Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area landform origins in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline Counties, Kansas, USA

· Kansas, Saline River, Smoky Hill River
Authors

Abstract:

The Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline Counties, Kansas was eroded by immense south-oriented floods. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet and flowed across Nebraska and into Kansas. The Smoky Hill River valley eroded headward from what was then the newly eroded Kansas River valley to capture south-oriented flood flow and to divert flood waters east to the newly eroded Missouri River valley. The Saline River valley then eroded headward to capture the south-oriented flood flow north of the Smoky Hill River valley and to divert the flood waters more efficiently to the newly eroded Smoky Hill River-Kansas River valley. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley and its tributary valleys beheaded south-oriented flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding south-oriented Smoky hill River tributary valleys. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys. Topographic map evidence supporting this flood origin interpretation includes the Smoky Hill River and Saline River positions and orientations, positions and orientations of Smoky Hill River and Saline River tributary valleys, and numerous through valleys crossing the Saline River-Smoky Hill River 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-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area landform origins in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline 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-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area landform origins in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline Counties, Kansas will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Saline River-Smoky Hill 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 provides a Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline Counties, Kansas location map and shows an area in central Kansas.  The east-southeast oriented Saline River and east-southeast and north oriented Smoky Hill Rivers join near Salina (in the figure 1 east center area) and the east-northeast oriented Smoky Hill River then flows to join the Republican River at near the figure 1 east edge. East of the figure 1 map area the combined Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers are known as the Kansas River, which flows in an east direction to join the Missouri River at Kansas City, Missouri. Downstream from Kansas City the Missouri River flows in an east-southeast direction across the state of Missouri to join the south-oriented Mississippi River. The Saline and Smoky Hill Rivers both begin west of the figure 1 map and flow roughly parallel to each other across Kansas until the Smoky Hill River makes a sharp turn to flow in a north direction so as to join the Saline River near Salina. The Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area in Russell, Lincoln, Ellswoth, and Saline Counties is the eastern drainage divide area located east Gorham, Kansas, which is a town located on the drainage divide somewhat west of the figure 1 center. The Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Mitchell, Lincoln, Ottawa, and Saline Counties and the Republican River-Solomon River drainage divide area in Cloud, Clay, Ottawa, and Dickinson Counties essays address regions located north and east of the Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area discussed here and can be found by using river categories on the sidebar category list. Hundreds of Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays collectively present significant evidence for immense south-oriented floods, which flowed across Nebraska and into Kansas. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet. The Smoky Hill River valley eroded headward across Kansas from what was then the newly eroded Kansas River valley to capture the south-oriented flood flow and to divert flood waters east to the newly eroded Kansas River and Missouri River valleys. Headward erosion of the Saline River valley followed soon after and beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley. Subsequently Solomon River valley headward erosion beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Saline River valley and Republican River headward erosion then beheaded south-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Solomon River valley.

Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area detailed location map

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

Figure 2 provides a detailed location map for the Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area in Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, and Saline Counties. Russell, Barton, Lincoln, Ellsworth, Rice, Ottawa, Saline, and McPherson are Kansas county names and the county boundaries are shown. The Saline River flows in an east-southeast direction from Fairport in northwest Russell County to Wilson Lake in eastern Russell County. From Wilson Lake the Saline River flows in an east-northeast direction to Lincoln in Lincoln County. And from Lincoln the Saline River flows in an east-southeast direction into Saline County where it joins the east-northeast oriented Smoky Hill River at New Cambria (just east of Salina). Major Saline River tributaries illustrated in topographic maps below include north-northeast, east-southeast, and east-northeast oriented Mulberry Creek, which originates in northwest Ellsworth County and joins the Saline River near Salina; northeast oriented Spring Creek, which flows from the Saline County southwest corner to join Mulberry Creek near Salina; north-oriented Elkhorn Creek, which originates in northern Ellsworth County and which joins the Saline River east of Lincoln; and north-northeast and northeast oriented Bullfoot Creek, which originates in southwest Lincoln County and which joins the Saline River near Lincoln. Note how Bullfoot Creek headwaters are aligned with headwaters of south-oriented Cow Creek, which joins the Smoky Hill River near Black Wolf, located in northwest Ellsworth County. The Smoky Hill River flows in an east-northeast and east direction from the Russell County southwest corner to the Ellsworth County northwest corner and then turns to flow in an east-southeast direction to Ellsworth and Kanopolis Lake in Ellsworth County. From Kanopolis Lake the Smoky Hill River flows into northwest McPherson County where it turns to flow in a north direction to Salina. At Salina the Smoky Hill River turns again to flow in an east-northeast direction to the figure 2 east edge. East of the figure 2 map area the Republican River and Smoky Hill River join to form the east-oriented Kansas River. The Smoky Hill River is the southernmost of a series of tributaries flowing east across Kansas to form the Kansas River, which is a major Missouri River tributary. The southeast-oriented river in Ottawa County (in the figure 2 northeast quadrant) is the Solomon River, which joins the Smoky Hill River at Solomon located on the Saline County east border. The northeast and southeast oriented river at Great Bend in Barton County (in the figure 2 southwest corner) is the Arkansas River, which south and east of the figure 2 map area flows in a southeast direction to eventually join the Mississippi River. South and southeast oriented drainage in Barton, Rice, and McPherson Counties flows to the Arkansas River.

Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area northwest of Salina

Figure 3: Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area northwest of Salina. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 3 illustrates the Salina River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area northwest of Salina. Salina is the city located in the figure 3 southeast corner. Culver is the smaller town located near the figure 3 north center edge. The Saline River flows in a southeast direction from the figure 3 north edge (west of Culver) to the figure 3 east edge (north of Salina). Glendale is the small town located just south of the figure 3 west center edge and Hedville is the small town located in the figure 3 south center area. Mulberry Creek flows in an east-southeast direction from the figure 3 west edge near Glendale to Hedville and then in the figure 3 southeast quadrant turns to flow in a northeast direction to join the Saline River just north of Salina. Note how most Mulberry Creek tributaries from the north are south-oriented. Also note how many of the Saline River tributaries from the south are north-oriented or have north-oriented tributaries. Further note how the north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys are linked by shallow north-south oriented through valleys with south-oriented Mulberry Creek tributary valleys. Figure 3a below provides a detailed map of the Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area just west of the figure 3 center to better illustrate the north-south oriented shallow through valleys. The figure 3a contour interval is ten feet. North-oriented streams flowing to the figure 3a north edge are Saline River tributaries. South-oriented streams flowing to the figure 3a south edge are Mulberry Creek tributaries. Some of the better defined and deeper through valleys are located in sections 17, 18 and 14 although additional through valleys are visible. The through valleys provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels that once moved south-oriented flood water across the figure 3 map area on a topographic surface at least as high as the present day Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide. At that time the deep Saline River valley did not exist and flood waters were moving to actively eroding south-oriented tributary valleys eroding headward from what was then the newly eroded Mulberry Creek valley. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley then beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channels in sequence 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 valley. The newly reversed flood flow captured flood water from channels further to the west and eroded the north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys and created the Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide.

Figure 3a: Detailed map of Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area west of the figure 3 center. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Mulberry Creek-West Spring Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Mulberry Creek-West Spring Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 illustrates the Mulberry Creek-West Spring Creek drainage divide area south of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Hedville is the town located in the figure 4 northeast quadrant. Bavaria is the small town in the figure 4 southeast quadrant. Brookville is the larger town located in the figure 4 south center. Mulberry Creek flows in a north-northeast and northeast direction from the figure 4 west edge area to the Lincoln-Ellsworth-Saline County corner and then to the figure 4 north edge. At the figure 4 north edge Mulberry Creek turns to flow in an east-southeast direction to the figure 4 east edge (north half). Elf Creek is a Mulberry Creek tributary located north of Brookville and flows in a north-northeast, east, north-northeast, northeast, and east direction to join the southeast-oriented Saline River. Spring Creek is the northeast-oriented stream flowing from the figure 4 south edge (east half) to Bavaria and then to the figure 4 east edge. Spring Creek joins Mulberry Creek just east of the figure 4 map area. West Spring Creek is the stream flowing in an east-northeast direction from the figure 3 south edge to Brookville and then in an east direction to join northeast-oriented Spring Creek. Note the south-southeast and east oriented West Spring Creek tributary originating near the figure 4 southwest corner. Note how that tributary is linked by a well-defined north-south oriented through valley with a north-oriented Mulberry Creek tributary valley. Figure 4a below provides a detailed map of the figure 4 southwest corner area to better illustrate the through valleys. The deep north-south oriented through valley is located in sections 10, 3, and 34 near the figure 4a west edge. Note the south-southeast oriented stream in section 10, which turns to flow in an east direction across the south margins of sections 11 and 12 to join east-northeast oriented West Spring Creek. Also note the stream flowing from section 3 in a north-northeast direction across the section 34 southeast corner and into section 35 west half. That stream is the north-oriented Mulberry Creek tributary seen in figure 4. Additional north-south oriented through valleys are seen in sections 36 and 31 although they are not as deep. The multiple north-south oriented through valleys seen in figure 4a and also in figure 4 provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels such as might be found in a south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Flood flow was moving to what was then the newly eroded West Spring Creek-Spring Creek valley. Headward erosion of the Mulberry Creek valley beheaded and reversed the south-oriented flood flow channels. The reversal of flood flow eroded the north-oriented Mulberry Creek tributary valleys (and probably the north-northeast oriented Mulberry Creek headwaters valley) and created the Mulberry Creek-West Spring Creek drainage divide.

Figure 4a: Detailed map of Mulberry Creek-West Spring Creek drainage divide area in the figure 4 southwest corner. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Spring Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area

Figure 5: Spring Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 5 uses reduced size maps to illustrate the Spring Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area located south of the figure 4 map area. Brookville is the town located adjacent to the figure 5 north edge. Spring Creek is the southeast, north-northeast, and northeast oriented stream south of Brookville and flowing to the figure 5 north edge (east of Brookville). Castle Creek is a north-northeast oriented Spring Creek tributary which extends south from the north-northeast oriented Spring Creek segment. West Spring Creek is the east-southeast, northeast and east oriented stream flowing from CARNEIRO township to Brookville and then joining Spring Creek near the figure 5 north edge. Kanopolis Lake in the figure 5 southwest quadrant is flooding the Smoky Hill River valley. The Smoky Hill River flows in a southeast direction from the dam to the figure 5 south center edge. The north-northeast oriented stream flowing from near the figure 5 south edge (east half) to the figure 5 east edge (north half) is Dry Creek. The south-oriented Smoky Hill River tributary in the figure 5 northwest quadrant is Alum Creek. Carneiro is a small town in the Alum Creek valley. East of Alum Creek and north of Carneiro are north-oriented headwaters of Mulberry Creek. Note how the north-oriented Mulberry Creek valley is linked by a through valley with the south-oriented Alum Creek valley. Figure 5a below provides a detailed map of the Mulberry Creek-Alum Creek through valley area near Caneiro. Figure 5a is west and south of the figure 4a map area and includes overlap areas with figure 4a. Mulberry Creek is the north-northeast oriented stream in section 5 near the figure 5a north edge. The north-northeast to south-southwest oriented Mulberry Creek-Alum Creek through valley is located in section 8 (figure 5a). Study of the figure 5 map area reveals numerous north-south oriented through valleys linking north-oriented stream valleys with south-oriented stream valleys. Figure 5b below provides a detailed map of the Castle Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area seen in the figure 5 south center area. Streams flowing to the figure 5b north edge are Castle Creek tributaries and streams flowing to the figure 5b south edge are Smoky Hill River tributaries. Note how the north-oriented stream valleys are linked by through valleys with the south-oriented stream valleys. The through valleys provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels, which once moved flood waters south to what was then the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley. Headward erosion of the Mulberry Creek valley (and probably northeast-oriented Spring Creek valley segments) beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channels. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow north and to erode the north and north-northeast oriented Castle Creek and Spring Creek valley segments.

Figure 5a: Detailed map of Mulberry Creek-Alum Creek through valley near Caneiro. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 


Figure 5b: Detailed map of Castle Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area seen in figure 5 south center. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area west of Tescott, Kansas

Figure 6: Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area west of Tescott, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 illustrates the Saline River-Mulberry Creek drainage divide area southwest of Tescott, Kansas and is located west of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Tescott is the town located in the figure 6 northeast corner and Beverly is the town located along the figure 6 north center edge. Glendale is the smaller town located in the figure 6 southeast quadrant. The east-oriented Saline River is located near the figure 6 north edge. Mulberry Creek flows in a north-northeast and east direction just south of Glendale in the figure 6 southeast quadrant. An unnamed east-oriented Mulberry Creek tributary, which on detailed maps is labeled Table Rock Creek, flows along the figure 6 south center edge. The north-oriented stream located along the figure 6 west edge is Elkhorn Creek north of the figure 6 west center area where northeast-oriented West Elkhorn Creek joins north-oriented East Elkhorn Creek. Note other north-oriented Saline River tributaries. East of Elkhorn Creek are north-oriented Brush Creek, Owl Creek, and (north-oriented) Table Rock Creek. Note how the north-oriented Table Rock Creek headwaters are located MADISON township and are north- and northeast-oriented before turning to flow north to the east-oriented Saline River valley. Figure 6a below provides a detailed map of the north-oriented Owl Creek and Table Rock Creek drainage divide with the east-oriented Table Rock Creek. The north-oriented stream in section 22 in the figure 6a northeast quadrant is the north-oriented Table Rock Creek, which flows to the Saline River. The north-oriented stream in sections 20 and 29 is Owl Creek, which also flows to the Saline River. The east-oriented stream along the figure 6a south margin is the east-oriented Table Rock Creek, which flows to Mulberry Creek. Note how the north-oriented Saline River tributary valleys are linked by through valleys to east-oriented Table Rock Creek tributary valleys. Perhaps even more interesting is the through valley located in section 30 near the figure 6 west edge. The section 30 through valley links a north-oriented Owl Creek tributary valley with a southeast-oriented tributary valley flowing to the east-oriented Table Rock Creek. The through valley floor is approximately 100 lower than tops of the hills on either side. The through valley is difficult to explain unless south-oriented flood water at one time flowed on a topographic surface at least as high as the tops of those two hills. If so, flood waters deeply eroded the figure 6 and 6a map areas stripping 100 feet or more of bedrock material from the entire region.

Figure 6a: Detailed map of Owl Creek-Table Rock Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

East Elkhorn Creek-Clear Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: East Elkhorn Creek-Clear Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the East Elkhorn Creek-Clear Creek drainage divide area west and north of the figure 5 map area and south and west of the figure 6 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 5. Ellsworth is the city in the figure 7 southwest quadrant and Kanopolis is the smaller town nearby. The Smoky Hill River flows in a southeast direction in the figure 7 southwest corner to enter Kanopolis Lake, a reservoir flooding the meandering Smoky Hill River valley. The south-southwest and north oriented stream in GARFIELD township near the figure 7 north center edge is north-oriented East Elkhorn Creek, which flows to the Saline River (see figure 5). South of the East Elkhorn Creek elbow of capture (where the creek turns from flowing in a south-southwest direction to flowing in a north direction) is south-oriented Clear Creek, which flows to the Smoky Hill River. East of Clear Creek is south-oriented Alum Creek and north-northeast oriented Mulberry Creek flows from near Caneiro to the figure 7 northeast corner. The south-oriented tributary joining the Smoky Hill River near Kanopolis is Spring Creek and the south-oriented tributary joining the Smoky Hill River near Ellsworth is Oak Creek. South-oriented flood flow to the south-oriented Spring Creek drainage basin was beheaded by headward erosion of a southeast and northeast-oriented East Elkhorn Creek tributary valley seen near the figure 7 north edge. While not seen in figure 7 south-oriented Oak Creek tributary valleys are linked by shallow north-south oriented through valleys with north-oriented West Elkhorn Creek tributary valleys and north-oriented Spring Creek tributary valleys, where north-oriented Spring Creek and West Elkhorn Creek flow to the Saline River. Figure 7a below provides a detailed map of the East Elkhorn Creek-Clear Creek through valley, which is located in sections 33 and 4 near the figure 7a center. The East Elkhorn Creek elbow of capture is located near the figure 7a north center edge, with East Elkhorn Creek flowing north and Clear Creek flows south from section 4 into section 9. The through valley floor is approximately 100 feet lower than tops of hills on either side. The size of this north-south oriented through valley provides evidence of significant south-oriented flood flow to what was then the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley and the actively eroding Clear Creek valley prior to headward erosion of the deep east-oriented Saline River valley (see figure 6). Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channel moving water to the actively eroding Clear Creek valley. Flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow north to the newly Saline River valley and to erode the East Elkhorn-Elkhorn Creek valley. Erosion of the north-oriented valley was probably aided by capture of yet to be beheaded flood flow from south-oriented flood flow channels to what was then the actively eroding the south-oriented Spring Creek valley.

Figure 7a: Detailed map of East Elkhorn Creek-Clear drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Bullfoot Creek-Cow Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 8 illustrates the Bullfoot Creek-Cow Creek drainage divide area west and north of the figure 7 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 7. Wilson is the town located in the figure 8 southwest corner. North-oriented Spring Creek flows along the figure 8 east edge area to the figure 8 northeast corner and then continues north to the east-oriented Saline River (north of the figure 8 map area). South of Spring Creek in the figure 8 southeast corner are headwaters of south-oriented Oak Creek tributaries, with Oak Creek flowing south to the Smoky Hill River. Buffalo Creek is the south-oriented Smoky Hill River tributary flowing through COLUMBIA township west of the Oak Creek headwaters. West of Buffalo Creek is south-southwest and south oriented Cow Creek, which also flows to the Smoky Hill River located south of the figure 8 map area. Note the unnamed southeast-oriented Cow Creek tributary linked to northwest-oriented Hell Creek, which flows into Wilson Lake seen along the figure 8 west edge. Wilson Lake is a reservoir flooding the Saline River valley and valleys of Saline River tributaries (such as the northwest-oriented Hell Creek valley). Note how the south-southeast oriented Cow Creek segment is linked near the figure 8 center with a north-northeast and northeast oriented stream. That north-northeast and northeast oriented stream is Bullfoot Creek, which north of the figure 8 map area turns to flow in an east and east-northeast direction to join the east-oriented Saline River. Further note the two named north-oriented Saline River tributaries located between Wilson Lake and Bullfoot Creek. These two tributaries are names East Twin Creek and West Twin Creek (Highland Lake is a small reservoir located in the West Twin Creek valley). In addition note how Cow Creek is linked by through valleys to northwest-oriented Hell Creek, north-oriented West and East Twin Creeks, and north-northeast and northeast oriented Bullfoot Creek. Figure 8a below provides a detailed map of the West Twin Creek-Cow Creek through valley and also of the Bullfoot Creek-Cow Creek through valley. West Twin Creek flows north in sections 25, 24, and 13 to Highland Lake (which located just north of the figure 8a map area). Bullfoot Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to the figure 8a northeast corner. Cow Creek flows in a south-southeast direction from section 29 in the figure 8a southeast quadrant and all south-oriented streams along the figure 8a south edge are Cow Creek tributaries. The figure 8a contour interval is ten feet and the West Twin Creek-Cow Creek and Bullfoot Creek-Cow Creek through valleys are both at least 60 feet deep. The through valleys (combined with the northwest-southeast oriented Hell Creek-Cow Creek through valley) provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow routes to the south-oriented Cow Creek valley. They also provide evidence of a flood flow route used by captured yet to be beheaded flood flow from west of the actively eroding Saline River valley head to reach the newly eroded deep Saline River valley east of the actively eroding Saline River valley head. Flood waters could flow south in the Hell Creek-Cow Creek through valley and then could flow north-northeast and northeast in the Bullfoot Creek valley. Headward erosion of the deep Saline River valley beheaded this southeast-northeast oriented flood flow channel and flood waters on the northwest end of the beheaded channel reversed flow direction to erode the northwest-oriented Hell Creek valley.

Figure 8a: Detailed map of West Twin Creek-Cow Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Wilson Lake-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area

Figure 9: Wilson Lake-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates the Wilson Lake-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area west of the figure 8 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 8. Wilson is the town in the figure 9 southeast corner area. Bunker Hill is the town in the figure 9 west center area. Dorrance is the town located in the figure 9 south center area. The Smoky Hill River meanders in an east direction near the figure 9 south edge. Wilson Lake is located along the figure 9 north edge and floods the Saline River valley. The Saline River valley is oriented in an east-southeast direction until it reaches the figure 9 northeast quadrant and then it turns in a northeast direction before turning to flow in an east direction as seen in figure 6. Note northwest-oriented Hell Creek, which flows to the approximate location of the Saline River elbow capture (where it turns from flowing in an east-southeast direction to flowing in a northeast direction). The Hell Creek-Cow Creek-Bullfoot Creek through valley once carried flood water in a southeast-northeast direction from an evolving Saline River valley west of the Wilson Lake to what was then the newly eroded and deep Saline River downstream from where Bullfoot Creek joins it. At that time the northeast and east oriented Saline River valley between Wilson Lake and the Bullfoot Creek mouth did not exist, although that Saline River valley segment was being eroded headward and soon beheaded a south-oriented flood flow channel, where flood waters reversed flow direction to flow north and captured flood flow that had been moving in the Hell Creek-Cow Creek-Bullfoot Creek through valley channel so as to move the flood water more efficiently to the deep downstream Saline River valley and to create the northeast-oriented Saline River jog seen in the figure 9 northeast quadrant. Creation of that jog beheaded and reversed flood flow in the present day northwest-oriented Hell Creek valley. Prior to any evolution of the east-southeast oriented Saline River valley upstream from the northeast-oriented jog flood waters flowed south across the entire figure 9 map area to what was then the newly eroded and deep Smoky Hill River valley. Deep south-oriented tributary valleys were eroding headward from the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley when headward erosion of developing Saline River valley channel captured the south-oriented flood flow. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River tributary valley and to create the Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divide.

Salt Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area

Figure 10: Salt Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 10 illustrates the Salt Creek-Smoky Hill River drainage divide area west of the figure 9 map, area. Russell, Kansas is the city located east of the figure 10 center area. Gorham is the smaller town west of Russell. The north-south Ellis-Russell County boundary is located just west of Gorham. The Smoky Hill River meanders in an east direction near and across the figure 10 south edge. The Saline River can be seen in the figure 10 northeast quadrant where it meanders along and across the figure 10 north edge. The east-oriented tributary joining the Saline River north of Russell is Salt Creek. Fossil Creek is the east-southeast and south-southeast oriented Smoky Hill River tributary originating between Gorham and Russell and turning to flow in a south-southeast direction south of Russell. Note how the south-southeast oriented Fossli Creek segment is aligned with a north-northwest Salt Creek tributary. Note how Russell is located in a shallow north-northwest to south-southeast oriented through valley. The through valley is broad and depending and how the margins are determined is only about 30 feet deep, but it is definitely a water eroded valley and provides evidence of being a major south-southeast oriented flood flow route. Flood flow in this region was probably more in the form of sheet flow than in the form of anastomosing channels as seen further to the east. Flood flow at the time the through valley at Russell was eroded was moving to what was then the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley and to the actively eroding south-southeast oriented Fossil Creek valley eroding headward from the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley. At that time the deep Saline River-Salt Creek valley to the north did not exist, but was eroded shortly after. Headward erosion of deep Saline River-Salt Creek valley beheaded south and south-southeast oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Smoky Hill River valley and its actively eroding south-oriented tributary valleys. Flood waters on north ends of the beheaded flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Saline River and Salt Creek tributary valleys and to create the Salt Creek-Smoky Hill River and Saline River-Smoky Hill River drainage divides.

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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