South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area landform origins in Richardson County, Nebraska and Nemaha, Brown, and Doniphan Counties, Kansas, USA

Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

The South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area in Richardson County, Nebraska and Nemaha, Brown, and Doniphan Counties, Kansas was eroded by massive southeast and south oriented floods. Flood waters were probably derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet located north and northwest of the Kansas northeast corner. Headward erosion of the Missouri River valley and its tributary valleys occurred during these immense southeast and south oriented floods. The south-southeast oriented Missouri River valley eroded north of the east oriented Missouri River-Kansas River valley, which had eroded west to capture the southeast and south oriented flood flow. West of the south-southeast oriented Missouri River valley other south and south-southeast oriented valleys eroded headward from the east oriented Kansas River valley, including the Delaware River valley, the Vermillion Creek valley, and the Big Blue River valley. Southeast and east oriented tributary valleys also eroded headward from the actively eroding south-southeast oriented Missouri River valley. These east and southeast oriented tributary valleys beheaded south- and southeast-oriented flood flow channels and flood waters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented valleys. Headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley also beheaded south-oriented flood flow channels and resulting reversals of flood flow on north ends of south-oriented flood flow channels eroded north-oriented (and barbed) Missouri River tributary valleys. Evidence supporting this flood origin interpretation is found in orientations of present day valleys and drainage divides and also in through valleys, which cross present day drainage divides.

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 River-Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area landform origins in Richardson County, Nebraska and Nemaha, Brown, and Doniphan 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 Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area landform origins in Richardson County, Nebraska and Nemaha, Brown, and Doniphan Counties, Kansas will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri 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 Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area location map. The Missouri River flows in a south-southeast direction from the figure 1 north center edge to Kansas City located along the figure 1 south edge. At Kansas City the Missouri River turns to flow in an east-northeast direction to the figure 1 east edge. West of the Missouri River in the figure 1 northwest section is the state of Nebraska and Kansas is located south of Nebraska. East of the Missouri River near the figure 1 north edge is Iowa and south of Iowa is the state of Missouri. The east-oriented Kansas River joins the Missouri River at Kansas City, although it is only north of the figure 1 south edge for a short distance in the figure 1 southwest quadrant. The Big Blue River is an important Kansas River tributary flowing in a south-southeast direction from the figure 1 northwest corner to join the Kansas River near Manhattan, Kansas near the figure 1 south edge. The Delaware River is the unlabeled south-southeast oriented northeast Kansas stream originating near Sabetha and flowing near Muscotah to the figure 1 south edge (and joining the Kansas River south of the figure 1 map area). West of the Delaware River headwaters are north-oriented headwaters of the South Fork Big Nemaha River, which originate near Seneca, Kansas and flow north to near Du Bois, Nebraska and then to join the southeast-oriented North Fork Big Nemaha River near Salem, Nebraska. The North Fork Big Nemaha River is also unlabeled in figure 1, but is the southeast-oriented stream flowing from Sterling to Tecumseh, Humboldt, Salem, and Falls City, Nebraska before flowing to the south-southeast oriented Missouri River.  The South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area illustrated and discussed in this essay is located near the Nebraska-Kansas state line between the north-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River at Seneca and the Missouri River and includes the towns of Sabetha, Hiawatha, and Troy. Note how southeast of Troy the Missouri River turns to flow in south-southwest direction to Atchison, before returning to its southeast orientation. The Little Nemaha River-Big Nemaha River drainage divide area, the Platte River-Missouri River drainage divide area, and the Big Blue River-Big Nemaha River drainage divide area in southeast Nebraska essays addressed regions located north of the drainage divide area illustrated and discussed here and can be found under NE Missouri River (for Big Nemaha River), Big Blue River, or Platte River on the sidebar category list. Hundreds of Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays published on this website provide overwhelming evidence for immense south- and southeast-oriented floods flowing across Nebraska and Kansas at the time the Missouri River valley and its tributary valleys eroded headward into the figure 1 map area. Evidence seen in this essay supports this flood origin interpretation.

South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area detailed location map

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

Figure 2 provides a somewhat more detailed location map for the South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area in Richardson County, Nebraska and Nemaha, Brown, and Doniphan Counties, Kansas. Pawnee and Richardson are Nebraska county names and the county boundaries are shown. Nemaha, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, and Atchison are Kansas county names and Holt, Andres, Buchanan, and Platte are Missouri county names. The Missouri River flows along the west edge of Missouri, which is defined by the west or southwest borders of Holt, Andrews, Buchanan, and Platte Counties. The South Fork Big Nemaha River originates near Corning in Nemaha County and flows north through Seneca to the Pawnee County southeast corner. Once in Nebraska the South Fork Big Nemaha River turns to flow in a northeast and east direction into Richardson County where it joins the southeast-oriented North Fork Big Nemaha River near Salem. The Big Nemaha River then flows from Salem through Falls City to join the Missouri River just north of the Nebraska-Kansas state line. East of the north oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River are the south-southeast oriented headwaters of the Delaware River in northeast Nemaha County. The Delaware River flows in a south-southeast direction through Sabetha and across the Brown County southwest corner, Jackson County northeast corner, and Atchison County southwest corner into Jefferson County and to the figure 2 south edge. South of figure 2 the Delaware River joins the east oriented Kansas River. East of the south-southeast oriented Delaware River headwaters are headwaters of northeast and north oriented Walnut Creek in Brown County. Also originating in Brown County near northeast-oriented Walnut Creek is the east-southeast oriented Wolf River, which flows into Doniphan County and then turns to flow in a northwest direction to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. Note how the Missouri River makes a large loop around Doniphan County, first flowing in an east direction and then flowing in a southwest direction. Note south-oriented Rock Creek flowing from near Troy to join the Missouri River near Atchison and the unlabeled north oriented Missouri River tributary immediately to the north. Also note the unlabeled east- and southeast-oriented Missouri River tributary (Peters Creek) originating near Troy and flowing to the Missouri River opposite from St Joseph, Missouri. The South Fork Big Nemaha River-Missouri River drainage divide area contains numerous drainage history puzzles. Among the puzzles are the adjacent north and south oriented drainage routes in Nemaha and Brown Counties and the barbed Missouri River tributaries in Doniphan County. These drainage history puzzles can be unraveled by interpreting the regional evidence from the perspective of headward erosion of the Missouri River valley and its tributary valleys to capture an immense south-oriented flood.

South Fork Big Nemaha River-Delaware River drainage divide area

Figure 3: South Fork Big Nemaha River-Delaware River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 illustrates the South Fork Big Nemaha River-Delaware River drainage divide area in northern Nemaha County, Kansas. The west to east oriented Nebraska-Kansas state line is located near the figure 3 north edge and Richardson County is in Nebraska. South of Richardson County is Nemaha County, which is in Kansas. Sabetha is the town located in the figure 3 southeast corner area. The south-southeast oriented stream flowing through Sabetha to the figure 3 south edge is the Delaware River, which originates just to the northwest of Sabetha. The Delaware River flows in a south-southeast direction to join the east-oriented Kansas River south of the figure 3 map area. The north-oriented stream along the figure 3 west edge is the South Fork Big Nemaha River. Once in Nebraska the South Fork Big Nemaha River turns to flow in a northeast and east direction to join the southeast-oriented North Fork Big Nemaha River and to form the southeast-oriented Big Nemaha River, which flows to the south-southeast oriented Missouri River near the Nebraska-Kansas state line. North-oriented streams along the figure 3 north edge all flow to the northeast and east oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River. Bern is a small town located in Washington Township (northwest of the figure 3 center) and the north-oriented stream near Bern is Fourmile Creek. Note how Fourmile Creek originates as a northwest and southwest oriented stream and then turns to flow north to the figure 3 north edge (and then to the South Fork Big Nemaha River). South of Bern is southwest-oriented Wolf Run, which flows to join west-oriented Deer Creek, which flows to the north-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River. Figure 4 below provides a more detailed map of the Fourmile Creek-Wolf Run drainage divide area. Before looking at figure 4 let us try to understand the figure 3 drainage history. Prior to headward erosion of the deep Missouri River and Kansas River valleys into the figure 1 map region an immense south-oriented flood moved across the entire figure 1 map area. Headward erosion of the deep east-oriented Missouri River-Kansas River valley captured the south-oriented flood flow and south-oriented valleys eroded north from the newly eroded Kansas River valley. Among these valleys were the present day Delaware River, Vermillion Creek, and Big Blue River valleys and the south-southeast oriented Missouri River valley north of Kansas City. The southeast-oriented Big Nemaha River valley eroded northwest (and the South Fork Big Nemaha River valley eroded west) from the actively eroding south-oriented Missouri River valley and began to behead south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded east-oriented Kansas River valley. Flood waters on the north ends of the beheaded south-oriented flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow north to newly eroded east-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River valley. North-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha tributaries, including the north-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River valley segment were eroded by reversals of south-oriented flood flow on the north ends of beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes. Figure 3a below illustrates the south end of the north-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River valley at Corning and how the north-oriented valley is linked by through valleys with south-southwest oriented Vermillion Creek, which flows to the east-oriented Kansas River.

Figure 3a: South Fork Big Nemaha River-Vermillion Creek drainage divide area near Corning, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Detailed map of Fourmile Creek-Wolf Run drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Fourmile Creek-Wolf Run drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 4 provides a detailed map of the Fourmile Creek-Wolf Run drainage divide area near Bern, seen in less detail in figure 3. Fourmile Creek flows in a southeast and northeast direction from the figure 4 northeast corner to the figure 4 north center edge. North of figure 4 Fourmile Creek turns to flow in a north and then northeast direction to join the east-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River. Wolf Run is located in the figure 4 south half and flows in a southwest direction. Southwest from figure 4 Wolf Run joins west-oriented Deer Creek, which then joins north oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River. Figure 4 illustrates evidence for multiple south oriented flood flow channels prior to headward erosion of the Wolf Run valley and the subsequent headward erosion of the Fourmile Creek valley. Note the multiple north-oriented tributary valleys to the Fourmile Creek valley and the multiple south-oriented tributary valleys to the Wolf Run valley. Also note how the north-oriented Fourmile Creek tributary valleys are linked by shallow north-south oriented through valleys with the south-oriented Wolf Run tributary valleys. The through valleys are shallow compared to the depths of the Wolf Run and Fourmile Creek valleys, but they are evidence of south oriented flood flow channels that once moved flood water south into what was an actively eroding Wolf Run valley. The Wolf Run valley when it was first eroded had probably eroded headward from what was then a south-oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River alignment (although at that time flood waters were flowing on a higher topographic surface which no longer exists). Headward erosion of the Fourmile Creek valley beheaded the south oriented flood flow routes causing reversals of flood flow that initiated the north-oriented tributary valleys. It is possible the southwest oriented Fourmile Creek headwaters valley alignment was initiated as southwest-oriented channel to the south-oriented channel on the present day north-oriented South Fork Big Nemaha River alignment. If so, it was on a topographic surface higher than the present day Fourmile Creek-Wolf Run drainage divide. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Fourmile Creek valley was successful in beheading the south-oriented flood flow routes and in capturing flood flow in the southwest-oriented Fourmile Creek headwaters valley. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Fourmile Creek valley north of figure 4 beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the southwest-oriented Fourmile Creek headwaters valley. The fact that valley has been deeply eroded suggests significant volumes of flood water remained in the region until after Fourmile Creek valley headward erosion had captured the southwest-oriented headwaters valley.

Walnut Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Walnut Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area near Hiawatha, Kansas and is located east and south of the figure 3 map area. Hiawatha is the town located in the figure 5 center area and Hamil is the smaller town located in the figure 5 northwest quadrant. Robinson is the smaller town located in the figure 5 southeast quadrant and Padonia is the small town located near the figure 5 north edge and north of Hiawatha. Walnut Creek is located in the figure 5 west half and flows in a northeast direction from the figure 5 west edge (south half) to the figure 5 north edge near Padonia. North of figure 5 Walnut Creek flows in a north direction to join the east-oriented Big Nemaha River. Note the southeast and northwest oriented Walnut Creek tributaries. North oriented drainage in the figure 5 northeast quadrant is Roys Creek, which north of figure 5 flows both in a northeast and a northwest direction to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River. Wolf River originates in the figure 5 southwest quadrant and flows in a north-northeast direction and then southeast direction to the figure 5 south center edge area (south of Hiawatha). From the figure 5 south center edge area Wolf River flows in a northeast and east direction to the figure 5 east edge. Robinson is located in the Wolf River valley. Wolf River has several southeast-oriented tributaries, including southeast-oriented North Fork, which originates near Hiawatha. East of figure 5 Wolf River first flows in a southeast direction and then turns to flow in a northeast direction and finally a north direction to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. Figure 5 evidence can be explained in the context of multiple south and southeast oriented flood flow channels which were captured by headward erosion of the present day valleys. Initially the south and southeast oriented flood flow was moving across the entire figure 5 map area on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 5 elevations today. Headward erosion of the east oriented Wolf River valley from what was then the newly eroded Missouri River valley captured the flood flow routes and diverted the flood waters east (headward erosion of the Wolf River valley probably involved multiple steps, which are being omitted in this discussion). Next headward erosion of the southeast oriented Missouri River valley beheaded a south oriented flood flow route to the newly eroded Wolf River valley and flood waters on the north end of this beheaded flood flow reversed flow direction to flow north and to erode the north-oriented Roys Creek valley. Finally headward erosion of the Missouri River valley and its tributary Big Nemaha River-Walnut Creek valleys beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Wolf River valley. North and northwest oriented Walnut Creek tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north and northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes. Figure 6 below provides a detailed map of the Hiawatha area to illustrate multiple northwest southeast oriented through valleys linking northwest-oriented Walnut Creek tributary valleys with southeast-oriented Wolf River tributary valleys.

Detailed map of Euchre Creek-North Fork Wolf River drainage divide area

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

Figure 6 provides a detailed map of the Hiawatha to show the Euchre Creek-North Fork Wolf River drainage divide area. Euchre Creek originates in section 19 west of Hiawatha and flows north and northwest to the figure 6 north edge. The North Fork Wolf River originates in section 31 and flows in a northeast direction to the southwest edge of Hiawatha before turning to flow south and southeast to the figure 6 south edge. The two railroad lines make use of a north-south oriented through valley at Hiawatha, which links the northwest-oriented Euchre Creek valley with the southeast-oriented North Fork Wolf River valley. The unnamed southeast-oriented stream in the figure 6 east center area is another southeast-oriented Wolf River tributary. Note how southeast-oriented headwaters of that stream in section 21 are linked by a through valley with a northwest-oriented Euchre Creek tributary in sections 20 and 17. The through valleys provide evidence of southeast-oriented flood flow channels that existed prior to headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Walnut Creek valley west of the figure 6 map area (see figure 5). Prior to Walnut Creek valley headward erosion flood waters flowed in a southeast direction across the figure 6 map area on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 6 elevations today to what was then the newly eroded and deep east-oriented Wolf River valley south of the figure 6 map area. Headward erosion of southeast-oriented Wolf River tributary valleys then reach into the figure 6 map area with the unnamed southeast-oriented stream valley in the figure 6 east center area and the North Fork Wolf River valley receiving most their water from a southeast-oriented flood flow channel that split into multiple southeast-oriented flood flow channels north of Hiawatha. Such splits of flood flow channels is common in flood formed anastomosing channel complexes and the figure 6 evidence is illustrating one such channel split in what was probably a much larger south and/or southeast oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Walnut Creek valley west and northwest of the figure 6 map then beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow channel to the two diverging Wolf River tributary valleys. Flood waters on the northwest end of the newly beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to erode the present day northwest-oriented Euchre Creek valley and its tributary valleys and to create the present day Euchre Creek-Wolf River drainage divide.

Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area

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

Figure 7 illustrates the Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area east of the figure 5 map area and includes significant overlap areas with figure 5. Robinson is the small town located in the figure 7 southwest quadrant. Highland is the larger town located east of the figure 7 center. Sparks is the small town located in the figure 7 east center area (east of Highlands) and Leona is the small town in the figure 7 south center area and Fanning is the place-name located southeast from Sparks. Severance is the town located along the figure 7 south edge (east-southeast from Leona). The Missouri River flows in a southeast direction across the figure 7 northeast quadrant. The Wolf River flows from the figure 7 west edge to Robinson, Leona, Severance, Fanning, and Sparks before reaching the southeast-oriented Missouri River. Note how the Wolf River turns from flowing in a southeast direction to flowing in a north and even northwest direction to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River. The north and northwest oriented Wolf River valley segment was eroded by a reversal of flood flow on the north or northwest end of a south or southeast oriented flood flow channel beheaded by Missouri River valley headward erosion. Northwest-oriented Wolf River tributary valleys in the Fanning area were also eroded by reversals of flood flow on the northwest ends of southeast-oriented flood flow channels beheaded by headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Wolf River valley segment. Roys Creek flows north in the figure 7 northwest quadrant. Figure 7a below illustrates the Roys Creek valley north of the figure 7 map area. Roys Creek flows north in the figure 7a south center area, then turns to flow in a northeast direction, and then in a northwest direction, before joining the Big Nemaha River, which flows in a north-northeast direction to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River. The north-oriented Roys Creek valley was eroded by a reversal of south-oriented flood flow on the north end of a south-oriented flood flow route beheaded by Missouri River valley headward erosion. Flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow north to the newly eroded and deeper Missouri River valley. Note how the southeast-oriented Big Nemaha River valley eroded headward from the north-oriented Roys Creek valley (not the other way around). Figure 8 below provides a detailed map of the Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area seen in figure 7 to illustrate evidence for north-south oriented flood flow channels across the present day drainage divide.

Figure 7a: Roys Creek valley and Missouri River valley north of the figure 7 map area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Detailed map of Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 8 illustrates the Roys Creek-Wolf Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 7 above. Roys Creek flows in a northeast direction in the figure 8 northwest quadrant. The south oriented highway near the figure 8 south center area goes south to Robinson, which is located in the Wolf Creek valley. North of figure 8 Roys Creek flows in a north direction, a northeast direction, and a northwest direction before joining the southeast-oriented Missouri River (see figure 7a). South-oriented drainage along the figure 8 south edge flows to the Wolf River. Northwest oriented drainage in sections 15 and 16 along the figure 8 north edge flows to north oriented Roys Creek. A close study of figure 8 drainage divides reveals numerous through valleys linking the north and northwest oriented Roys Creek tributary valleys with the south oriented Wolf River tributary valleys. The through valleys provide evidence of multiple south and southeast oriented flood flow channels that once moved flood water across the figure 8 map area. Flood water was moving in what was then a large-scale south or southeast oriented anastomosing channel complex, which had been captured by headward erosion of the deep Wolf Creek valley south of the figure 8 map area. Headward erosion of the Missouri River valley north of the figure 8 map area then beheaded south oriented flood flow on the north oriented Roys Creek alignment. Flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow route reversed flow direction to flow north. Northeast oriented Roys Creek valley segments were eroded headward across south and southeast oriented flood flow channels, while north and northwest oriented Roys Creek valley segments and tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow. The reversals of flood flow created the present day north oriented Roys Creek drainage system and the Roys Creek-Wolf River drainage divide.

Missouri River-Rock Creek drainage divide area

Figure 9: Missouri River-Rock Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 9 illustrates the Missouri River-Peters Creek drainage divide area east and south of the figure 7 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 7. Northeast and north-northwest oriented Wolf River is located in the figure 9 northwest quadrant. The Missouri River, which north of the figure 9 map area has been flowing in a southeast direction, is flowing in an east and east-northeast direction along the figure 9 north edge and then turns to flow in a south direction along the figure 9 east edge. South of the figure 9 map area the Missouri River flows in a south-southwest direction before turning to flow in a southeast direction again. Rock Creek is the south oriented stream flowing to the figure 9 south center edge (Cottonwood Creek flows south just east of Rock Creek and joins south oriented Rock Creek south of the figure 9 map area). Rock Creek continues to flow south and eventually reaches the south-southwest oriented Missouri River valley. Troy is the town located near the figure 9 center and is located near the origin point for three diverging streams. Peters Creek flows in an east and southeast direction to join the Missouri River near Wathena in the figure 9 southeast quadrant (along the east edge). Mosquito Creek flows north to join the east-oriented Missouri River near the figure 9 north center edge. And Peters Creek and Cottonwood Creek flow south in two parallel valleys to eventually join the Missouri River south of the figure 9 map area (see figure 10a). Note north-south oriented through valleys in the Troy area providing evidence of former south-oriented flood flow to the south-oriented Rock Creek and Cottonwood Creek valleys. Figure 10 provides a detailed map of the Troy area to better illustrate those through valleys. Other through valleys link the east and southeast oriented Peters Creek valley with north-oriented Missouri River tributary valleys and also southeast and south oriented Missouri River tributary valleys (including the south-oriented Cottonwood Creek valley). What has happened is the south oriented Peters Creek and Cottonwood Creek valleys eroded north from the newly eroded Missouri River valley along a south-oriented flood flow channel, while the Missouri River valley eroded headward in a north-northeast direction to capture south oriented flood flow further east. Southeast-oriented Missouri River tributary valleys then eroded headward from the actively eroding Missouri River valley until the Peters Creek valley eroded headward to behead south-oriented flood flow to those southeast oriented tributary valleys (and also to the south oriented Cottonwood Creek valley). The Missouri River then eroded north and west and beheaded  south-oriented flood flow channels to the newly eroded Peters Creek valley. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode the north oriented Missouri River tributary valleys.

Detailed map of Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek drainage divide area

Figure 10: Detailed map of Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 provides a detailed map of the Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek drainage divide area near Troy, Kansas and seen in less detail in figure 9 above. Mosquito Creek is the north-oriented stream flowing to the figure 10 north center edge and north of figure 10 flows north to join the east-oriented Missouri River. Peters Creek originates in Troy and flows in an east-northeast direction to the figure 10 northeast quadrant and east edge. East of figure 10 Peters Creek turns to flow in a southeast direction to the south-southwest oriented Missouri River (see figure 9). Rock Creek is located in the figure 10 southwest corner area and flows in a southeast direction to the figure 10 south edge. Cottonwood Creek is the southwest-oriented stream in section 29 south of Troy. South of figure 1 Rock Creek and Cottonwood Creek join to form south-oriented Rock Creek, which flows to the south-southwest and southeast oriented Missouri River located south of the figure 10 map area. Figure 10a illustrates the Rock Creek route to the Missouri River south of the figures 9 and 10 map areas and includes overlap areas with figure 9. Note how the Missouri River has turned to flow in a south-southwest direction as compared to the east-oriented direction north of figure 9, which is located north of the figure 10a map area. Referring back to figure 10 note north-south oriented through valleys in sections 19 and 20 linking north-oriented Mosquito Creek headwaters with south oriented Rock Creek and Cottonwood Creek headwaters. The through valleys are evidence that prior to headward erosion of the east-oriented Missouri River valley (along the north edge of figure 9) south oriented flood water flowed south along the present-day north oriented Mosquito Creek valley alignment. The south-oriented flood flow was moving to what was then the newly eroded south oriented Missouri River valley seen in figure 10a below. Headward erosion of the deep east oriented Missouri River valley along the figure 9 north edge then beheaded the south-oriented Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek flood flow channel. Flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow north and to erode the north-oriented Mosquito Creek valley. Why the south-oriented Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek flood flow route, which is a much more direct route than the route used by the Missouri River, did not become the Missouri River valley route is difficult to say from topographic map evidence alone. There may be underlying bedrock factors that can not be determined from topographic map evidence. Whatever the reason, the Mosquito Creek-Rock Creek flood flow route was abandoned.

Figure 10a: Rock Creek route to Missouri River south of figure 9 map area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Additional information and sources of maps studied

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

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