Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area landform origins in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties, Kansas, USA

Authors

Abstract:

The Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties, Kansas was eroded by massive south oriented floods derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet located north of the drainage divide region. The east-southeast oriented Big Creek valley eroded first headward from what was then the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley to capture the south oriented flood flow. Headward erosion of the deep east and east-southeast oriented Saline River valley next beheaded flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding south- and southeast-oriented Big Creek tributary valleys. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys and to create the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide. Evidence supporting this flood origin interpretation includes positions and orientations of the Big Creek valley and its south-oriented tributary valleys, positions and orientations of the Saline River valley and its north-oriented tributary valleys, and numerous shallow through valleys crossing the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide.

Preface:

The following interpretation of detailed topographic map evidence is provided as evidence in the Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project, which is compiling similar evidence for all major drainage divides contained within the Missouri River drainage basin and for all major drainage divides with and within certain adjacent drainage basins. The research project is interpreting evidence in the context of a previously unexplored geomorphology paradigm, which is briefly described in the introduction below. Project essays are listed on the sidebar category list under their appropriate Missouri River tributary drainage basin, Missouri River segment drainage basin (by state), and/or state in which the Missouri River drainage basin is located.
    

Introduction:

  • The purpose of this essay is to use topographic map interpretation methods to explore Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area landform origins in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties, Kansas, 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 Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays 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 the 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 Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area landform origins in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties, Kansas will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Saline River-Big Creek 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 Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties, Kansas location map and shows a region in northwest Kansas. Nebraska is the state located directly north of the figure 1 map area and Colorado is the state directly west of the figure 1 map area. The Saline River originates a short distance west of Oakley (west of the figure 1 center)  and flows in an east and east-southeast direction to the figure 1 east edge. Big Creek originates a short distance east of Oakley and flows in an east-southeast direction to join the east-oriented Smoky Hill River south of Russell, which is located near the figure 1 east edge. The Smoky Hill River originates in Colorado west of the figure 1 west edge and flows in an east and southeast direction from the figure 1 west edge to Russell Springs. East of Russell Springs the Smoky Hill River flows in a generally east direction to join Big Creek near the figure 1 east edge. Hackberry Creek is an east-southeast oriented Smoky hill River tributary, also originating near Oakley, which is located between the Saline River and the Smoky Hill River and also between Big Creek and the Smoky Hill River. The Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area illustrated and discussed in this essay extends from the Big Creek origin point near Oakley eastward to where Big Creek joins the Smoky Hill River. Maps in this essay begin in the east and follow the drainage divide westward to the Oakley area. North of the Saline River is the South Fork Solomon River, which originates west of Oakley and which flows in an east-northeast direction to the figure 1 east edge. The South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties and the South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Rooks, Osborne, Ellis, and Russell Counties essays addressed nearby drainage divide areas and can be found under Saline River on the sidebar category list. Hundreds of Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays present significant evidence for immense south-oriented floods, which flowed across Nebraska and into Kansas. East-oriented figure 1 map area valleys eroded headward in sequence from south to north to capture the south-oriented flood water and to divert the flood flow east to what was then the newly eroded Kansas River and Missouri River valleys. The many east-oriented valleys diverging from the Oakley area all converge again in eastern Kansas as they reach the Kansas River valley. This divergence and convergence of east-oriented valleys suggests for a time the valleys were components of an immense and probably constantly evolving east-oriented anastomosing channel complex.

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area detailed location map

Figure 2: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area detailed location map. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 2 provides a more detailed location map for the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area in Sheridan, Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties. Sheridan, Graham, Rooks, Gove, Trego, and Ellis are Kansas county names and the county boundaries area shown. Oakley, Kansas is located just west of the Gove County northwest corner. The Saline River originates a short distance west of Oakley and flows in an east direction just north of the Sheridan County south boundary and then just south of the Graham County-Trego County and Rooks County-Ellis County boundary lines. East of the figure 2 map area the Saline River continues in a generally east direction to join the Smoky Hill River east of Salina. Big Creek originates near the Gove County northwest corner and flows in an east-southeast direction across northern Gove County and then across Trego County to Ellis and Hays in Ellis County and joins the Smoky Hill River a short distance east of the figure 2 map area. The Smoky Hill River flows in an east direction from the figure 2 west edge across southern Gove, Trego, and Ellis Counties and joins Big Creek a short distance east of the figure 2 map area and then continues in a generally east direction to eventually join the Republican River to form the east-oriented Kansas River. North of the Saline River is the east-northeast oriented South Fork Solomon River, which flows from west of the figure 2 map area into southern Sheridan County to eventually reach Tasco in east central Sheridan County. From Tasco the South Solomon River flows in an east and east-northeast direction across Graham and Rooks Counties to the figure 2 east edge. The Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area is a relatively narrow west to east oriented drainage divide and parallels similar west to east oriented and narrow drainage divide areas both to the north and the south. As noted in the figure 1 discussion many figure 2 valleys diverge from the same general region west of the figure 2 map area and then converge at various points east of the figure 2 map area. The east-oriented stream and river valleys crossing the figure 2 map area at one time functioned as channels in what was an immense east-oriented anastomosing channel complex. However, the valleys were eroded headward in sequence (from south to north) to capture massive south-oriented floods. Evidence headward erosion of the Saline River captured multiple south and south-southeast flood flow channels is seen in the numerous south and south-southeast oriented tributaries flowing to the east-oriented Saline River valley. Figure 2 does not show enough detail to show most Big Creek tributaries, although topographic maps illustrated below provide evidence of numerous southeast and south-southeast oriented Big Creek tributaries.

Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Hays, Kansas

Figure 3: Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Hays, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 3 illustrates the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Hays, Kansas. Hays is the city located in the southwest corner. Gorham is the smaller town located in the figure 3 southeast corner. The east-southeast oriented Saline River can just barely be seen in the figure 3 northeast corner. East-southeast oriented Big Creek is located in the figure 3 southwest corner on the southwest edge of Hays. Southeast-oriented North Fork Big Creek flows from the figure 3 west center edge to the figure 3 south center edge. Catharine in the small town located in the North Fork Big Creek valley northeast from Hays. North Fork Big Creek joins Big Creek south of the figure 3 map area and Big Creek joins the Smoky Hill River south and east of the figure 3 southeast corner. Walker Creek is the southeast-oriented stream located in the figure 3 southeast quadrant and flowing near Gorham. North and north-northwest oriented drainage along the west half of the figure 3 north edge flows to the Saline River north of the figure 3 map area. Saline River tributaries northeast of the Blue Hills in the figure 3 northeast quadrant are northeast-oriented and originate along the northeast-facing Blue Hills escarpment. Sweetwater Creek near the figure 3 north margin east half begins as a southeast-oriented stream and then flows in an east-northeast direction to the Saline River. The southeast-oriented headwaters are evidence headward erosion of the east-northeast oriented Sweetwater Creek valley captured southeast-oriented flood flow (before Saline River valley headward erosion beheaded that southeast-oriented flood flow). Note how Big Creek and North Fork Big Creek tributaries in the figure 3 map area are primarily south or south-southeast oriented and appear to be linked to the north and north-northwest oriented Saline River tributaries near the west half of the figure 3 north edge. The south and south-southeast oriented tributary valleys were eroded by south and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels moving water to what were then newly eroded North Fork Big Creek tributary valleys (which had eroded headward from the newly eroded Big Creek valley). Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley north of the figure 3 map area beheaded the south and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north and north-northwest oriented Saline River tributary valleys. Shallow through valleys link the north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys with the south-oriented North Fork Big Creek tributary valleys. Figure 4 below provides a detailed map of the Blue Hills area to better illustrate through valleys crossing drainage divides in that region.

Detailed map of Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area in Blue Hills

Figure 4: Detailed map of Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area in Blue Hills. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 provides a detailed map of the Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area in the Blue Hills region, an area seen in less detail in figure 3 above. North-oriented drainage in section 19 in the figure 4 northwest quadrant flows to east-northeast oriented Sweetwater Creek. Note in section 19 a north-south oriented through valley linking north-oriented Sweetwater Creek tributary valleys with a large south-oriented Walker Creek (North Fork Big Creek) tributary valley. The map contour interval changes near the figure 4 north edge with a 10-foot contour interval for most of the figure 4 map area and a 20-foot contour interval for the region near the north edge. While the contour interval change makes the maps difficult to read in the section 19 through valley area the through valley appears to be at least 50 feet deep.  Another even deeper through valley is located in section 28 and links a north-northeast oriented Saline River tributary valley with a south-oriented Walker Creek tributary valley. The section 28 through valley is approximately 60 feet deep. A close look at the northwest-southeast oriented Blue Hills drainage divide reveals many other shallower north-south oriented through valleys. The through valleys provide evidence of south-oriented flood flow channels, which existed prior to headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley north and east of he figure 4 map area (and also of the east-northeast oriented Sweetwater Creek valley north of the figure 4 map area). Flood flow initially flowed south on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 4 elevations today. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River-Sweetwater Creek valley beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channels one channel at a time from east to west. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow north to the newly eroded Saline River-Sweetwater Creek valley. Because flood flow channels were beheaded one channel at a time and because the flood flow channels were anastomosing (or interconnected) flood waters in newly reversed flood flow channels could capture flood flow from yet to be beheaded flood flow channels further to the west. Movement of such captured flood flow may have contributed to erosion of the northeast-facing Blue Hills escarpment, although other factors may also have been involved.

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Ellis, Kansas

Figure 5: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Ellis, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 5 uses reduced size maps to illustrate the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area northeast of Ellis, Kansas and west and slightly north of the figure 3 map area (and includes overlap areas with figure 3). Ellis is the town located in the figure 5 southwest corner. The east oriented Saline River meanders along and across the figure 5 north edge. Big Creek flows in an east-southeast direction from Ellis to the figure 5 south edge in the figure 5 southwest quadrant. The North Fork Big Creek flows in an east-southeast direction from BUCKEYE township in the figure 5 southeast quadrant to the figure 5 east edge. East Spring Creek is the named east- and north-oriented Saline River tributary located in the figure 5 northwest quadrant. Note south and south-southeast oriented Big Creek and North Fork Big Creek tributaries and north-oriented Saline River and East Spring Creek tributaries. Also note evidence for shallow north-south oriented through valleys linking the north-oriented East Spring Creek and Saline River tributary valleys with the south-oriented Big Creek and North Fork Big Creek tributary valleys. Figure 5a below provides a detailed map of the Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area in the figure 5 east center area to better illustrate the shallow through valleys. Shallow figure 5a north-south oriented through valleys can be seen in sections 13, 18, 17, and 16. The figure 5a contour interval is ten feet and the through valleys shown are less than 20 feet deep. However, the presence of multiple north-south oriented water eroded valleys across the present day Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide provides evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels moving flood waters south to what was then the newly eroded North Fork Big Creek valley. North of the figure 5a map area flood waters were flowing on a topographic surface at least as high as the present day Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide and the deep Saline River valley did not yet exist. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley then beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channels and flood waters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys and to create the Saline-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide.

Figure 5a: Detailed map of Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Detailed map of East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide area north of Ellis

Figure 6: Detailed map of East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide area north of EllisUnited States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 provides a detailed map of the East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide area north of Ellis which was seen less detail in figure 5 to better illustrate north-south oriented shallow through valleys. Shallow north-south oriented through valleys can be seen in sections 8, 9 and 16, 15 and at the corner of sections 13, 14, 23, and 24. The figure 6 contour interval is ten feet and the through valleys shown are less than 40 feet deep, although they are deeper than through valleys seen crossing the Saline River-North Fork Big Creek drainage divide in figure 5a. The presence of multiple north-south oriented water eroded valleys across the present day East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide provides evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels moving flood waters south to what was then the newly eroded Big Creek valley. North of the figure 6 map area flood waters were flowing on a topographic surface at least as high as the present day East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide and the deep East Spring Creek and Saline River valleys north of the figure 6 map area did not yet exist. Headward erosion of the Big Creek valley south of the figure 6 map area had first captured the south-oriented flood flow and south-oriented tributary valleys then began to erode north from that newly eroded Big Creek valley. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley then beheaded a south-oriented flood flow channel on the alignment now used by the north-oriented East Spring Creek segment. Flood waters on the north end of that beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to erode the present day north-oriented East Spring Creek valley segment. The east-oriented East Spring Creek valley then eroded headward (west) to capture yet to be beheaded south-oriented flood flow moving west of what was then the actively eroding Saline River valley head. Headward erosion of the east-oriented East Spring Creek valley segment beheaded flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding south-oriented Big Creek tributary valleys. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow north to the newly eroded east-oriented East Spring Creek valley, to erode north-oriented East Spring Creek tributary valleys, and to create the East Spring Creek-Big Creek drainage divide.

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of WaKeeney, Kansas

Figure 7: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of WaKeeney, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of WaKeeney, Kansas and west of the figure 5 map area (and includes overlap areas with figure 5). Ellis is the town located in the figure 7 southeast corner. WaKeeney is the town located near the figure 7 west center edge. Ogallah is the smaller town located midway between WaKeeney and Ellis. The meandering east oriented Saline River is located near the figure 7 north edge. Big Creek flows in a southeast direction across the figure 7 southwest corner area and then is seen again flowing along the figure 7 south edge east half near Ellis. Spring Creek is the east-southeast oriented Big Creek tributary originating just east of WaKeeney and joining Big Creek near Ellis. East oriented East Spring Creek headwaters are located slightly north of the figure 7 east center area. Shaw Creek is the named north, east, and north oriented Saline River tributary in the figure 7 north center area. Figure 7 illustrates two west to east oriented drainage divides. The northern divide is between the Saline River and Spring Creek and the southern divide is between Spring Creek and Big Creek. Shallow north-south oriented through valleys cross both drainage divides although are best seen on more detailed topographic maps. Figure 7a below provides a detailed map of the Saline River-Spring Creek drainage divide area east of Shaw Creek in the figure 7 center region. East and north oriented Shaw Creek can be seen in the figure 7a northwest corner. North-oriented figure 7a streams flow to the east-oriented Saline River north of the figure 7a map area. South-oriented streams along the figure 7a south edge flow to east-southeast and southeast oriented Spring Creek, which flows to Big Creek. Note shallow figure 7a north-north oriented through valleys in sections 2, 1, 6, and 5. The through valleys are approximately 20 feet deep and provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding south-oriented Spring Creek tributary valleys. At that time the deep Saline River valley north of the figure 7a map area did not exist and flood waters were flowing on a topographic at least as high as the present day Saline River-Spring Creek drainage divide. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley then beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channels. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys.

Figure 7a: Detailed map of Saline River-Spring Creek drainage divide area east of Shaw Creek. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of WaKeeney, Kansas

Figure 8: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of WaKeeney, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 8 illustrates the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of WaKeeney, Kansas and west of the figure 7 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 7. WaKeeney is located near the figure 8 east edge. Collyer is the smaller town located near the figure 8 west center edge. Voda is the even smaller town or place-name near the figure 8 center. The east oriented Saline River is located near the figure 8 north edge. East-oriented Big Creek is located near the figure 8 south edge. Trego Creek is the north, east, and northeast oriented Saline River tributary north of WaKeeney. Coyote Creek is the north and north-northeast oriented Saline River tributary originating near Collyer. Note south and southeast oriented Big Creek tributaries and north-oriented Saline River tributaries. Close inspection of the figure 8 Saline River-Big Creek, Saline River-Trego Creek, and Trego Creek-Big Creek drainage divides reveals shallow north-south oriented through valleys crossing those west to east oriented drainage divides. The through valleys are shallow and are best seen on more detailed topographic maps. Figure 8a below provides a detailed map of the Trego Creek-Big Creek drainage divide area near WaKeeney to better illustrate the through valleys. The railroad line is located along the figure 8a drainage divide with north-oriented streams flowing to Trego Creek and south oriented streams flowing to Big Creek. The deepest north-south oriented through valley is located in section 8 just west of WaKeeney. Other north-south oriented through valleys can be seen in sections 2, 1, 7, and 9. The through valleys provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels which flowed across the drainage divide. Figure 8 drainage history (determinable from figure 8 evidence) began with south-oriented flood water flowing across the entire figure 8 map area on a topographic surface as high as the highest figure 8 elevations today. Headward erosion of the deep Big Creek valley then captured the flood flow and south- and southeast-oriented tributary valleys eroded headward from the newly eroded Big Creek valley along and across the south-oriented flood flow channels. The Saline River valley next beheaded and reversed the south-oriented flood flow. The east and northeast oriented Trego Creek valley eroded headward from what was then the actively eroding Saline River valley head to capture south oriented flood flow west of what was then the actively eroding Saline River valley head. Headward erosion of the Trego Creek valley beheaded and reversed south-oriented flood channels to create the Trego Creek-Big Creek drainage divide. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley next beheaded flood flow routes to the actively eroding Trego Creek valley and proceeded west to behead south-oriented flood flow channels to the newly eroded Big Creek valley. The north-oriented Coyote Creek valley was eroded by reversed flood flow on a beheaded south-oriented flood flow channel.

Figure 8a: Detailed map of Trego Creek-Big Creek drainage divide near WaKeeney. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of Park, Kansas

Figure 9: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of Park, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area east of Park and west and slightly north of the figure 8 map area (and includes overlap areas with figure 8). Collyer is the town located in the figure 9 southeast corner. Park is located near the figure 9 west edge in the northwest quadrant. Quinter is the town located between Park and Collyer. The Saline River meanders in an east-southeast direction from the figure 9 north edge (west half) to the figure 9 east edge (north half). Big Creek flows in an east-southeast direction near the figure 9 south edge. Coyote Creek is the north and north-northeast oriented stream along the figure 9 east edge north of Collyer. Note the east-, southeast, north, and southeast oriented Coyote Creek tributary originating near Quinter. Plum Creek is the east-northeast, east, and north (for a short distance) oriented Saline River tributary originating north of Quinter. Goose Creek is the east- and northeast-oriented Saline River tributary north of Park. East of Goose Creek is north-northeast oriented Cow Draw, which has a north-northeast and southeast-oriented tributary. Note orientations of tributaries to the major east, east-northeast, and northeast oriented valleys. These tributary orientations suggest the Big Creek valley eroded headward to capture south-oriented flood flow, which then eroded what began as a steep Big Creek north valley wall to produce the southeast-oriented erosion surface seen today. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley then beheaded south-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Big Creek valley. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented tributary valleys. The north and northeast oriented Coyote Creek valley, the north-oriented valley segment on the Coyote Creek tributary originating near Quinter, north-oriented Plum Creek tributary valleys, and north-northeast oriented Cow Draw and its north-northeast oriented tributary valley segment were all eroded by reversed flood flow on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes. Shallow north-south oriented through valleys are present, but are not as obvious as in previous figures. Figure 9a below provides a detailed map of one such north-south oriented through valley on the Cow Draw-Big Creek drainage divide between Park and Quinter. The through valley is located in section 14 with north-northeast oriented Cow Draw labeled in section 11. South of the through valley is a southeast-oriented stream, which south of the figure 9a map area turns to flow in a south-southeast direction to Big Creek. The through valley, while shallow, provides evidence of a south-oriented flood flow channel.

Figure 9a: Detailed map of Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area at Cow Draw head. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of Grainfield, Kansas

Figure 10: Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of Grainfield, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 10 illustrates the Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area west of Grainfield, Kansas and west of the figure 9 map area (there is a gap of approximately five miles between the figure 10 east edge and the figure 9 west edge). Grainfield is not located in figure 10, but is located immediately east of the figure 10 east center edge. Grinnell is the town located near the figure 10 center. The east-oriented North and South Forks of the Saline River join in the figure 10 northwest quadrant and the east-oriented Saline River then flows across the top half of the figure 10 map area to the figure 10 east edge. Big Creek originates in figure 10 west center edge area and flows in an east-southeast direction to the figure 10 east edge (just north of the southeast corner). The southeast-oriented stream in the figure 10 southwest corner is the North Branch Hackberry Creek, which south of the figure 10 map area flows to form southeast-oriented Hackberry Creek, which in turn flows to the east-oriented Smoky Hill River. Note how in the figure 10 west edge area the South Fork Saline River-North Branch Hackberry Creek drainage divide is narrowing in a westward direction. What is particularly interesting about the Saline River, Big Creek, and the North Branch Hackberry Creek orientations is all three streams seem to originate in or pass through this relatively small figure 10 map area and all three streams then follow separate routes across much of Kansas to eventually join in central or eastern Kansas. These three streams (and several other streams north and south of the figure 10 map area) provide evidence of what at one time was a gigantic east-oriented anastomosing channel complex. As seen in earlier figures the major east-oriented channels were eroded headward in sequence across massive south-oriented flood flow. The Smoky Hill River-Hackberry Creek-North Branch Hackberry Creek valley (or channel) eroded headward slightly in advance of the Big Creek valley (or channel), which eroded headward slightly in advance of the Saline River channel. By the time valleys or channels had reached the figure 10 map area flood flow was moving to the parallel east and east-southeast oriented valleys and was oriented in an east-southeast direction. Headward erosion of the Saline River valley eventually captured all flood flow to what had been the actively eroding Big Creek valley head. Figure 10a below provides a detailed map of the South Fork Saline River-Big Creek drainage divide area in the figure 10 west edge area and includes some areas west of the figure 10 west edge. The South Fork Saline River is located in the figure 10a northwest quadrant and north center area. Big Creek flows in an east and southeast direction from the highway interchange area south of Campus to the figure 10a southeast corner area. An east-oriented Big Creek tributary is located near the figure 10a east center edge area. Note shallow through valleys linking the east-oriented South Fork Saline River with the Big Creek valley head and also with the east-oriented Big Creek tributary valley head. The through valleys are shallow suggesting flood flow across the drainage divide was mostly in the form of sheet flow. But the through valleys do provide evidence of water eroded channels that existed prior to headward erosion of the present day South Fork Saline River valley.

Figure 10a: Detailed map of South Fork Saline River Big Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Additional information and sources of maps

This essay has only provided a sample of the drainage divide evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” geomorphology paradigm. Many additional examples could be provided, especially by using more detailed topographic maps. Readers are encouraged to look at mosaics of detailed topographic maps to see the abundance of supporting data. Maps used in this study were created by the United States Geological Survey and can be purchased in hard copy from the United States Geological Survey or from dealers offering United States Geological Survey maps. Hard copy maps can also be observed at United States Geological Survey map depositories located in major research libraries and elsewhere throughout the United States and in other countries. Illustrations used in this essay were created using National Geographic Society TOPO software and digital data. National Geographic Society digital maps can be purchased from the National Geographic Society or from dealers offering National Geographic Society digital maps.

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