Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area landform origins, Black Hills, western South Dakota, USA

Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

The drainage divide between Rapid Creek and Spring Creek originates in the western South Dakota Black Hills and continues east of the Black Hills to the Cheyenne River valley. Although detailed topographic maps of the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area have been available for more than fifty years detailed map evidence has not previously been used to interpret the region’s geomorphic history. The interpretation provided here is based entirely on topographic map evidence. The Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area is interpreted to have been eroded during immense southeast-oriented flood events, the first of which flowed on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest points in the present-day drainage divide area today, although the Black Hills area may have been uplifted during and/or following the flood. Flood flow across the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area in the Black Hills ended when headward erosion of north-oriented Rapid Creek tributary valleys captured all southeast-oriented flood flow to the Spring Creek drainage basin.

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 western South Dakota Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area landform origins. 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 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 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 similar essays is a thick North American ice sheet, comparable in thickness to the present day Antarctic ice sheet, occupied approximately the North American region usually recognized to have been glaciated and through its weight and erosive actions created a “deep” North American “hole”, through its weight and deep erosion (and perhaps deposition) along major south-oriented melt water flow routes caused significant crustal warping and tectonic change, through its action of melting fast produced immense floods that flowed across the continent, and through its action of melting fast systematically opened up space in the ice sheet created “hole” so headward erosion of newly developed north-oriented drainage systems captured immense south-oriented melt water floods and diverted immense melt water floods north into space the ice sheet had once occupied.
  • If this previously unexplored paradigm is correct the geographic region explored by this essay should contain evidence of immense floods that were captured by headward erosion of new valley systems so as to cause the floods to flow in a different direction. Ability of this previously unexplored paradigm to explain Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area landform evidence will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area location map (select and click on maps to enlarge). National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 1 provides a general location map for the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area. The map illustrates an area in western South Dakota. Immediately west of the figure 1 map area is the state of Wyoming. Rapid Creek and Spring Creek both originate in the Black Hills west of Rapid City, South Dakota and flow southeast to join the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River just west of the Badlands National Park. Rapid Creek is not labeled, but it is the unlabeled southeast-oriented stream immediately south of Boxelder Creek and flows through Rochford, Silver City, Rapid City, and Farmingdale, South Dakota. West and north of Rapid Creek headwaters are north-oriented Spearfish Creek (which flows along the figure 1 west edge through Spearfish to join the Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche in the figure 1 northwest corner), northeast-oriented Whitewood Creek (which flows northeast through Deadwood and Whitewood to join the Belle Fourche River), and northeast-oriented Bear Butte Creek (which flows northeast through Sturgis to join the Belle Fourche River). Spring Creek is the unlabeled stream immediately south of Rapid Creek and flows through Hill City and near the Stratobowl. Rapid Creek and Spring Creek are two of several streams shown on figure 1 flowing southeast from the Black Hills to join the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River east of the Black Hills. North of Boxelder Creek is Elk Creek, which is labeled in figure 1.

  • Some other Black Hills region drainage divide essays include the Boxelder Creek-Rapid Creek drainage divide area, Elk Creek-Boxelder Creek drainage divide area, Belle Fourche River-Elk Creek drainage divide area north of Elk Creek, Whitewood Creek-Bear Butte Creek and Spearfish Creek-Whitewood Creek drainage divide area essays and can be found under Black Hills region on the sidebar category list. This essay interprets Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the context of an immense southeast oriented flood that flowed across the entire figure 1 map area and that was systematically captured by headward erosion of deep northeast-oriented valleys, which diverted flood waters further and further northeast and north. The source of the southeast-oriented flood water cannot be determined from evidence presented here. However,numerous Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essay published on this website can be used to demonstrate the floods occurred before and/or while the Black Hills area was being uplifted and that flood waters can be traced headward to a North American ice sheet location. Rapid melting of a thick North American ice sheet located in a deep “hole” would explain the flood water source and also why deep valleys eroded west and southwest to capture southeast-oriented flood waters to divert flood waters further and further northeast and north into space in the deep “hole” the rapidly melting ice sheet had once occupied. In addition, presence of a thick North American ice sheet in a deep “hole” north and east of the Black Hills might explain crustal warping that uplifted the Black Hills dome during or even after an immense southeast-oriented flood. Uplift of the Black Hills dome may have been accelerated by crustal unloading as flood waters deeply eroded the Black Hills region and removed overlying rock layers.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area detailed location map

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

Figure 2 provides a slightly more detailed location map for the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area. Custer County and Pennington County are located in western South Dakota. Green areas represent Black Hills National Forest lands, which are generally located in the Black Hills upland region. Middle Fork Rapid Creek originates near the figure 2 northwest corner, although for this essay north-oriented Ditch Creek and northeast oriented Castle Creek (located in western Pennington County) are the important western Rapid Creek tributaries. Figure 2 does not provide enough detail to make observations about Rapid Creek-Spring Creek  drainage divide landform origins in the Black Hills area and such observations need to be made from more detailed maps below. However, east of Rapid City figure 2 shows southeast oriented Rapid Creek tributaries flowing from the Boxelder Creek-Rapid Creek drainage divide. Further, figure 2 shows several southeast oriented tributaries to the northeast oriented Cheyenne River. Also figure 2 shows northwest-oriented tributaries to the northeast oriented Cheyenne River. This predominance of southeast and northwest-oriented tributaries to major streams on the plains east of the Black Hills is evidence major east, northeast and north-oriented stream valleys eroded headward across multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes, such as might be found in a large-scale anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of deep northeast and east-oriented valleys (or of even a southeast-oriented valley) across such a complex of southeast-oriented flood flow channels would have captured the southeast-oriented flood waters and enabled southeast-oriented tributary valleys to erode headward from the newly eroded and deep stream valley wall along the captured southeast-oriented flow channel. At the same time capture of the southeast-oriented flood flow would have beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes and flood waters on the northwest ends of those beheaded flood flow channels would have reversed flow direction to flow northwest into the newly eroded and deeper stream valley. Because the channels were anastomosing (meaning they were interconnected) reversed flow on beheaded flood flow routes often captured flood waters from yet to be beheaded flood flow routes further to the south or southwest. Capture of water from such yet to be beheaded flood flow routes frequently provided sufficient water to erode significant northwest-oriented tributary valleys.

Castle Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: Castle Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 3 illustrates the Castle Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area south and southeast of Deerfield Lake. Deerfield Lake is a reservoir located in the Castle Creek valley and is located in the figure 3 northwest corner. Castle Creek flows east from the figure 3 west edge (north half) and then north to Deerfield Lake. A major Castle Creek tributary is north-oriented Ditch Creek, which flows near the figure 3 west edge. Southwest-oriented Sixmile Draw flows  to north-oriented Ditch Creek. Just east of where Ditch Creek joins Castle Creek  (south of Hat Mountain in figure 3 northwest corner) is northwest-oriented Heely Creek. East of Heely Creek is northwest-oriented Gold Run flowing to Deerfield Lake. Note how northwest-oriented Gold Run and southeast-oriented Negro Creek drain opposites ends of Gillette Prairie, with northeast-oriented State Creek draining the middle. Northeast-oriented State Creek flows to the figure 3 north edge and then to Rapid Creek. Spring Creek originates in the figure 3 southwest quadrant at Long Draw, which flows southwest, east and southeast to the figure 3 south edge (center) and then turns north-northeast to flow across the figure 3 southeast corner (the highway and railroad follow it). In the figure 3 southwest corner is southwest and south-oriented drainage flowing to the Cheyenne River south of the Black Hills (see figure 1 above). A close look at Heely Creek reveals it begins as a southeast-oriented stream and then makes a U-turn to flow to northeast-oriented Castle Creek. The Heely Creek northwest-orientation and U-turn provide evidence of multiple stream captures. Headward erosion of the deep northeast-oriented Castle Creek valley beheaded a southeast-oriented flood flow route using the present day Heely Creek alignment. Flood waters on the northwest end of that beheaded flood flow route reversed flow direction to flow northwest. The newly reversed flood flow captured southeast-oriented flood flow from a yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow route further to the southwest. The southeast-oriented Heely Creek headwaters are evidence of the second capture and also provide evidence the northeast-oriented Castle Creek valley was eroding southwest into a topographic surface at least as high as the present day drainage divide between the Castle Creek valley and the southeast-oriented Heely Creek headwaters. Multiple deep through valleys link the Castle Creek drainage basin with the Spring Creek drainage basin and provide evidence headward erosion of the deep Castle Creek valley (and its deep tributary valleys) beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the Spring Creek drainage basin. Detailed maps below illustrate through valleys west of the Spring Creek origin and also between northeast-oriented State Creek (flowing to Rapid Creek) and southeast-oriented Negro Creek (flowing to Spring Creek).

Castle Creek-Gillette Canyon- Spring Creek drainage divide west of Long Draw

Figure 4: Castle Creek-Gillette Canyon-Spring Creek drainage divides west of Long Draw. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 illustrates the Castle Creek-Gillette Canyon-Spring Creek drainage divides west of Long Draw. Southwest-oriented Sixmile Draw flows to north-northwest oriented Ditch Creek in the figure 4 northwest corner. Figure 3 above illustrated how the SIxmile Draw valley is linked by a through valley to the southeast and south oriented Bobcat Gulch valley, which drains to Spring Creek.  Ditch Creek flows north to Castle Creek, which flows to Rapid Creek, which eventually flows to the Cheyenne River east of the Black Hills. Northwest-oriented flow from the figure 4 south center makes a U-turn in the figure 4 west center (south) to flow southwest into Gillette Canyon and flow south to the Cheyenne River (south of the Black Hills). Long Draw flows southwest to join an unnamed northwest-oriented stream and then flow east and northeast as Spring Creek to eventually reach the Cheyenne River east of the Black Hills. A deep north-south through valley provides evidence water once flowed south from what is today the Ditch Creek valley to what is today the southwest-oriented Gillette Canyon valley. The northwest-oriented Gillette Canyon headwaters valley is evidence of anastomosing south oriented flood flow, with headward erosion of the deep Gillette Canyon valley beheading southeast-oriented flood flow to cause a reversal of flood flow to create the northwest-oriented Gillette Canyon headwaters valley (a through valley at the southeast end of the northwest-oriented Gillette Canyon headwaters valleys provides a link to a south-oriented valley, which drains to the Cheyenne River south of the Black Hills). An east-west through valley links a west-oriented Gillette Canyon tributary with east and northeast-oriented Spring Creek and is evidence south-oriented flood water once flowed from what is today the north-oriented Ditch Creek valley to the east- and northeast-oriented Spring Creek valley (in addition to the previously mentioned south-oriented Gillette Canyon route and a route defined by what is today the northwest-oriented Gillette Canyon headwaters valley). A high level through valley in the figure 4 southeast corner links the unnamed northwest-oriented Spring Creek tributary valley with a south-oriented valley, which drains to the Cheyenne River south of the Black Hills. The figure 4 capture history is complex, but can be worked out from the various through valleys and the valley orientations. In brief headward erosion of an anastomosing complex of deep south-oriented valleys eroding north from the deep Cheyenne River valley (south of Black Hills) initiated most figure 4 south- and north-oriented valleys. Headward erosion of the deep Spring Creek valley then beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes and diverted water to east of the Black Hills, while at approximately the same time the deep Rapid Creek-Castle Creek valley eroded west and southwest and captured the south-oriented flood flow.

Castle Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area at State Creek and Negro Creek

Figure 5: Castle Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area at State Creek and Negro Creek. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 5 illustrates the State Creek-Negro Creek drainage divide area east of Copper Mountain and southeast of Gillette Prairie. Negro Creek flows southeast to the figure 5 south center edge and then to Spring Creek. To the west Bobcat Gulch drains southeast and south (immediately east of Odakota Mountain along the figure 5 south edge, west half) to the figure 5 south edge and to Spring Creek. State Creek flows east across the Gillette Prairie south edge and then north to the figure 5 north edge and eventually to Castle Creek. Gold Run drains northwest to the figure 5 northwest corner and then to Castle Creek. Sixmile Draw drains to the figure 5 southwest corner and then to north-oriented Ditch Creek, which flows to northeast-oriented Castle Creek. Through valleys link southeast-oriented Bobcat Gulch and Negro Creek headwaters with the east oriented State Creek headwaters valley. The east oriented State Creek headwaters valley eroded west to capture southeast-oriented flood flow to what were at that time the actively eroding Negro Creek valley and Bobcat Gulch valley, which had eroded headward from what was then the actively eroding Spring Creek valley. Subsequently headward erosion of the deep Castle Creek valley (north and northwest of figure 5) captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and diverted the water northeast and east to the Rapid Creek valley. Headward erosion of the Castle Creek valley beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow routes flowing to the east and north-oriented State Creek headwaters causing flood waters on the northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes to reverse flow direction and to flow northwest to the newly eroded and deeper Castle Creek valley. The northwest-oriented Gold Run valley was eroded by such reversed flood flow. Note higher level through valleys in the Sixmile Draw headwaters area northwest of Odakota Mountain. Those through valleys provide evidence the Sixmile Draw valley eroded northeast (probably from the south-oriented Gillette Canyon valley) to capture southeast-oriented flood flow in the Copper Mountain and Odakota Mountain area. The high level through valleys also provide evidence the southeast-oriented flood waters prior to headward erosion of the deep valleys was flowing on a topographic surface at least as high as the figure 5 mountains today. However, at that time the Black Hills did not stand high above the surrounding plains as it does today, and Black Hills uplift and deep erosion of the surrounding region were probably just beginning.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide in Pactola Reservoir and Sheridan Lake area

Figure 6: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide in Pactola Reservoir and Sheridan Lake area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 illustrates the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area in the Lake Pactola and Sheridan Lake area. Castle Creek flows northeast in the figure 6 northwest corner to join southeast-oriented Rapid Creek and then flow to Pactola Reservoir and southeast to the figure 6 east edge. Northeast-oriented State Creek flows from the figure 6 west edge and then turns north to join Rapid Creek just east of where Castle Creek and Rapid Creek meet. West Nugget Gulch flows north and northeast to join Rapid Creek at Silver City (just west of Pactola Reservoir). Note northwest-oriented tributaries to West Nugget Gulch and State Creek. Spring Creek flows northeast from the figure 6 south center edge to Sheridan Lake and then to the figure 6 east edge. West of Sheridan Lake most Spring Creek tributaries from the north are southeast-oriented. Through valleys link headwaters of northwest-oriented Nugget Gulch and State Creek tributaries with headwaters of southeast-oriented Spring Creek tributaries. For example, northwest-oriented Middle Nugget Creek is linked by a through valley with southeast-oriented Horse Creek. This through valley will be illustrated in more detail in figure 7 below. What has happened in this figure 6 map area is headward erosion of what must have been a deep northeast oriented Spring Creek valley captured multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes crossing the figure 6 map area. These flood flow routes were probably components of a southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Subsequently headward erosion of a deep Rapid Creek valley and its tributary northeast oriented Nugget Gulch valley beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow to what was still the actively eroding Spring Creek valley. Subsequently headward erosion of the deep Rapid Creek valley and its tributary northeast and north-oriented State Creek valley beheaded still more southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding Spring Creek valley. Flood water on the northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to flow northwest into the newly eroded and deeper Rapid Creek valley system. Because the flood flow routes were components of an intertwining anastomosing channel complex, reversed flow often was able to capture flood flow from yet to be beheaded flood flow routes further to the west and southwest. Such captured flood flow helped erode significant northwest-oriented valleys.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide at Middle Nugget Gulch and Horse Creek

Figure 7: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide at Middle Nugget Gulch and Horse Creek. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide at Middle Nugget Gulch and Horse Creek. Middle Nugget Gulch drains northwest to the figure 7 north center edge and then to northeast oriented Nugget Gulch, which drains to Rapid Creek. Horse Creek flows southeast to the figure 7 southeast corner. Spruce Gulch drains northwest to reach northeast and north-oriented State Creek, which flows to Rapid Creek. Marshall Gulch (south of Old Baldy Peak) flows south to eventually reach Spring Creek. Note multiple north-south and northwest-southeast oriented through valleys crossing the figure 7 map region. Southeast-oriented flood flow flowed from what is today the northwest-oriented Middle Nugget Gulch valley to the southeast-oriented Horse Creek valley. But at one time the southeast-oriented flood flow split so some water went southeast to the Horse Creek valley and some went southwest and south to the Marshall Gulch valley. Headward erosion of the deep Horse eventually captured flood flow moving through the pass east of Old Baldy Peak. Flood waters also were moving southeast on what is today the northwest-oriented Spruce Gulch valley to the south-oriented Marshall Gulch valley, probably at the same time flood waters were flowing south through the pass east of Old Baldy Peak. In other words, the through valleys provide evidence of the southeast-oriented anastomosing channel that once crossed the figure 7 map area. Headward erosion of the deep northeast-oriented Nugget Gulch valley beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow on the Middle Nugget-Horse Creek flow route, causing flood waters on the northwest end of that beheaded flood flow route to reverse flow direction and to flow northwest to what was then the newly eroded northeast-oriented Nugget Gulch valley. West of the Middle Nugget Gulch valley is another northwest-oriented valley, which is linked by a through valley with the northwest-oriented Middle Nugget Gulch valley. Reversed flood flow on the Middle Nugget Gulch route captured yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow using that more western valley route. The captured flood flow helped erode the northwest-oriented Middle Nugget Gulch valley. The process was repeated when the southeast-oriented flood flow in that western valley was beheaded and reversed.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area southeast of Rapid City

Figure 8: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area southeast of Rapid City. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 8 illustrates the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area southeast of Rapid City, South Dakota. Once out on the plains east of the Black Hills uplift area the nature of the Rapid Creek and Spring Creek valleys changes dramatically. Both streams flow in large southeast-oriented valleys. Rapid Creek is the stream flowing southeast from Rapid City to Farmingdale. Spring Creek is located in the figure 8 southwest corner. The northeast oriented slope in the figure 8 northeast corner drains to southeast-oriented Boxelder Creek, which flows in a valley similar to the Rapid Creek and Spring Creek valleys (see Boxelder Creek-Rapid Creek drainage divide essay). North of the Boxelder Creek valley is the Elk Creek valley, which also is similar to the Rapid Creek and Spring Creek valleys (see Elk Creek-Boxelder Creek drainage divide essay). This series of large and broad east and southeast-oriented valleys leading from the Black Hills uplift area to the present day northeast oriented Cheyenne River valley provides evidence immense quantities of water flowed from what is now the Black Hills uplift area. Figure 10 below provides evidence this immense flood flow originally was moving to the northeast and east oriented White River valley, but was captured by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Cheyenne River valley. A flood capable of eroding this series of large east and southeast-oriented valleys could not have originated in the Black Hills uplift area, but instead flowed across what is now the Black Hills uplift area, which could not have occurred if the Black Hills stood above the surrounding region. Headward erosion of the deep east and northeast oriented White River valley toward the Black Hills south end, headward erosion of the northeast and southeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley around the Black Hills south end, and headward erosion of the northeast and southeast-oriented Belle Fourche River valley around the Black Hills north end, combined with evidence such as this series of large flood eroded valleys east of the Black Hills, provides evidence the Black Hills uplift occurred as flood waters were deeply eroding the uplift area and also eroding the surrounding region (see figure 1 and also essays found under Black Hills region, White River, and Cheyenne River on the sidebar category list).

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide at Lindsey Draw

Figure 9: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide at Lindsey Draw. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates in more detail the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area south of Lindsey Draw. Lindsey Draw is located in the figure 8 southeast corner. Rapid Creek can be seen in the figure 9 northeast corner and Spring Creek is located in the figure 9 southwest corner. Lindsey Draw originates in the figure 9 center and drains northeast to Rapid Creek in the figure 9 northeast corner. The Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide is a fairly well-defined nearly straight ridge extending from the figure 9 west center edge to the figure 9 southeast quadrant. South of the ridge are numerous south and south-southeast oriented valleys draining to Spring Creek. North of the drainage divide ridge drainage to Rapid Creek is much more complicated with some deep northeast-oriented valleys, which have both northwest and southeast-oriented tributary valleys. The unseen north Rapid Creek valley wall is quite different and looks more like the north Spring Creek valley (see Boxelder Creek-Rapid Creek drainage divide essay). What has happened is a large southeast-oriented Spring Creek headcut eroded west into a topographic surface higher than any figure 9 elevations today to capture southeast-oriented flood flow moving across the figure 9 region. The southeast-oriented flood flow then began to erode the newly eroded and deep Spring Creek valley north wall creating the south and south-southeast oriented tributary valleys. Shortly thereafter the large Rapid Creek valley headcut eroded west, just to the north of the newly eroded Spring Creek valley, and beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the newly eroded Spring Creek valley. Headward erosion of the Rapid Creek valley headcut occurred by eroding valleys headward from the actively eroding valley head to capture yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow. The south valley wall was eroded by north and northeast-valleys that eroded south and southwest to capture yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow. For that reason the north-facing Rapid Creek valley wall was never eroded by southeast-oriented flood flow, but was instead eroded by captured flood flow moving north to the actively eroding Rapid Creek valley head. The south-facing Rapid Creek valley wall is a southeast-sloping erosion surface similar to the south-facing Spring Creek valley wall. The deeper valleys eroded into the erosion surfaces are evidence headward erosion of the large Spring Creek and Rapid Creek valley headcuts occurred shortly before headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley. Prior to headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley flood waters were flowing east across what is now the Badlands National Park area to what was then an actively eroding and deep White River valley. Headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and as a result deeper valleys eroded headward within the previously eroded Spring Creek and Rapid Creek valleys.

Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide near Cheyenne River

Figure 10: Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide near Cheyenne River. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 10 illustrates (using greatly reduced maps) the Rapid Creek-Spring Creek drainage divide area immediately west of the Cheyenne River. The Cheyenne River is the large northeast oriented valley flowing from the figure 10 south (west half) edge to the figure 10 northeast corner. Rapid Creek is in the southeast-oriented valley flowing from the figure 10 northwest quadrant to the Cheyenne River. Spring Creek flows southeast from the figure 10 west (south) edge to the Cheyenne River. The Cheyenne River-White River drainage divide essay describes the area east of the Cheyenne River valley. Flats and tables east of the Cheyenne River (and also between the northeast oriented Spring Creek valley and the Cheyenne River valley) are erosion surfaces developed prior to headward erosion of the present day northeast oriented Cheyenne River valley. Prior to Cheyenne River valley headward erosion large volumes of flood water moved southeast in the large Rapid Creek and Spring Creek valleys to what was then the actively eroding deep White River valley (southeast of figure 10). Southeast-oriented flood waters flowed across the entire the figure 10 map area and eroded the erosion surfaces now preserved in the form of flats and tables standing above the deeper Cheyenne River valley. Headward erosion of the deep northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and diverted the flood waters northeast. Headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley also lowered base level causing flood waters in the Rapid Creek and Spring Creek valleys (and in what are today other Cheyenne River tributary valleys) to erode deeper valleys within their earlier valleys. The southeast-oriented Rapid Creek valley is pointed almost directly toward what is today the Scenic Basin in Badlands National Park. The Scenic Basin is today a large southeast-oriented abandoned headcut carved into what was once the deep northeast- and east-oriented White River valley northwest wall. Headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley captured southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the White River valley, and flood waters on the northwest ends of those beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode what are today northwest-oriented Cheyenne River tributary valleys. Erosion of those northwest-oriented valleys was aided by flood flow from not yet captured by headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley southeast-oriented flood flow routes further to the south and southwest, which was captured and then flowed northeast along what is today the northeast-oriented White River valley, and some of which spilled to the northwest into the newly eroded northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley.


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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