South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area landform origins in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties, Kansas, USA

Authors

Abstract:

The South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties Kansas was eroded by massive south-oriented floods and shaped during evolution of a gigantic east-oriented flood formed anastomosing channel complex involving the present day Smoky Hill, Saline, Solomon, and Republican River valleys and tributary valleys. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet and valleys in the east-oriented anastomosing channel complex eroded headward in sequence (from south to north) to capture south-oriented flood flow and divert flood waters to what were then newly eroded Kansas River and Missouri River valleys. Saline River valley headward erosion beheaded flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding Smoky Hill River tributary valleys. South Fork Solomon River valley headward erosion (from the newly eroded Solomon River valley) beheaded flood flow channels to what were then actively eroding Saline River tributary valleys. Evidence supporting this flood origin interpretation includes positions and orientations of the South Fork Solomon River valley and Saline River valley and their tributary valleys, shallow through valleys eroded across the present day South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide, and divergence of a Republican River tributary and a Smoky Hill River tributary from the same region where the South Fork Solomon River and the Saline River originate.

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 South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area landform origins in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham 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 South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area landform origins in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties, Kansas will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: South Fork Solomon River-Saline 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 South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties location map and shows an area in northwest Kansas. Nebraska is the state north of Kansas and Colorado is the state west of Kansas and Nebraska. Several east oriented rivers and east oriented tributaries to the east oriented rivers flow across this northwest Kansas region. The Smoky Hill River is located in the figure 1 south half and flows from the figure 1 west edge to Russell Springs, Cedar Bluff Reservoir, and Schoenchen before reaching the figure 1 east edge. Major figure 1 Smoky Hill River tributaries from the north are east-southeast oriented Hackberry Creek and east-southeast oriented Big Creek. The east and east-southeast oriented Saline River is located north of Big Creek. The east-oriented South Fork Solomon River is located north of the Saline River. North of the South Fork Solomon River is the east-northeast and east oriented North Fork Solomon River. North of the North Fork Solomon River is northeast-oriented Prairie Dog Creek, which joins the east- and southeast-oriented Republican River at Harlan County Lake in southern Nebraska. North of Prairie Dog Creek are other northeast-oriented Republican River tributaries. The Republican River, Solomon River, and Smoky Hill River all eventually join in eastern Kansas to form the east-oriented Kansas River, which joins 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 Republican River-Beaver Creek drainage divide area in Hitchcock and Red Willow Counties, Nebraska and Rawlins and Decatur Counties, Kansas, the Beaver Creek-South Fork Solomon River drainage divide area in Red Willow County, Nebraska and Decatur and Sheridan Counties, Kansas, and the North Fork Solomon River-South Fork Solomon River drainage divide area in Norton, Phillips, Smith, Graham, Rooks, and Osborne Counties essays describe regions located north and west of the drainage discussed here and in the South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Rooks, Osborne, Ellis, and Russell Counties essay describes the region located east of the drainage divide area discussed here (essays can be located under categories listed on the sidebar category list). Hundreds of Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays collectively provide significant evidence for immense south-oriented floods, which flowed across Nebraska and into Kansas. The various Kansas River tributaries shown in figure 1 developed as deep anastomosing valleys eroded headward in sequence (from south to north) to capture the massive south-oriented flood flow and to divert flood waters east to the newly eroded Kansas River valley, which had eroded headward from the newly eroded Missouri River valley. Based on this flood origin interpretation the Smoky Hill River valley eroded headward across the figure 1 map area in advance of Saline River valley headward erosion. And the Saline River valley eroded headward across the figure 1 map area in advance of South Fork Solomon River valley headward erosion. Evidence illustrated in topographic maps below supports this flood origin interpretation.

South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area detailed location map

Figure 2: South Fork Solomon River-Saline River 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 South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in Thomas, Sheridan, and Graham Counties, Kansas. Rawlins, Decatur, Norton, Thomas, Sheridan, Graham, Logan, Gove, and Trego are Kansas county names and county boundaries are shown. The South Fork Saline River originates just north of Brownville in the Thomas County southwest corner and flows in an east direction across southern Thomas County to join the east-southeast oriented North Fork near the Thomas-Sheridan County border. The Saline River then flows in an east direction across southern Sheridan County and then along the Graham-Trego County border to the figure 2 east edge. Note how Saline River tributaries from the north are primarily southeast oriented, suggesting Saline River valley headward erosion captured multiple southeast-oriented flood flow channels. The South Fork Solomon River begins a short distance west of the South Fork Saline River origin (just west of the Thomas County boundary) and flows in an east direction across Thomas County (just south of Mingo). Once in Sheridan County the South Fork Solomon River flows in an east-northeast direction to Tasco and then to Studley on the Sheridan County-Graham County border. From Studley the South Fork Solomon River flows in an east direction across Graham County. Note how South Fork Solomon River tributaries from the south are primarily oriented in a north or northeast direction. The South Fork Solomon River tributary orientations can be explained in the context of headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley across numerous southeast-oriented flood flow channels crossing the figure 2 map area. The north-oriented tributary valleys may have been eroded by reversals of flood flow caused by captures of flood water from south and southeast oriented flood flow channels located south of what was then the actively eroding South Fork Solomon River valley head. The northeast-oriented tributary valleys may have eroded headward to capture southeast-oriented flood flow channels located south and west of what was then the actively eroding South Fork Solomon River valley head. Also of interest is the fact the Saline River valley originates just a short distance east of where the South Fork Solomon River valley begins. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Sappa Creek valley beheaded all southeast-oriented flood flow to the South Fork Solomon River valley, which beheaded all southeast-oriented flood flow to the Saline River valley.

South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area southeast from Hill City, Kansas

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

Figure 3 uses reduced size maps to illustrate the South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in eastern Graham County and western Rooks County. Hill City is the town located in the figure 3 northwest corner and Palco is the smaller town located in the figure 3 southeast quadrant. The east-oriented South Fork Solomon River is located near the figure 3 north edge. Note north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributaries. Skunk Creek, Wild Horse Creek and Sand Creek are the named north-northeast oriented tributaries from west to east with most other tributaries being north-oriented. Note how Skunk Creek, Wild Horse Creek, and Sand Creek headwaters are north-oriented. South and south-southeast oriented drainage along the figure 3 south margin flows to the east-oriented Saline River, which is located south of the figure 3 map area. Note north-south oriented through valleys linking the north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys with the south-oriented Saline River tributary valleys. The through valleys are shallow, but they exist and provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels that once moved large quantities of south-oriented flood water to what were then actively eroding south and south-southeast oriented Saline River tributary valleys. The tributary valleys eroded headward from what was then the newly eroded Saline River valley. At that time the deep South Fork Solomon River valley did not exist and flood waters were flowing on a topographic surface at least as high as the present day South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide. Headward erosion of the deep South Fork Solomon River valley then 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 South Fork Solomon River valley. Because flood flow channels were beheaded one at a time from east to west and because flood flow channels were anastomosing or interconnected reversed flood flow in a newly beheaded flood flow channel could capture yet to be beheaded flood flow from channels further to the west. Such captures of yet to be beheaded flood flow enabled reversed flow to erode significant north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys. Figure 3a below provides a detailed map of the South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide a short distance west of Palco to better illustrate the through valleys. The through valley in section 36 in the figure 3a southeast corner area is bounded by hills on either rising 40-60 feet above the through valley floor. Other figure 3a through valleys are shallower, but can be seen in sections 27 and 28.

Figure 3a: Detailed map of South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide area in eastern Graham County. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Jackson Branch Brush Creek-Happy Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Jackson Branch Brush Creek-Happy Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 uses reduced size maps to illustrate the Jackson Branch Brush Creek-Happy Creek drainage divide area west of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Hill City is located in the figure 4 northeast corner. Studley is the smaller town in the figure 4 northwest corner. Morland is the town east of Studley and Penokee is the even smaller town located near the figure 4 north center edge. The South Fork Solomon River flows from Studley to Morland, Penokee, and Hill City near the figure 4 north edge. Brush Creek is east-northeast and east oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary originating in the figure 4 west center area as a north-oriented stream and then turning to flow in an east and east-northeast direction to MILLBROOK township in the figure 4 northeast quadrant, where Brush Creek is joined by northeast-oriented Jackson Branch and then flows in a northeast and north direction to join the South Fork Solomon River south of Hill City. The Jackson Branch originates just south of the figure 4 center area as a southeast-oriented stream and then makes a north and southeast jog before turning to flow in a northeast direction to join Brush Creek in the figure 4 northeast quadrant. Southeast-oriented streams along the figure 4 south margin all flow to the east-oriented Saline River, which is located south of the figure 4 map area. The southeast-oriented stream in the figure 4 southwest corner is the North Fork Saline River (another North Fork Saline River will be seen further west). St Peter is the small town located south of the word BRYANT. Happy Creek is the named southeast-oriented stream located near the word HAPPY in the figure 4 southeast quadrant. A close study of the figure 4 west-east oriented drainage divides reveals shallow through valleys crossing those drainage divides. The west to east oriented drainage divides include the South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide, the Brush Creek-Jackson Branch drainage divide, and the Jackson Branch-Saline River drainage divide. Figure 5 below provides a detailed map of the South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide area to better illustrate through valleys crossing that drainage divide. Figure 4 drainage history (determinable from figure 4 evidence) began with south-oriented flood water flowing across the entire figure 4 map area to what were then actively eroding southeast-oriented Saline River tributary valleys. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Brush Creek-Jackson Branch valley then beheaded and reversed flood flow channels to the actively eroding southeast-oriented Saline River tributary valleys (including the Happy Creek valley). Headward erosion of the east and east-northeast oriented Brush Creek valley then beheaded and reversed flood flow channels to newly eroded Jackson Branch valley. Finally headward erosion of the deep South Fork Solomon River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow channels the newly eroded Brush Creek valley.

Detailed map of Jackson Branch Brush Creek-Happy Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Detailed map of Jackson Branch Brush Creek-Happy Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 5 provides a detailed map of the South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide area south of Morland, which was seen in less detail in figure 4 above. Brush Creek is the east-oriented stream located in sections 11, 12, 7, 8, and 9 in the figure 5 south half. North-oriented streams north of Brush Creek are South Fork Solomon River tributaries. Note how the north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys are linked by shallow north-south oriented through valleys with shorter south-oriented Brush Creek tributary valleys. The through valleys can be seen in sections 2, 1, 6, 5, and 4 with the deepest through valley being in section 5. The figure 5 contour interval is 10 feet and the deepest through valley floor is 40-50 feet lower than the hill to the west and 20-30 feet lower than the hill to the east. The through valleys are evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow channels that once moved flood water across the present day South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide. At that time the deep South Fork Solomon River valley north of the figure 5 map area did not exist and flood waters were flowing on a topographic surface at last as high the present day South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide elevation. Headward erosion of the east-oriented South Fork Solomon River valley then 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 much deeper and newly eroded South Fork Solomon River valley. Reversed flow on newly beheaded flood flow channels captured yet to be beheaded flood flow from flood flow channels further to west. The east-oriented Brush Creek valley may have been eroded by such east-oriented yet to be beheaded flood flow. The captured yet to be beheaded flood flow provided the water volumes required to erode the north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys. As the South Fork Solomon River valley head eroded west more and more of the south-oriented flood flow channels were beheaded and reversed and the South Fork Solomon River-Brush Creek drainage divide was created.

South Fork Solomon River-North Fork Saline River drainage divide area

Figure 6: South Fork Solomon River-North Fork Saline River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 illustrates the South Fork Solomon River-North Fork Saline River drainage divide area west of the figure 4 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 4. Studley is the town located near the figure 6 northeast corner. Tasco is the town located in VALLEY township near the figure 6 north center edge. The South Fork Solomon River flows in an east and northeast direction from the figure 6 west edge to join east-oriented Sand Creek near Tasco and then to flow east to Studley and the figure 6 northeast corner. Note north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributaries. South Martin Creek is the westernmost of the named north-oriented tributaries and has northeast and southeast oriented headwaters. Southeast-oriented streams flowing to the figure 6 south edge are Saline River tributaries. The North Fork Saline River originates north of WEST SALINE township and flows in an east-northeast direction before turning to flow in a southeast direction, with a north-northeast jog, to the figure 6 south edge (south of EAST SALINE township). As in previous figures the South Fork Solomon River-Saline River drainage divide elevation decreases from west to east. Through valleys linking the north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys with the southeast-oriented Saline River tributary valleys are not as obvious as in previous figures, but are still present. Figure 6a below provides a detailed map of the South Martin Creek-North Fork Saline River drainage divide area (near the figure 6 center) to better illustrate through valleys present. The north-south oriented through valley linking the north-oriented South Fork Martin Creek valley with the southeast-oriented North Fork Saline River valley is seen in section 18 in figure 6a. The through valley is probably only notched 20-30 feet into the regional east-oriented slope, but is definitely present as are other even shallower through valleys shown in the figure 6a map area. The section 18 through valley provides evidence of south-oriented flood flow to what was then the actively eroding southeast-oriented North Fork Saline River valley. At that time the South Fork Solomon River valley did not exist. Headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley beheaded the south-oriented flood flow, which caused a reversal of flood flow on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel. Reversed flow, probably with the aid of captured yet to be beheaded flood water from further west, then eroded the north-oriented South Martin Creek valley and created the South Martin Creek-North Fork Saline River drainage divide.

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


South Fork Solomon River-Spring Brook drainage divide area

Figure 7: South Fork Solomon River-Spring Brook drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the South Fork Solomon River-Spring Brook drainage divide area west of the figure 6 map area. The east and east-northeast oriented river in the figure 7 north margin area is the South Fork Solomon River. The east-southeast and east-northeast oriented river in the figure 7 south margin area in the Saline River. Spring Brook is the southeast-oriented Saline River tributary originating just north of the word SOLOMON and joining the Saline River in the figure 7 southeast quadrant. Note other southeast-oriented Saline River tributaries and also note south and south-southeast oriented tributaries to those southeast-oriented tributaries. Shallow north-south oriented through valleys can be seen linking a southeast-oriented Spring Brook tributary and a south-oriented tributary to that tributary in the figure 7 center area with short north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys. Other shallow north-south oriented through valleys can be seen in the figure 7 northeast corner area. Between the South Fork Solomon River and the Saline River there is a southeast-oriented slope. A similar southeast-oriented slope can be seen north of the South Fork Solomon River valley. The southeast-oriented slope to the Saline River valley is probably a flood eroded erosion surfaces eroded by southeast-oriented flood waters flowing to what was then the newly eroded and deep Saline River valley head. The deep tributary valleys eroded headward into that flood-eroded erosion surface. Massive sheets of flood water eroded the newly eroded Saline River valley north wall to produce the southeast-oriented erosion surface seen today. At that time the deep South Fork Solomon River valley did not exist. Headward erosion the deep South Fork Solomon River valley repeated the process as flood waters eroded the newly carved South Fork Solomon River valley north wall to produce a similar southeast-oriented erosion surface. The short north-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys suggests major flood flow reversals did not occur on the southeast-oriented erosion surface leading to the deep Saline River valley.

South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southeast of Mingo, Kansas

Figure 8: South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southeast of Mingo, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 8 illustrates the South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southeast from Mingo, Kansas and west of the figure 7 map area. Mingo is the town located in the figure 8 northwest corner. The South Fork Solomon River flows in an east-northeast in the figure 8 northwest corner and then in an east direction to the figure 8 northeast corner where it turns to flow in an east-southeast direction to the figure 8 east edge. Note the unnamed east-oriented tributary joining the South Fork Solomon River near the figure 8 northeast corner. The South Fork Saline River flows in an east direction to the figure 8 southeast corner area where it turns to flow in a northeast and east direction to the figure 8 east edge. The North Fork Saline River (this is a different North Fork than seen in figures 4 and 6) flows in an east-southeast direction from the figure 8 west edge to join the northeast-oriented South Fork Saline River near the figure 8 southeast corner. Note the southeast-oriented erosion surfaces, which appear to be related to each of the east-oriented valleys. The figure 8 drainage history determinable from figure 8 evidence probably began with sheets of southeast-oriented flood water moving across the figure 8 map area to what were probably newly eroded valleys located south of the figure 8 map area (today the east-oriented Big Creek valley is located a short distance south of the figure 8 south edge). Headward erosion of the east-oriented Saline River valley and South Fork Saline River valley then captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and diverted flood waters east. The deep Saline River valley, especially in the figure 8 southeast corner area, produced a new and deeper base level toward which flood waters moved causing the newly formed erosion surface to be graded in that direction. At the same time headward erosion of the east-southeast-oriented North Fork Saline River valley captured the flood flow and diverted the flood water more efficiently to the newly eroded Saline River valley. Flood flow to what were deep  south, south-southeast, and southeast oriented tributary valleys actively eroding headward from the newly eroded Saline River and North Fork Saline River valleys was then beheaded by headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley and its unnamed east-oriented tributary valley. Next headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley beheaded all flood flow to the unnamed east-oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valley. Flood flow reversal on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels eroded the north-northwest oriented South Fork Solomon River tributary valleys located southeast of Mingo.

South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southwest of Mingo

Figure 9: South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southwest of Mingo. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates the South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area southwest of Mingo and west of the figure 8 map area. Mingo is located in the figure 9 northeast corner. The South Fork Solomon River flows in an east, east-northeast, east-southeast, and east direction across the figure 9 north margin. The South Fork Saline River flows in a southeast and east direction across the figure 9 south half. The southeast, east-northeast, and southeast oriented North Fork Saline River (the same one seen in figure 8) is located in the figure 9 east center area. An unnamed northeast and east-northeast oriented tributary joins the South Fork Solomon River in the figure 9 north center area. Note how there is a southeast-oriented erosion surface extending from the unnamed northeast and east-northeast oriented South Fork Solomon River valley to the South Fork Saline River valley. North of the unnamed South Fork Solomon River valley the erosion surface appears to be at a slightly lower elevation and to be graded toward the unnamed South Fork Solomon River tributary valley. In other words, the deep South Fork Saline River valley eroded headward into the figure 9 map area first and flood waters moved toward what was then the newly eroded and deep South Fork Saline River valley head. Sheets of flood water eroded the South Fork Saline River valley north wall to produce the southeast-oriented erosion surface seen today. Headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River-unnamed northeast and east-northeast oriented tributary valley then captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and flood waters eroded that valley’s north wall to produce the slightly lower level southeast-sloping erosion surface seen today. Tributary valleys to both the South Fork Saline River and the South Fork Solomon River are much rarer in the figure 9 map area than in previous figures. Also, the figure 9 map area does not contain evidence of obvious through valleys such as was seen in previous figures. Small intermittent lakes in the figure 9 suggest the possibility of depressions, which could be related to shallow sinkholes and/or wind-blown depressions. If depressions are shallow sinkholes the region may be underlain by soluble materials. Whatever the underlying bedrock material is the region was eroded by southeast-oriented floods, which were first captured by headward erosion of the deep South Fork Saline River valley and its tributary valleys and subsequently captured by headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley and its tributary valleys.

West end of the South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area

Figure 10: West end of the South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 10 illustrates the west end of the South Fork Solomon River-South Fork Saline River drainage divide area and is located west of the figure 9 map area. The north-south oriented Sherman-Thomas County border is located in the figure 10 west half. Brownville is the small town (or place-name) located near the northeast corner of the figure 10 southwest quadrant. The South Fork Solomon River flows in an east direction across the figure 10 north half and originates a short distance west of the figure 10 map area. Figure 10a below illustrates the region west of the figure 10 map area to show the South Fork Solomon River headwaters. Brownville is located in the figure 10a southeast quadrant. The east-northeast and east oriented stream in the figure 10a northwest quadrant is the South Fork Sappa Creek, which flows to the Republican River. The east-southeast oriented stream in the figure 10a southwest quadrant and south center area is Sand Creek, which flows to the southeast and east oriented North Fork Smoky Hill River. Note how in figure 10 headward erosion of the South Fork Solomon River valley beheaded flood flow moving to the southeast-oriented South Fork Saline River headwaters and tributary valleys. Note in figure 10a how headward erosion of the South Fork Sappa Creek valley and an east-northeast tributary valley beheaded and reversed southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the South Fork Solomon River valley head (note north-northwest oriented tributaries as evidence of the reversed flood flow). Note also in figure 10a how headward erosion of the South Fork Sappa Creek valley and its tributary valley also beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the Sand Creek valley (and Smoky Hill River valley. The figure 10 and 10a map area is remarkable in that flood waters from this relatively small region at one time flowed from this region via four divergent river valleys along remarkably different routes to the east-oriented Kansas River valley in eastern Kansas. These four divergent river valleys (the Sappa Creek-Republican River, the Solomon River, the Saline River, and the Sand Creek-Smoky Hill River) have a common “origin” point and a common convergence point and describe what was for a time an immense east-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Flood formed anastomosing channel complexes are constantly evolving, at least as long flood flow continues. This gigantic east-oriented anastomosing channel complex probably was no different. Republican River, Solomon River, Saline River, and Smoky Hill River drainage history is the history of this immense east-oriented anastomosing channel complex, which was supplied with water from immense south and southeast oriented floods. Figure 10a evidence suggests Republican River headward erosion (via Sappa Creek valley headward erosion) beheaded all flood flow to the Solomon River valley and Solomon River valley headward erosion beheaded all flood flow to the Saline River valley.

Figure 10a: South Fork Sappa Creek-South Fork Solomon River drainage divide area west of the figure 10 map 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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