Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area landform origins, South Dakota, USA

· Bad River, South Dakota, White River
Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

The Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area discussed here is located in South Dakota, USA. Although detailed topographic maps of the Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White 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 Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White 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 of the Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area ended when headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Bad River valley captured the 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 South Dakota Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White 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 South Dakota Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area landform evidence will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area general location map

Figure 1: Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White 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 for South Dakota’s Bad River-Medicine Creek and the Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area. The Bad River originates in western South Dakota and flows northeast to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. Medicine Creek begins near Draper, South Dakota and flows east through Vivian and Kennebec and then turns north-northeast to flow to the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. The White River begins in northwest Nebraska and flows in a northeast direction into western South Dakota and west of Okaton, South Dakota turns southeast, east and southeast again to flow to the southeast-oriented Missouri River. South of the White River is the Pine Ridge Escarpment, which is not shown on figure 1, although streams such as the Little White River flow down its slope. North of the northeast-oriented Bad River is the northeast-oriented Cheyenne River, which also joins the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. Other essays address Bad River-White River drainage divide evidence west of Murdo, South Dakota and Cheyenne River-Bad River drainage divide evidence and the essays can be found under Bad River on the sidebar category list. Other essays address drainage divide areas north and west of the Cheyenne River and can be found under appropriate river names on the sidebar category list. This essay interprets Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide evidence as having been formed during an immense southeast-oriented flood that flowed across most or all of the figure 1 map area. Evidence presented here is not adequate to determine the flood water source, although using similar types of evidence illustrated in other essays (published on this website) flood waters can be traced headward across northwest South Dakota into southwest North Dakota and southeast Montana and then to the location of a North American ice sheet. Rapid melting of a thick North American ice sheet could account for the flood water source and also the flood water capture and diversion events described here.

Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area detailed location map

Figure 2: Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area detailed location mapUnited States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 2 provides a detailed location map for the Bad River-Medicine Creek and Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area. The northeast-oriented Bad River flows from the figure 2 west center edge to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River at Fort Pierre, South Dakota located in the figure 2 north center. The White River enters the figure 2 map area as a northeast-oriented stream, but near Stamford, South Dakota turns southeast and then east before turning southeast in the figure 2 southeast corner to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River. Medicine Creek originates near Draper, South Dakota and flows east to Kennebec and then turns to eventually flow almost straight north to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River just west of the large incised Missouri River meander in the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservation area. Note the many southeast-oriented tributaries to the northeast-oriented Bad River, east-oriented Medicine Creek, and east-oriented White River and also the northwest-oriented tributaries to especially the northeast-oriented Bad River and east-oriented Medicine Creek. This northwest-southeast drainage alignment of these tributaries is evidence the White River valley eroded west to capture multiple southeast-oriented flood flow routes such as might be found in a large southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Subsequent to White River valley capture the Medicine Creek valley eroded south and west to capture the same southeast-oriented flood flow routes, beheading southeast-oriented flow to the newly eroded White River valley. Closely following Medicine Creek valley headward erosion the northeast-oriented Bad River valley eroded southwest to capture the same southeast-oriented flood flow routes further to the northwest and apparently eroded southwest fast enough it was able to behead all southeast-oriented flood flow to what had been the actively eroding Medicine Creek valley head. This essay begins at the Medicine Creek west end and provides four detailed maps of drainage divides between the Bad River valley and the Medicine Creek valley. Next the essay provides three detailed maps of drainage divides between Medicine Creek and the White River and the essay concludes with a detailed map of the area where Medicine Creek joins the Missouri River.

Bad River-Medicine Creek drainage divide area northeast of Draper, South Dakota

Figure 3: Bad River-Medicine Creek drainage divide area northeast of Draper, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 3 illustrates the Bad River-Medicine Creek drainage divide north and northeast of Draper, South DakotaMedicine Creek originates west of Draper and flows east along the figure 3 south edge. The North Fork Medicine Creek begins north of Draper and flows in a southeast direction to join Medicine Creek near Vivian in the figure 3 southeast corner and several southeast-oriented tributaries flow to the southeast-oriented North Fork of Medicine Creek. Unnamed southeast-oriented drainage north of Vivian flows to east-oriented Medicine Creek. Northwest-oriented drainage in Kolls township (northwest quadrant) flowing to the figure 3 west edge is the West Branch of northwest-oriented White Clay Creek, which flows to the northeast-oriented Bad River. Just northeast of the West Branch and flowing to the figure 3 north edge is northwest-oriented Camp Creek, which also flows to the northeast-oriented Bad River. Flowing to the figure 3 north center edge is the West Branch of War Creek, another Bad River tributary. Events recorded by figure 3 drainage evidence begin with southeast-oriented flood flow moving across the entire figure 3 map area. Headward erosion of the east-oriented Medicine Creek valley captured the southeast-oriented flood and diverted the flood waters east and then north. Subsequently headward erosion of the Bad River valley (north of the figure 3 map area) captured the southeast-oriented flood flow and diverted the flood waters further to the northeast. Flood waters on the northwest ends of beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow routes reversed flow direction to flow northwest to the newly eroded Bad River, to erode northwest-oriented Bad River tributary valleys, and to create the Bad River-Medicine Creek drainage divide. Reversed flow was probably helped in eroding the northwest-oriented Bad River tributary valleys by the capture of flood waters from yet to be beheaded (by Bad River valley headward erosion) flood flow routes further to the southwest. Lakes in the figure 3 map area may be evidence decaying ice sheet remnants were present in the area as southeast-oriented flood flow eroded the regional landscape (and probably also deeply eroded any ice sheet remnants that may have been present).

Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Medicine Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Medicine Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 illustrates the Bad River-Medicine Creek, Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek, and Cedar Creek-Medicine Creek drainage divide areas located east of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Southeast-oriented drainage flowing to the figure 4 south edge flows to east-oriented Medicine Creek, which is located south of the figure 4 map area. Northwest-oriented drainage west of the north-south highway flows to the northeast-oriented Bad River. Northwest-oriented drainage east of the north-south highway flows to northeast-oriented Antelope Creek (see figures 2 and 6), which flows to the southeast-oriented Missouri River and east-oriented Cedar Creek, which also flows to the Missouri River (see figures 2 and 5). Northeast-oriented Dripping Tank Creek flows to east-oriented Cedar Creek in the figure 4 east center. Note how Dripping Tank Creek tributaries are northwest-oriented and Cedar Creek tributaries are southeast-oriented. These tributaries provide evidence the Cedar Creek valley eroded west to capture southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the east-oriented Medicine Creek valley and the Dripping Tank Creek valley eroded southwest to capture flood flow routes headward erosion of the Cedar Creek valley had not yet beheaded. Flood waters on the northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode the northwest-oriented Dripping Tank Creek tributary valleys while headward erosion of the Cedar Creek valley beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Dripping Tank Creek valley. Southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Cedar Creek valley eroded southeast-oriented tributary valleys headward from the newly eroded valley until headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Antelope Creek valley (north of figure 4 map area) beheaded the southeast-oriented flood flow routes, causing flood waters on the northwest ends of those beheaded flood flow routes to reverse flow direction, to erode northwest-oriented Antelope Creek valleys, and to create the present day Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek drainage divide.

Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek drainage divide area northeast of figure 4 and includes overlap areas with figures 4 and 6. Cedar Creek flows east across figure 5 from the southwest quadrant before turning slightly northeast to join the south-oriented Missouri River in the figure 5 southeast quadrant. Northeast-oriented Antelope Creek is located in the figure 5 northwest corner (figure 6 better shows the Antelope Creek valley). Southeast-oriented tributaries flow to east oriented Cedar Creek and northwest-oriented tributaries flow to northeast-oriented Antelope Creek. Both Cedar Creek and Antelope Creek enter the south-oriented Missouri River as barbed tributaries suggesting the Missouri River valley eroded headward to capture northeast-oriented flow in the Cedar Creek valley and subsequently in the Antelope Creek valley. Evidence here is not adequate to determine where southeast-oriented flood waters captured by headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Antelope Creek valley and east and northeast-oriented Cedar Creek valley was being diverted to, however that somewhere was probably north and east of the present day Missouri River. Events recorded by figure 5 evidence begin with southeast-oriented flood water moving across the entire figure 5 map region and then with headward erosion of the Cedar Creek valley from somewhere north and east of the present day south-oriented Missouri River valley to capture southeast-oriented flood flow. Headward erosion of the deep south-oriented Missouri River valley may have occurred prior to beheading of the southeast-oriented flood flow by headward erosion of northeast-oriented Antelope Creek valley and may have contributed to the present day Cedar Creek valley depth. However, Missouri River valley headward erosion did not capture northeast-oriented Antelope Creek flood flow until after headward erosion of the Antelope Creek valley had beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow to the Cedar Creek valley and caused flood waters on the northwest ends of beheaded flood flow routes to reverse flow direction, to erode northwest-oriented Antelope tributaries, and to create the Antelope Creek-Cedar Creek drainage divide.

Bad River and Missouri River-Antelope Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Bad River and Missouri River-Antelope Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 6 illustrates the Bad River-Antelope Creek drainage divide area and includes overlap areas with figures 4 and 5. The northeast-oriented Bad River flows across the figure 6 northwest quadrant to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary at Fort Pierre (Pierre is the city across the Missouri River). Northeast-oriented Antelope Creek flows northeast from the figure 6 south center to also join the southeast-oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. The northwest-southeast drainage alignment previously discussed is definitely present in the figure 6 map area. However, northwest-oriented tributaries to northeast-oriented Antelope Creek are longer and better developed than the southeast-oriented tributaries. This evidence suggests headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Antelope Creek valley was closely followed by headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Bad River valley, and there was not sufficient time for southeast-oriented flood flow routes to erode lengthy southeast-oriented tributary valleys into the newly eroded Antelope Creek valley wall. Again both Antelope Creek and the Bad River flow to the southeast-oriented Missouri River as barbed tributaries, implying their northeast-orientations developed because originally they eroded headward to capture southeast-oriented flood flow and to divert the flood water somewhere north and east of the present day Missouri River valley. However, there is no obvious northeast-oriented valley in the figure 6 northeast corner that might have been a continuation of the northeast-oriented Antelope Creek valley, which suggests the deep southeast-oriented Missouri River valley eroded headward and captured northeast-oriented flood flow on the Antelope Creek alignment while flood water were still lowering the regional landscape and the present day Antelope Creek depth was achieved following the capture by the deep southeast-oriented Missouri River valley. The present day Bad River valley depth also probably was achieved following southeast-oriented Missouri River capture of northeast-oriented flood flow on the northeast-oriented Bad River alignment.

Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area southeast of Draper, South Dakota

Figure 7: Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area southeast of Draper, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 7 illustrates the Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area south and southeast of Draper, South Dakota and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Medicine Creek flows east from Draper between the figure 7 north edge and the west to east oriented highway. An unnamed northeast-oriented Medicine Creek tributary is located in the figure 7 north center and has southeast and northwest-oriented tributaries. An incised meander of the southeast and east-oriented White River is located in the figure 7 southwest corner. Southeast and south-southeast-oriented Williams Creek drains the large southeast-oriented escarpment-surrounded basin or abandoned headcut located immediately southeast of the unnamed northeast-oriented Medicine Creek tributary. This southeast-oriented escarpment-surrounded basin or abandoned headcut was being eroded headward by southeast-oriented flood flow from the newly eroded White River valley north wall until headward erosion of the east-oriented Medicine Creek valley and its unnamed northeast-oriented tributary valley captured that southeast-oriented flood flow. Subsequently headward erosion of east-oriented Medicine Creek valley captured the southeast-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded unnamed northeast-oriented Medicine Creek tributary valley. West of the Williams Creek abandoned headcut are southeast-oriented valleys that eroded headward from the newly eroded White River valley north wall to which flood flow was not beheaded by Medicine Creek valley headward erosion (the Medicine Creek valley did not erode further west than the Draper area). Flood flow to these longer southeast-oriented White River tributaries was beheaded by headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Bad River valley further to the north (see figure 3)

Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide south of Presho, South Dakota

Figure 8: Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide south of Presho, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 8 illustrates the Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area east of the figure 7 map area and includes an overlap area. East-oriented Medicine Creek is located between the figure 8 north edge and the west to east oriented highway. The east-oriented White River valley is located south of the figure 8 map area. Southeast-oriented Mission Creek flows to the figure 8 south center edge and south-oriented Mill Iron Creek flows to the figure 8 south edge just east of the highway going south from Presho. South of Presho that south-oriented highway crosses an erosional residual that has been streamlined in a northwest-southeast oriented direction and the entire figure 8 landscape appears as though it has been streamlined in a northwest-oriented direction. Streamlining was done by southeast-oriented flood water eroding large headcuts in a northwest direction. Those large headcuts were stripping the higher level topographic surface that prevailed at that time to produce the landscape seen today. Southeast-oriented flood waters responsible for eroding the large southeast-oriented headcuts were captured by headward erosion of the east-oriented Medicine Creek valley, which captured the flood waters and then diverted the flood flow east, northeast, and north. Figure 8 provides evidence the southeast-oriented flood waters stripped the regional landscape and significantly lowered the prevailing regional topographic surface elevation. South of the White River valley is the Pine Ridge Escarpment (described in essays found under White River on the sidebar category list), which could be considered to be the south wall of a large east-oriented headcut that eroded west on what is now the east-oriented White River alignment. If so, an earlier large and deep east-oriented White River valley was eroded into a topographic surface equivalent to or higher than Pine Ridge Escarpment rim today and all evidence of that higher level topographic surface north of the east-oriented White River was removed by southeast-oriented flood erosion.

Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area south of Kennebec, South Dakota

Figure 9: Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area south of Kennebec, South Dakota. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 9 illustrates the Medicine Creek-White River drainage divide area east of the figure 8 map area and includes an overlap area. White River valley incised meanders are located in the figure 9 southeast quadrant. East-oriented Medicine Creek is located west of Kennebec in the figure 9 northwest corner. The Medicine Creek elbow of capture is located east and northeast of Kennebec where Medicine Creek turns from being east-oriented to being northeast and north-northeast oriented and eventually even north-oriented. Southeast-oriented flood flow that was stripping the figure 9 landscape was captured by Medicine Creek valley headward erosion. It is hard to imagine how the present day White River valley incised meanders could have been eroded by southeast-oriented flood waters capable of stripping the regional landscape as this figure 9 landscape has been stripped. Probably the incised meanders developed as a deeper White River valley eroded headward from the deep Missouri River valley during the waning stages of the southeast-oriented flood (the waning stages would have been when headward erosion of northeast-oriented valleys to the north and west had proceeded far enough to capture most southeast-oriented flood water reaching the White River valley and to divert that flood water to the northeast). At least for a period of time prior to those waning stages what must have been an immense east-oriented headcut eroded west along the present day White River alignment to capture southeast-oriented flood water moving around the Black Hills south end and to divert that flood flow northeast and east to what must have been an actively eroding south and southeast-oriented Missouri River valley head, which at that time may have been located in southeast South Dakota.

Medicine Creek-Missouri River confluence area

Figure 10: Medicine Creek-Missouri River confluence area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 10 illustrates where north-oriented Medicine Creek joins the southeast oriented Missouri River and does not include overlap areas with other detailed maps in this essay (use figures 1 and 2 for reference). Lake Sharpe is the Missouri River reservoir impounded behind Big Bend Dam, which is located just east of the figure 10 map area. Medicine Creek flows north to join the southeast oriented Missouri River before it reverses direction to flow northwest and then east, south, and southeast again. Southeast-oriented Bad Horse Creek is the major Medicine Creek tributary, although the same pattern of southeast- and northwest-oriented tributaries prevails right up to the Missouri River valley, which could be considered just another northwest-southeast oriented valley, at least until it makes its loop. Counselor Creek flows north to join the southeast-oriented Missouri River in the figure 10 southeast corner immediately downstream from where the Missouri River has completed its loop. The Missouri River valley when it eroded northwest captured north-oriented flood flow on a north-oriented valley using the Counselor Creek alignment (probably eroding into a higher level topographic surface) and reversed flow on the south end of that beheaded north-oriented flow route. That reversed flow then captured north-oriented flow using the present day Medicine Creek alignment (although that capture took place north of where the Counselor Creek capture took place). Then the deep Missouri River valley eroded west-northwest along what is today the east-oriented Cedar Creek alignment (see figure 2) and then north and northwest from there. In other words, as the Missouri River valley was eroding headward it was using segments of valleys initiated by southeast-oriented flood waters that had been captured and diverted to flow northeast and north. Flood flow being captured by headward erosion of the south-oriented Missouri River valley was responsible for additional down cutting and valley streamlining to create the Missouri River course that appears today.

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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