Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area landform origins, western South Dakota, USA

· Cheyenne River, South Dakota
Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

The Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area discussed here is located in northwest South Dakota, USA. Although detailed topographic maps of the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River 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 Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River 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. Flood erosion across the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide ended when headward erosion of the Cherry Creek valley captured all southeast-oriented flood flow, although flood waters from west of the Black Hills probably continued to erode the Cheyenne River valley.

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 Dakota Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River 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 Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area landform evidence will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area general location map

Figure 1: Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area general location map. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 1 provides a Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area general location map. The Cheyenne River flows east and southeast in the figure 1 southwest corner and then northeast between the Black Hills and Badlands National Park to its junction with the Belle Fourche River and then northeast to join the south and southeast-oriented Missouri River in the figure 1 west center. Cherry Creek and its western extension Sulphur Creek flow in a southeast-oriented direction to join the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River near Cherry Creek, South Dakota. South Dakota towns located in the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area include Howes, Plainview, Marcus, White Owl, and Redowl. The Moreau River-Cheyenne River drainage divide area essay  and the Moreau River-Cherry Creek drainage divide area essay address nearby drainage divide areas and can be found under appropriate river names on the sidebar category list. South of the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River is the northeast-oriented Bad River. This essay interprets Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide evidence in the context of an immense southeast-oriented flood that was systematically captured by headward erosion of deep east and northeast-oriented valleys to progressively divert the flood waters further and further to the east, northeast, and north. The northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley was one of the deep valleys that eroded southwest to capture the southeast-oriented flood waters. The southeast Cherry Creek-Sulphur Creek valley subsequently eroded northwest and west to capture southeast-oriented flood water moving to the newly eroded northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley. Headward erosion of the east-northeast-oriented Moreau River valley then captured the southeast-oriented flood water and diverted the flood waters further to the northeast. Other essays describe additional captures further to the north and west, including the Little Missouri River valley capture of flood water moving to the Moreau River valley and can be found under appropriate river names on the sidebar category list.

Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area detailed location map

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

Figure 2 provides a detailed location map for the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region. The Belle Fourche River flows east-northeast from figure 2 southwest corner to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River, which serves as a county boundary. Sulphur Creek flows southeast from the figure 2 northwest corner and becomes east- and southeast oriented Cherry Creek flowing to the Cheyenne River at Cherry Creek, South Dakota. Major Cherry Creek tributaries are east-southeast and northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek and its southeast and northeast-oriented tributary, White Owl Creek. This essay addresses the drainage divide between Cherry Creek and its tributaries and drainage to the Cheyenne River valley segment located between the Belle Fourche River mouth and the Cherry Creek mouth. The first detailed map below addresses evidence along the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide near where the southeast-oriented Cherry Creek flows into the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. Subsequent detailed maps will progress west and southwest along the drainage divide to where the drainage divide becomes the Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide and then the White Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide. The final detailed map will look at evidence near where the Belle Fourche River flows to the Cheyenne River. Note on figure 2 the predominance of southeast-oriented tributaries to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River and the east-northeast-oriented Belle River. Also note northwest-oriented tributaries to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. Further note the predominance of southeast-oriented tributaries to Cherry Creek. This northwest-southeast drainage alignment of Cheyenne River and Cherry Creek tributaries is evidence the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley and the southeast-oriented Cherry Creek valley eroded headward to capture multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes, such as might be found in a large-scale southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Detailed maps below will further expand on this initial southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex interpretation.

Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River confluence area

Figure 3: Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River confluence area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 3 illustrates the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River confluence area, which is the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River east end. The high level benches such as Maupin Flat are evidence an initial broader and shallower Cheyenne River valley eroded southwest and subsequently a deeper and narrower Cheyenne River valley was eroded southwest into the floor of the initial valley. The initial shallower Cheyenne River valley would have successfully captured all southeast oriented flood flow routes it intersected so the deeper inner valley must be related to events not addressed here. The Moreau River-Cheyenne River drainage divide area essay suggests headward erosion of a shallower northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley diverted flood waters north and east of the present day Missouri River valley while the subsequent narrower and deeper Cheyenne River valley eroded headward when headward erosion of the southeast oriented Missouri River valley intersected the shallower and newly eroded Cheyenne River valley and diverted all flood flow moving in that northeast-oriented shallower valley to the southeast oriented Missouri River valley. Note how nearly all Cheyenne River tributaries from the north are southeast-oriented and nearly all Cheyenne River tributaries from the south are northwest-oriented. The southeast-oriented tributary valleys were eroded by headward erosion along southeast-oriented flood flow routes. The northwest-oriented tributaries were eroded by reversals of flood flow on the northwest ends of beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes. Exceptions to this southeast- northwest tributary pattern, such as northeast-oriented Plum Creek valley in the figure 3 south center eroded headward to capture southeast-oriented flood flow routes that had not yet been beheaded by headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley. Note how northwest-oriented tributaries flow to Plum Creek.

Felix Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area

Figure 4: Felix Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 illustrates the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region immediately west of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas. Cherry Creek flows southeast from the figure 4 north center to the figure 4 west center. The northeast-oriented Cheyenne River is located in the figure 4 southeast corner. North Felix and Felix Creek flow southeast from the figure 4 northwest corner to join southeast-oriented Cherry Creek in the figure 4 east center. The parallel Felix Creek and Cherry Creek routes suggests headward erosion of the Felix Creek valley for a time occurred slightly before headward erosion of the Cherry Creek, although eventually the Cherry Creek eroded northwest faster and captured all southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the Felix Creek-West Felix Creek valley. The parallel Felic Creek and Cherry Creek valleys also suggest the presence of a southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex that capturing flood water from another southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Note northeast-oriented Red Bull Draw, which joins Felix Creek near the point where Felix Creek flows to Cherry Creek. Southeast-oriented tributaries to northeast-oriented Red Bull Draw suggest the Red Bull Draw valley eroded southwest to capture southeast-oriented flood flow routes southwest of the southeast-oriented flood flow route the Felix Creek valley was eroding headward along. Also note southeast-oriented Cheyenne River tributaries, especially Dog Creek, which flows southeast from east and northeast-oriented Felix Creek headwaters. The Felix Creek valley eroded northwest and then southwest and west to capture the southeast-oriented flood flow route that had been eroding the southeast-oriented Dog Draw valley northwest and also to capture southeast-oriented flood flow that had been eroding the Moon Draw valley northwest (figure 4 west center edge). Southeast-oriented flood flow routes that had been eroding southeast-oriented Cheyenne River tributaries east of Dog Creek were also captured by headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Felix Creek valley and it various tributary valleys.

Cherry Creek-Felix Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region west of the figure 4 map area and includes an overlap area. Cherry Creek flows east across the figure 5 top half until turning southeast in the figure 5 northeast corner. Felix Creek flows southwest in the figure 5 east center and the previously mentioned southeast-oriented Dog Creek flows to the figure 5 southeast corner. Note how the Cherry Creek valley eroded west from the Red Scaffold area to capture southeast-oriented flood flow that had been eroding the Felix Creek and North Felix Creek valleys northwest and west. Also note how flood waters on the northwest ends of the beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode northwest-oriented Cherry Creek tributary valleys. Included in these northwest-oriented tributaries are Deer Creek and Johnny Creek. A close look at Johnny Creek headwaters shows they begin as northeast-oriented then they turn southeast before making a U-turn to flow northwest. Apparently reversed flow on what is today the northwest-oriented Johnny Creek valley captured yet to be beheaded (by Cherry Creek valley headward erosion) southeast-oriented flood flow from a flood flow route just to the southwest. The southeast-oriented Johnny Creek valley segment was initiated by that yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow route (and an opposing northwest-oriented Johnny Creek tributary valley was eroded by a reversal of flood flow on the northwest end of the southeast-oriented flood flow route that Johnny Creek capture beheaded). The northeast-oriented Johnny Creek valley segment eroded southwest to capture southeast-oriented flood flow eroding the south-oriented Luis Creek valley headward from the newly eroded Cheyenne River valley. Figure 5 evidence suggests the Cheyenne River valley eroded headward to capture multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes and the Cherry Creek valley subsequently eroded northwest and west to capture those same southeast-oriented flood flow routes, which were then eroding Cheyenne River tributary valleys northwest and north from the newly eroded Cheyenne River valley north wall. Reversal of flood flow on the northwest ends of the beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes was responsible for erosion of the northwest-oriented Cherry Creek tributary valleys and also for creation of the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide.

Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area

Figure 6: Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 illustrates the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region west of the figure 5 map area and includes an overlap area. Northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek is located in the figure 6 northwest quadrant and flows to the east and southeast oriented Cherry Creek, which is located just north of the figure 6 map area (see figure 5). The northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek valley eroded southwest to capture southeast oriented flood flow routes that were eroding the north-oriented Negro Creek valley (south of Howes) and the northwest-oriented Narcelle Creek valley system (southeast of Plainview) headward. Note northwest-oriented valleys leading from the Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide to the northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek valley and also northwest-southeast oriented through valleys crossing the present day Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide. Figure 6 evidence is similar to the figure 5 evidence and events recorded by the figure 6 evidence begin with headward erosion of multiple southeast and south oriented valleys by southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the newly eroded northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley (located south of the figure 6 map area). Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek valley then systematically (from northeast to southwest) beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow routes and diverted the captured flood water northeast to the east and southeast-oriented Cherry Creek valley. Flood waters on the northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to flow northwest to the newly eroded Red Owl Creek valley and by doing so created the Red Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide and also eroded northwest-oriented Red Owl Creek tributary valleys.

Sulphur and Cherry Creek-Red Owl Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Sulphur and Cherry Creek-Red Owl Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the Cherry Creek-Red Owl Creek drainage divide region northwest of the figure 6 map area and includes an overlap area. Sulphur Creek flows southeast from the figure 7 northwest corner and somewhere in the figure 7 north center becomes renamed as Cherry Creek as it flows to the figure 7 east edge. Beaver Dam Creek flows southeast to Cherry Creek in the figure 7 north center, Pine Creek is the southeast-oriented Sulphur Creek tributary in the figure 7 northwest corner, and Elm Creek is the Sulphur Creek east-oriented tributary to the south. Red Owl Creek flows east from about one-third of the way up the figure 7 west edge, then southeast to a gravel pit, then east and northeast from the gravel pit location. South of the gravel pit is a northeast-oriented segment of the White Owl Creek valley, which will be addressed in figure 8 and 9 discussions. Note how southeast-oriented Cowboy Draw and Spring Creek flow to the northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek segment (figure 7 southeast quadrant) and are linked by through valleys to northwest-oriented Cherry Creek tributaries. This evidence indicates the Red Owl Creek valley eroded southwest to capture yet to be beheaded (by Cherry Creek valley headward erosion) southeast-oriented flood flow moving on the Cowboy Draw and Spring Creek alignments. Subsequently the Cherry Creek valley eroded headward and captured the southeast-oriented flood flow routes causing flood waters on the northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes to reverse direction and flow northwest to create the present day Cherry Creek-Red Owl Creek drainage divide and to erode northwest-oriented valleys to the southeast-oriented Cherry Creek valley.

White Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area

Figure 8: White Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 8 illustrates the White Owl Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region southwest of the figure 6 map area and includes an overlap area. White Owl Creek flows northeast to Red Owl Creek and then to the east and southeast oriented Cherry Creek. The Cheyenne River flows across the figure 8 southeast corner. Note northwest-southeast oriented through valleys linking headwaters of the southeast oriented Cheyenne River tributaries with the northeast-oriented White Owl Creek valley. Southeast-oriented Cheyenne River tributary valleys were eroded headward along southeast oriented flood flow routes until the flood flow routes were beheaded by headward erosion of the southeast and northeast oriented White Owl Creek valley. The size of the eroded area provides a clue as to what would have happened had the flood flow routes not been captured. The southeast-oriented flood flow routes were in the process of eroding a deep and broad southeast-oriented headcut northwest, which could have developed into a major trunk stream valley comparable to the Cherry Creek valley. However, headward erosion of the east and southeast oriented Cherry Creek valley and the northeast-oriented Red Owl Creek-White Owl Creek valley captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and diverted the flood waters northeast and then southeast. Apparently southeast-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded White Owl Creek valley was quickly captured by headward erosion of other valleys further to the northwest, otherwise there would be more evidence southeast-oriented flood flow had begun to erode southeast-oriented tributary valleys into the White Owl Creek north valley wall.

Sulphur Creek- White and Red Owl Creek drainage divide area

Figure 9: Sulphur Creek- White and Red Owl Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates the region northwest of the figure 8 map area and includes an overlap area. Southeast and northeast-oriented White Owl Creek flows from the figure 9 west center to the figure 9 south center and then to the figure 9 east center. East-oriented Elm Creek flows to southeast-oriented Sulphur (Cherry) Creek in the figure northeast corner. Red Owl Creek flows east-southeast from the figure 9 center to White Owl Creek in the figure 9 east center. Note how east-southeast-oriented Red Owl Creek headwaters are linked to northwest-oriented drainage in the figure 9 northwest corner. That northwest-oriented drainage flows to north-oriented Big Draw, which flows to southeast-oriented Sulphur (Cherry) Creek. Southeast-oriented White Owl Creek headwaters at the figure 9 west center edge are linked with northwest-oriented Plum Creek, which flows to south-southeast-oriented Soft Water Creek and then Elm Creek (not shown in figure 9), which flows to the east-oriented Belle Fourche River and then the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. Events recorded by figure 9 and adjacent area evidence begin with southeast-oriented flood flow moving across the entire figure 9 map area to the newly eroded Cheyenne River valley. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented Red Owl Creek-White Owl Creek valley then captured the flood waters and diverted the water northeast to southeast-oriented Cherry Creek. Quite rapidly thereafter headward erosion of the east-oriented Elm Creek valley captured flood waters moving to much of the newly eroded Red Owl Creek valley, although flood waters to the east-southeast-oriented Red Owl Creek valley segment were not captured until headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Sulphur (Cherry) Creek valley and its north-oriented Big Draw tributary valley beheaded that flow. The northeast-oriented White Owl Creek valley segment was eroded headward to capture yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes. Flood flow using the alignment of the southeast-oriented White Owl Creek valley segment was never captured by Cherry Creek or Cherry Creek tributaries, but was captured by headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley and its tributary Belle Fourche River valley and its tributary Elm Creek-Soft Water Creek valley. That capture beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow to the southeast-oriented White Owl Creek valley segment, reversed flood flow on the northwest of the beheaded flood flow to create northwest-oriented Plum Creek (not shown in figure 9), and created the Belle Fourche River-White Owl Creek drainage divide located in the figure 9 west center (near figure 9 west edge).

Belle Fourche River-Cheyenne River confluence area

Figure 10: Belle Fourche River-Cheyenne River confluence area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 10 illustrates the Belle Fourche River-Cheyenne River confluence region southwest of the figure 8 map area and includes a significant overlap area. The east-northeast-oriented Belle Fourche River flows from the figure 10 southwest corner to join the north and east-oriented Cheyenne River. Southeast-oriented Cheyenne River tributaries were previously addressed in the figure 8 discussion. The prominent benches at Duhamel Flat, Davidson Flat, and Poverty Point are evidence the Cheyenne River (and probably the Belle Fourche River) valleys were at this location eroded in two stages as suggested in the figure 3 discussion. Initially a shallower and broad Cheyenne River valley headcut eroded southwest to capture all southeast-oriented flood water flowing across the entire Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide region and to divert that flood water somewhere northeast of the present-day Cheyenne River-Missouri River confluence area. Probably very shortly thereafter, and before southeast oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Cheyenne River valley had been captured by headward erosion of the Moreau River valley to the north, headward erosion of the deeper southeast-oriented Missouri River valley captured northeast-oriented flood waters that flowing in the newly eroded and shallower Cheyenne River valley. That capture occurred at the present day Cheyenne River-Missouri River confluence area and the deeper Cheyenne River valley (Missouri River valley) eroded headward along the floor of the initial shallower Cheyenne River valley. The deeper Cheyenne River valley was probably able to erode headward to the figure 10 location before beheading (by White Owl Creek) of southeast-oriented flood flow that was eroding the southeast-oriented Cheyenne River tributary valleys northwest. In fact, the time difference between headward erosion of the broad shallow Cheyenne River valley and headward erosion of the deeper Cheyenne River valley may have been very short, although it was long enough to erode the shallower valley surface, which is today preserved by the prominent benches.

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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