 34 before rising to more than 1120 feet along the figure 8 east edge and just east of the figure 8 map area elevations rise to more than 1150 feet. The elevations define what was a shallow south-oriented flood flow channel prior to the flood flow reversal that eroded the northeast-oriented Bourbeuse River valley. Shallow through valleys also link the north- and northwest-oriented Spring Creek headwaters and tributary valleys with the south-oriented Burgher Branch valley although these valleys have higher elevation floors and are much shallower. For example in the northeast quadrant of section 36 near the word “Northwye” there is a shallow through valley defined by at least three contour lines on each side.

Little Piney Creek-Dry Fork drainage divide area

Figure 9: Little Piney Creek-Dry Fork drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 9 uses a reduced size drainage route map to illustrate the region south and slightly west of the figure 5 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 5. Again, the figure 9 map does not show contour lines so we will be limited to looking at drainage route orientations. Newburg is located along the figure 9 northwest corner north edge and Little Piney Creek is the west-northwest oriented stream flowing to the northwest corner. Note how Little Piney Creek flows in a north-northwest direction from the figure 9 south edge (just west of center) to near the figure 9 north edge where it is joined north-northwest and west-northwest oriented Beaver Creek and then turns to flow in a west-northwest direction. Most Little Piney Creek tributaries shown are oriented in north, northeast, and northwest directions, although Gourd Creek in the figure 9 west center area flows in west-southwest direction and several other streams in the same general region, including a stream near the Phelps-Dent County border, are oriented in west or east directions. East of the Little Piney Creek drainage basin in the figure 9 north half is the north-oriented Little Dry Fork drainage basin. North of the figure 9 map area Little Dry Fork flows in a north and northeast direction before turning to flow in a southeast direction to join Dry Fork, which then joins the Meramec River. Headwaters of Little Dry Fork are located just north of the word SPRING in the words COLD SPRING and drain to the figure 9 north edge. Dry Fork meanders in a north-northwest and north direction from the figure 9 southeast corner area west of Schuman Ridge to the figure 9 north edge. North and east of the figure 9 map area Dry Fork joins the Meramec River. Norman Creek is a north-northwest and northeast oriented Dry Fork tributary located just east of Schuman Ridge. The Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide is the divide between the north-oriented Little Piney Creek drainage basin and the north-oriented Dry Fork (and Little Dry Fork) drainage basin. North-oriented drainage  routes on both sides of the modern-day drainage divide were eroded by flood flow reversals on north ends of beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes. South of the figure 9 map area and of the north-oriented Little Piney Creek and Dry Fork headwaters are headwaters of south-oriented tributaries to southeast-oriented Pigeon Creek, with Pigeon Creek flowing to the southeast-oriented Current River, which in turn flows to the south-oriented Black River, which is a White River tributary. Prior to the flood flow reversals that eroded the north-oriented valleys flood waters were flowing to the actively eroding White River valley system. The flood flow reversal may have been aided by regional uplift of the Ozark Plateau region, which may have occurred as flood waters were flowing across the region. Note northeast-oriented Ragan Branch located south of the words COLD SPRING and north of the Phelps-Dent County line. Ragan Branch is located directly south of the north-oriented Little Dry Fork headwaters and is located slightly north and east of a west-oriented Little Piney Creek tributary. Figure 10 below provides a detailed topographic map (with contour lines) to illustrate the Dry Fork-Little Piney Creek drainage divide area in the Ragan Branch region.

Detailed map of Little Dry Fork-Ragan Branch drainage divide area

Figure 10: Detailed map of Little Dry Fork-Ragan Branch drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 10 provides a detailed topographic map of the Little Dry Fork-Ragan Branch drainage divide area seen in less detail (and without contour lines) in figure 9 above. Beaver Creek is the northwest-oriented stream originating in section 25 and flowing to the figure 10 west edge (north half). North and west of figure 10 Beaver Creek flows in a north-northwest and west-northwest direction to join west-northwest Little Piney Creek, which flows to the Gasconade River. Southwest-oriented drainage in the figure 10 southwest corner is Perry Branch, which south and west of figure 10 flows to west-oriented Finn Branch, which then flows to north-northwest oriented Little Piney Creek. North-oriented drainage in section 17 are headwaters of north-oriented Little Dry Fork and north-oriented drainage in section 18 is tributary to Little Dry Fork. The meandering stream near the figure 10 east margin is north-oriented Dry Fork. North and east of the figure 10 map area Little Dry Fork joins Dry Fork and Dry Fork then joins the Meramec River. Ragan Branch is the stream meandering in a northeast direction from section 28 into section 22 and then flowing in a north direction to join Dry Fork in section 15 north of section 22 (in figure 10 northeast quadrant). Figure 10 illustrates several through valleys linking what are today independent drainage routes. One interesting set of through valleys is seen near the corner of sections 17, 18, 19, and 20 and links the north-oriented Little Dry Fork valley with a south-oriented Ragan Branch tributary valley. The map contour interval is ten feet and the deepest through valley in the section 20 northwest quadrant has a floor elevation of between 1150 and 1160 feet. Elevations near the section 20 east edge rise to at least 1190 feet and near the section 19 west edge there is a spot elevation of 1231 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley was at least 30 feet deep when eroded and probably was much deeper. The through valley was eroded by south-oriented flood flow moving to what was then the actively eroding south-oriented Ragan Branch tributary valley. Flood flow was then beheaded and reversed to erode the north-oriented Little Dry Fork valley (which has not eroded as deeply as the surrounding valleys). Note near the corner of sections 19, 20, 29, and 30 the south-oriented Ragan Branch tributary meets a north-northeast oriented tributary to form east-southeast oriented Ragan Branch. Follow the north-northeast oriented tributary headward and note how it is linked by shallow through valleys in section 30 with north-northwest oriented Beaver Creek and in section 31 with southwest-oriented Perry Branch. Through valleys crossing both drainage divides have floor elevations of between 1180 and 1190 feet. In section 19 to the north there is a spot elevation of 1231 feet and south of the through valleys in section 31 elevations rise to at least 1220 feet and in the section 32 southwest quadrant elevations rise to at least 1230 feet. Also in the section 25 south half a deeper through valley links the north-northwest oriented Beaver Creek valley with the southwest-oriented Perry Branch valley. The section 25 through valley floor elevation is between 1130 and 1140 feet and slightly more than one mile west of the figure 10 map area elevations at Pilot Knob rise to 1239 feet. In other words the section 25 through valley was at least 90-100 feet deep when eroded. While I have not worked out all flood flow directions, hopefully illustrated and described evidence documents the presence of former flow channels which once crossed what is now the Gasconade River-Meramec River drainage divide area.

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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