Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area landforms, South Dakota, USA

· Bad River, Cheyenne River, South Dakota
Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

The Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area discussed here is located in western South Dakota, USA. Although detailed topographic maps of the Cheyenne River-Bad 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 Cheyenne River-Bad 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 ended when headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley captured all southeast-oriented flood flow.

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

Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area general location map

Figure 1: Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area general 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 Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area. The Cheyenne River begins west of the Black Hills in Wyoming and flows southeast to South Dakota and the Black Hills south end and then turns northeast to flow as a barbed tributary to the southeast-oriented Missouri River. North of the east end of South Dakota’s northeast-oriented Cheyenne River drainage basin is the east-northeast oriented Moreau River drainage basin and further west is the southeast-oriented Cherry Creek drainage basin, which drains to the Cheyenne River. The Moreau River-Cheyenne River drainage divide area essay and the Cherry Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide area essay address nearby drainage divides and can be found under appropriate river names on the sidebar category list. The Bad River begins south of Wall, South Dakota in the Badlands National Park region and flows northeast to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River, also as a barbed tributary. South of the Bad River drainage basin is the east-oriented White River drainage basin. Other essays address evidence along the Bad River-White River drainage divide and can be found under Bad River or White River on the sidebar category list. This essay interprets Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide evidence in the context of an immense southeast-oriented flood that flowed across most or all of the figure 1 map area and that was systematically captured and diverted northeast by headward erosion of deep east- and northeast-oriented valleys, such as the northeast-oriented Bad River valley and the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley. The source of the flood water cannot be determined from evidence provided here, although by using evidence from numerous other essays (published on this website) flood waters can be traced headward to a North American ice sheet location. Rapid melting of a thick North American ice sheet would both provide a flood water source and explain why flood waters were systematically being captured to flow northeast (into space being opened up as the thick ice sheet melted).

Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area detailed location map

Figure 2: Cheyenne River-Bad 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 Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area. The Cheyenne River flows north-northeast from the figure 2 southwest corner to the figure 2 west center and then turns northeast to flow to the southeast-oriented Missouri River and the figure 2 northeast corner. The Bad River originates just south of the figure 2 southwest corner and flows northeast to the figure 2 east center. The Missouri River in the figure 2 northeast quadrant flows southeast, although it has incised several large meanders and just north of the Cheyenne River mouth the southeast-oriented Missouri River flows in a northwest direction. Note how many Cheyenne River tributaries from the south are northwest-oriented or have northwest-oriented valley segments or tributaries and how nearly all of the Bad River tributaries from the north are southeast-oriented. This northwest-southeast drainage orientation is evidence the northeast-oriented Bad River valley and the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley eroded headward to capture multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes such as might be found in a large southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex. The northwest-oriented tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on the northwest ends of beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow channels. Detailed maps below will illustrate how reversed flow on these beheaded flood flow channels captured flood waters still moving southeast on yet to be beheaded flood flow routes further to the southwest (headward erosion of the Bad River and Cheyenne River valleys occurred from east to west and southeast-oriented flood flow routes west of the actively eroding valley heads continued to flow without interruption). Understanding these flood flow reversals and how reversed flow on beheaded flood flow routes captured flood waters from yet to be beheaded flood flow routes helps unravel complex drainage history puzzles, several of which are found in the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area.

Cheyenne River-Bad River-Missouri River drainage divide area

Figure 3: Cheyenne River-Bad River-Missouri River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 illustrates the east end of the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide. Chantier Creek flows northeast and southeast in the figure 3 east center and flows directly to the Missouri River, which is located a short distance east of the figure 3 map area. Southeast-oriented streams flowing to the figure 3 south edge flow to the northeast-oriented Bad River. North-oriented drainage to the figure 3 north edge flows to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. North-oriented drainage just west of the landing field in the figure 3 north center is the East Fork of north-northwest-oriented Minneconjou Creek. Sansarc Creek flows east and then north in the figure 3 west center and northwest corner. Events recorded by the figure 3 evidence begin with multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes moving across the entire figure 3 map area on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 3 elevations today. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Bad River valley to the south of the figure 3 map area enabled southeast-oriented flood flow to erode southeast-oriented valleys headward into the newly eroded Bad River valley north wall and to develop the southeast-oriented slope located in the figure 3 south half. Headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Chantier Creek valley and its northeast-oriented headwaters valley next captured southeast-oriented flood flow to figure 3 southeast corner area, although that capture was followed by headward erosion of the Cheyenne River valley to the north and of its Minneconjou Creek valley, which captured flood flow to the newly eroded Chantier Creek valley, along with some flood flow routes the northeast-oriented Chantier Creek had not yet beheaded. At about the same the Sansarc Creek valley eroded south from the actively eroding Cheyenne River valley head to capture yet to be beheaded (by Cheyenne River valley headward erosion) flood flow and beheaded all flood flow across the figure 3 map area. Northwest-oriented Minneconjou Creek and Sansarc Creek tributaries developed as reversals of flow on the northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes.

Sansarc Creek-Frozen Man Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Sansarc Creek-Frozen Man Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 4 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 3 map area and includes a small overlap area. Note Sansarc Creek flowing east in the figure 4 northeast quadrant. Southeast-oriented drainage in the figure 3 southeast quadrant includes southeast-oriented Frozen Man Creek and various Frozen Man Creek tributaries. The southeast-oriented Frozen Man Creek drainage basin was being eroded headward from the north wall of the newly eroded northeast-oriented Bad River valley to the south when headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley and tributary valleys eroding south from the actively eroding Cheyenne River valley head began to behead southeast-oriented flood flow routes across the figure 4 map area. Through valleys link headwaters of southeast-oriented Frozen Man Creek tributaries with the north oriented drainage routes. These through valleys are evidence flood water once flowed southeast to the Frozen Man Creek drainage basin and was subsequently beheaded and reversed. Just east of the figure 4 map area Sansarc Creek turns north to flow to the Cheyenne River (see figure 3). Note how Sansarc Creek tributaries from the north are southeast-oriented. These tributaries provide evidence the Sansarc Creek valley eroded south and west to capture yet to be beheaded (by Cheyenne River valley headward erosion) southeast-oriented flood flow routes. Hermaphrodite Creek flows east and north and north-northwest in the figure 4 center just west of the Haakon-Stanley County line. Note how tributaries to the north-oriented Hermaphrodite Creek valley segment are nearly all southeast-oriented from the west and from the east are either northwest-oriented or have northwest-oriented segments. These Hermaphrodite Creek tributaries provide evidence the Hermaphrodite Creek valley eroded south to capture yet to beheaded (by Cheyenne River valley headward erosion) southeast-oriented flood flow routes. Hills in the figure 4 map area provide evidence southeast-oriented flood waters originally flowed on a topographic surface that has now been nearly completely (if not completely) removed and the Bad River and Cheyenne River valleys when they eroded southwest to capture the flood waters were eroding much deeper valleys than appear today.

Plum Creek-Mitchell Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 4 map area (the figure 4 southwest corner roughly corresponds with the figure 5 northeast corner). Southeast-oriented drainage in the figure 5 southeast quadrant flows to the northeast oriented Bad River. Named southeast-oriented Bad River tributaries from the west to the east are Mitchell Creek and Mule Creek. North oriented drainage is the north-oriented Plum Creek drainage system. North-oriented West Plum Creek flows along the figure 5 northwest edge and has several northwest oriented tributaries. In the figure 5 north center northeast-oriented Deer Creek flows to northeast and north-northwest Plum Creek, which flows north of the figure 5 map area to join the north oriented West Plum Creek and then flows to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. Note the ridge separating the north-oriented drainage basins from the southeast-oriented drainage basins (also seen in figure 4). That ridge is evidence flood waters originally flowed on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 5 elevations today and the deep Bad River and Cheyenne River valleys were eroded into that higher level topographic surface. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Bad River valley occurred first and southeast-oriented flood waters eroded southeast-oriented headcuts (valleys) northwest from the newly eroded Bad River valley north wall to the approximate position of the present day figure 5 ridge (or drainage divide) before headward erosion of the deep northeast-oriented Cheyenne River valley and its north-oriented Plum Creek and West Plum Creek valleys captured all southeast-oriented flood flow routes across the figure 5 map area. Southeast-oriented tributaries to northeast-oriented Plum Creek and Deer Creek are evidence the Plum Creek and Deer Creek valleys eroded southwest to capture southeast-oriented flood flow. And northwest-oriented tributaries to north-oriented West Plum Creek are evidence headward erosion of the West Plum Creek valley beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes and flood waters on the northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to create the present day northwest-oriented tributary valleys.

West Plum Creek-Buzzard Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: West Plum Creek-Buzzard Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 6 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide southwest of the figure 5 map area and includes some overlap areas. Named southeast-oriented Bad River tributaries in the figure 6 map area are Buzzard Creek flowing to the figure 6 southeast corner and Grindstone Creek flowing southeast west of Elevenmile Corner. Unnamed in figure 6 Medicine Creek headwaters flow southeast across the highway at Elevenmile Corner. Note how West Plum Creek originates west of the north-south highway and flows north and then east-northeast before turning north (in figure 5) and how Cottonwood Creek flows north in the figure 6 northeast quadrant to join West Plum Creek at the elbow of capture where West Plum Creek turns north. Also note how southeast-oriented flood waters eroded the north wall of the east-northeast oriented West Plum Creek valley. Further note northwest-oriented tributaries, which represent reversals of flood flow. The same pattern can be seen along the north-oriented Cottonwood Creek valley, suggesting the Cottonwood Creek valley eroded south to capture yet to be beheaded (by Cheyenne River valley headward erosion) southeast-oriented flood flow routes to what was then the newly eroded Bad River valley and subsequently the east-northeast oriented West Plum Creek valley segment and a northeast-oriented West Plum Creek tributary valley eroded southwest to capture the same yet to be beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes and then the West Plum Creek valley eroded further west-southwest to capture the same southeast-oriented flood flow routes and finally the West Plum Creek valley eroded south to capture southeast-oriented flood flow moving to what was then the actively eroding Buzzard Creek valley. Again the ridge located along sections of the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide provides evidence the southeast-oriented flood waters initially flowed on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 6 elevations today and erosion associated with headward erosion of the deep Bad River and Cheyenne River valleys was responsible for lowering that initial topographic surface to produce the topographic surface seen today.

Deep Creek-North Fork Bad River drainage divide area

Figure 7: Deep Creek-North Fork Bad River drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 7 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 6 map area and includes an overlap area. North-oriented Deep Creek flows to the figure 7 northwest corner and the northwest-oriented East Fork Deep Creek flows from the figure 7 west center to north-oriented Deep Creek. Northeast-oriented Ash Creek is located in the figure 7 north center and has northwest-oriented headwaters and tributaries including Middle Fork and South Fork. North of the figure 7 map area Ash Creek turns to flow as a barbed tributary north-northwest to the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River. Headwaters of the southeast-oriented North Fork Bad River flow to the figure 7 south center edge. East of the North Fork Bad River headwaters are the West Fork of Dirty Woman Creek and Dirty Woman Creek and flowing southeast in the figure 7 southeast corner are Dead Man Creek and its East Fork. Note how northwest-oriented tributaries to northeast-oriented Ash Creek and north-oriented Deep Creek are aligned with headwaters of the southeast-oriented drainage. Events recorded by this figure 7 evidence begin with southeast-oriented flowing on a topographic surface at least as high as the highest figure 7 elevations today. Headward erosion of the Bad River valley eroded deep southeast-oriented valleys into the figure 7 map area. At about the same time headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow on the north-northwest oriented Ash Creek segment alignment and that reversed flow captured flood flow from yet to be beheaded (by Cheyenne River valley headward erosion) flood flow routes to the southwest using alignments of the present day Ash Creek Middle and South Forks and other northwest-oriented headwaters streams. Subsequently the Cheyenne River valley eroded further west and the north-oriented Deep Creek valley eroded south to capture southeast-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Ash Creek drainage basin and to behead and capture southeast-oriented flood flow that was eroding the North Fork Bad River valley to the northwest.

Deep Creek-Bad River drainage divide area

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

Figure 8 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 7 map area and includes an overlap area. Cow Creek flows to the figure 8 northwest corner and then to a north-oriented Cheyenne River valley segment located just west of the figure 8 map area. Southeast and west-oriented headwaters of northwest-oriented Bull Creek are located in the figure 8 west center. Rainy Creek flows southeast, northeast, southeast and northeast, has northwest-oriented tributaries, and flows to the north-oriented Deep Creek (unnamed in figure 8) valley in the figure 8 north center. Headwaters of the southeast-oriented North Fork Bad River begin in the figure 8 northeast quadrant and flow to the figure 8 east center edge. Poeno Creek flows in an easterly direction with jogs to the southeast and northeast in the figure 8 southeast quadrant. Note the figure 8 map area has a well-defined erosion surface and lacks the hills and ridges found further northeast along the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide. The reason for this difference can be seen by looking at figure 1 to see how the figures 8, 9 and 10 map areas fit into the larger drainage pattern picture. Note in figure 1 how the Cheyenne River flows north to reach the Belle Fourche River and then turns northeast to flow to the Missouri River. In addition note the Belle Fourche River flows southeast and then turns east-northeast to reach the Cheyenne River. Project the southeast-oriented Belle Fourche River route to the southeast and it leads approximately to the figure 8, 9, and 10 map areas. Also note south of the figures 8, 9 and 10 map areas is the east-oriented White River and the White River flows east to reach the Missouri River, and unlike the Cheyenne River and Bad River does not reach the Missouri River as a barbed tributary. Before headward erosion of the Bad River and Cheyenne River valleys southeast-oriented flood flow moving from the Belle Fourche River drainage basin flowed southeast across the figures 8, 9, and 10 map areas (and areas further to the southwest) as it moved to what was then the actively eroding east-oriented White River valley and for that reason the figures 8, 9, and 10 maps have been more intensely eroded than areas further to the northeast along the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide.

Cheyenne River-South Fork Bad River drainage divide area north of Wall, South Dakota

Figure 9: Cheyenne River-South Fork Bad River drainage divide area north of Wall, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 9 illustrates the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 8 map area and includes an overlap area. The north-oriented Cheyenne River is located in the figure 9 northwest corner. Northwest-oriented Cedar Canyon flows to the Cheyenne River in the figure 9 northwest corner and northwest-oriented Bull Creek (not the same as the Bull Creek mentioned in figure 8) flows from near Wall, South Dakota in a large valley to the Cheyenne River. Lake Creek flows south-southwest just west of Lake Hill and then turns east to flow to the South Fork Bad River east of the figure 9 map area. Cottonwood Creek is the major Lake Creek tributary and flows southeast with some jogs to reach Lake Creek. The figure 9 map area like the figure 8 map area has a well-defined erosion surface suggesting intense erosion by southeast-oriented flood water. However, the large northwest-oriented Bull Creek valley cannot be easily explained by a reversal of beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow and there seems to be an additional flood movement that has not yet been described. Evidence for this additional flood movement is much better seen in figure 10, which illustrates the Cheyenne River-White River drainage divide area immediately southwest of the figure 9 map area. In figure 10 map area evidence will be presented that following beheading of southeast-oriented flood flow routes across the Cheyenne River-White River drainage divide (which in figure 9 is a combination of the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide and the Bad River-White River drainage divide) yet to be captured (by headward erosion of the Cheyenne River valley) flood waters that were flowing around the Black Hills south end overwhelmed the newly eroded White River valley and spilled northwest into the newly eroded northeast and north-oriented Cheyenne River valley and by doing so eroded northwest-oriented valleys into the west Cheyenne River valley wall. Using figure 9 evidence this interpretation may have to be taken on faith, but figure 10 should help.

Cheyenne River-South Fork Bad River drainage divide south of Wall, South Dakota

Figure 10: Cheyenne River-South Fork Bad River drainage divide south of Wall, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 illustrates the southwest end of the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area southwest of the figure 9 map area and includes overlap areas. The Cheyenne River flows northeast across the figure 10 northwest corner. The northwest-oriented stream flowing from the Sage Creek Wilderness Area to the Cheyenne River is Sage Creek. Southeast of the Sage Creek drainage basin is southeast-oriented drainage to the east-oriented White River. East-southeast oriented Whitewater Creek in the figure 10 east center flows to join other tributaries including east-southeast oriented Cottonwood Creek (figure 10 northeast corner) to form the northeast-oriented South Fork Bad River east of the figure 10 map area. Note how the Sage Creek drainage basin has been much more deeply eroded than the Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide area to the northeast. Northwest-oriented Sage Creek is today draining a large abandoned southeast-oriented headcut that was originally eroded by southeast-oriented flood waters to what was then the actively eroding east-oriented White River valley headcut. Southeast-oriented flood flow that eroded what is today the southeast-oriented Sage Creek abandoned headcut were flowing southeast along the Black Hills northeast flank (the southeast-oriented Belle Fourche River alignment). The southeast-oriented flood flow route to the actively eroding Sage Creek headcut was beheaded and captured by headward erosion of the Cheyenne River valley and for a short period of time the Cheyenne River-White River drainage divide was located along the abandoned headcut rim. However, significant southeast-oriented flood flow was also moving around the Black Hills south end and until the deep Cheyenne River valley eroded headward to capture that flood flow, the flood waters were eroding the White River valley west and then southwest. Apparently those flood waters (from south of the Black Hills) for some reason briefly filled the White River valley to overflowing and flood water spilled northwest into the adjacent and newly eroded Cheyenne River valley. That spillage eroded the northwest-oriented Sage Creek valley and other northwest-oriented Cheyenne River tributary valleys in the figure 10 map area. Apparently the northwest-oriented spillage was like draining a large lake, perhaps because flood flow to the White River valley was soon thereafter beheaded and diverted elsewhere. The east-facing wall extending south from Wall, South Dakota is probably a remnant of a shallower east-oriented abandoned headcut that was being eroded west by headward erosion of east-oriented Bad River tributary valleys.

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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