Grand River drainage basin landform origins, Iowa and Missouri, USA, overview essay

· Iowa, Missouri, MO Grand River, Overview essays
Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

This overview essay provides highlights of more detailed essays illustrating and describing Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin topographic map evidence which is then interpreted to determine Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin landform origins (the Iowa and Missouri Grand River should not be confused with the South Dakota Grand River, which is addressed by an overview essay and separate detailed essays). The more detailed Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin essays can be found under MO Grand River on the sidebar category list. The Iowa and Missouri Grand River originates in southern Iowa and flows in a south-southwest direction into northern Missouri where it turns to flow in a southeast direction for a significant distance before turning to flow in south direction to join the Missouri River. Major south-oriented tributaries join the southeast-oriented Grand River segment from the north while north-oriented tributaries join it from the south. The Grand River drainage basin is bounded on the east by the south-oriented Chariton River drainage basin and to the west by the south-oriented Platte River drainage basin, both of which drain to the Missouri River. The closely spaced and south-oriented Grand River headwaters and tributary valleys and their tributary valleys and adjacent south-oriented drainage system valleys are interpreted to have been eroded headward along south-oriented flood flow channels in what was at that time an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet located north of the Grand River drainage basin and were captured by headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley and the deep southeast-oriented Grand River valley. Deep valleys then eroded headward along the captured south-oriented flood flow channels while flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented tributary valleys. Further evidence of beheaded flood flow channels is found in the form of through valleys eroded across present day drainage divides. Headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Des Moines River valley and its tributary valleys subsequently captured south-oriented flood flow to the actively eroding Grand River valley system and diverted flood waters more directly to what was then the actively eroding south-oriented Mississippi River valley.

Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin location map

Figure 1: Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin 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 location map for the Grand River drainage basin addressed by this overview essay. Iowa is the state in the north of figure 1 except along the west edge where Nebraska is west of Iowa. Missouri is the state south of Iowa and Kansas is south of Nebraska. The south-oriented Mississippi River can be seen along the figure 1 east center edge and a very small sliver of western Illinois can be seen east of the Mississippi River. The Missouri River flows in a south-southeast direction from north of Omaha, Nebraska (in figure 1 northwest corner) to Kansas City, Missouri (near figure 1 south edge) and then turns to flow in an east-northeast direction to Brunswick, Missouri. At Brunswick the Missouri River turns to flow in a southeast, south, and east-southeast direction to the figure 1 south edge. South of the figure 1 map area the Missouri River turns to flow in more of an east direction to join the Mississippi River east and south of the figure 1 map area. The Grand River is a south-southwest, southeast, and south oriented tributary joining the Missouri River near Brunswick, Missouri. The Grand River originates near Afton, Iowa and flows in a south-southwest direction into northern Missouri and then turns to flow in a southeast direction on a route passing the towns of Pattonsburg and Utica before turning to flow in a south direction to join the Missouri River. Named south-oriented Grand River tributaries are Locust Creek, Medicine Creek, and the Thompson River with its south-oriented Weldon River tributary. In addition there are several unnamed south-oriented tributaries joining the Grand River upstream from Pattonsburg. Note the unnamed north-oriented tributary joining the Grand River near Pattonsburg. Shoal Creek is a named east-oriented tributary joining the Grand River south of Chillicothe. East of the south-oriented Grand River drainage basin is the south-oriented Chariton River drainage basin and west of the Grand River drainage basin is the south-oriented Platte River drainage basin.
  • Note how the above described south-oriented drainage basins are characterized by roughly parallel and fairly closely spaced drainage routes which often converge with each other as they flow to the Missouri River. These south-oriented drainage routes are interpreted to be located in valleys which were eroded headward along channels in what was once an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Flood waters responsible for the anastomosing channel complex are interpreted to have been derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet located north of the Grand River drainage basin and were captured by headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley (and southeast-oriented Grand River valley segment). Deep south-oriented valleys then eroded headward along the south-oriented flood flow channels from the newly eroded Missouri River valley north wall. The southeast-oriented Grand River valley segment eroded headward across the south-oriented flood flow channels and deep valleys also eroded headward along south-oriented flood flow channels from the newly eroded southeast-oriented Grand River valley segment. Headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Grand River valley segment also beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes and flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented tributary valleys (see north-oriented tributary flowing to Grand River near Pattonsburg). The east-oriented Shoal Creek valley eroded headward from the newly eroded Grand River valley slightly in advance of southeast-oriented Grand River valley headward erosion to the north, but slightly behind Missouri River valley headward erosion to the south. In other words. Shoal Creek valley headward erosion beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Missouri River valley and Grand River valley headward erosion then beheaded south-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Shoal Creek valley. South-oriented flood flow to the Grand River drainage basin was captured in the east by headward erosion of the east-oriented Chariton River headwaters valley and in the west by headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Des Moines River valley and its tributary valleys, which provided more direct routes to the actively eroding Mississippi River valley.

Shoal Creek-Missouri River drainage divide area near Low Gap

Figure 2: Shoal Creek-Missouri River drainage divide area near Low Gap. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 2 illustrates an example of topographic map evidence for the immense south-oriented glacial melt water floods which once flowed across the entire Grand River drainage basin. Ludlow is a small town located near the figure 2 north center edge. Shoal Creek flows in a southeast direction from the figure 2 north edge west of Ludlow and then turns to flow in a northeast direction to the figure 2 north edge east of Ludlow. North and east of Figure 2 Shoal Creek joins the southeast-oriented Grand River near Utica (see figure 1). Mud Creek is the northeast, north-northeast, and northeast oriented Shoal Creek tributary flowing from the figure 2 southwest corner. Cottonwood Creek is the north-northeast and north oriented tributary joining Shoal Creek just south of Ludlow. South of Cottonwood Creek is south-southeast and south oriented Turkey Creek, which flows to the figure 2 south center edge. South of the figure 2 map area Turkey Creek flows in a south-southeast direction to enter the Missouri River valley. Low Gap is a deep through valley eroded across the Shoal Creek (Grand River)-Missouri River drainage divide and links the north-oriented Cottonwood Creek valley with the south-oriented Turkey Creek valley. The map contour interval is ten meters and the Low Gap elevation at the drainage divide is between 240 and 250 meters. Hills immediately west of Low Gap rise to more than 280 meters and continuing west of the figure 2 map area hills rise to more than 300 meters. Hills to the east of Low Gap in the figure 2 map area rise to more 300 meters. In other words Low Gap represents a former south-oriented flood flow channel eroded prior to headward erosion of the deep Shoal Creek (and Grand River) valley to the north. Flood waters were flowing to the newly eroded Missouri River valley and were subsequently beheaded by headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Grand River valley and its northeast-oriented Shoal Creek valley. Flood waters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to erode the north-oriented Cottonwood Creek valley. Evidence presented in the Grand River drainage basin more detailed essays found under MO Grand River on the sidebar category list illustrates numerous additional similar through valleys, although Low Gap is an unusually deep through valley. Most through valleys crossing drainage divides are much shallower and are best seen on more detailed topographic maps.

Barbed tributaries flowing to the southeast-oriented Grand River

Figure 3: Barbed tributaries flowing to the southeast-oriented Grand River. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 3 illustrates barbed tributaries flowing to the southeast-oriented Grand River. Pattonsburg is the town located near the figure 3 north edge (west half). The Grand River flows in a southeast direction from the figure 3 north edge (west of Pattonsburg) and then turns to flow in an east direction before turning to flow in a south-southeast direction to the figure 3 southeast corner. Grindstone Creek is the north-northeast, north, and northeast oriented tributary flowing from the figure 3 southwest corner to join the Grand River south of Pattonsburg. Note how the northeast-oriented Grindstone Creek segment has two north-northwest oriented tributaries (Cottonwood Creek and Little Creek). Altamont is the town just north of the figure 3 south center edge. Lake Viking is north of Altamont and floods the north-northeast oriented South Big Creek valley, with north-northeast oriented South Big Creek being a tributary to the south-southeast oriented Grand River. Roger Branch is a north-oriented South Big Creek tributary and east of Roger Branch is north-northeast oriented Larry Creek which flows to the south-southeast oriented Grand River. These and other north-oriented streams seen in the figure 3 map area are barbed tributaries flowing to the south-oriented Grand River. The north-oriented barbed tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north ends of south-oriented flood flow channels beheaded by headward erosion of the deep southeast-oriented Grand River valley. A close look at figure 3 drainage divides reveals some shallow through valleys linking heads of north-oriented valleys with heads of south-oriented valleys, although many of the shallow through valleys are too shallow to be seen on a map with a ten meter contour interval and need more detailed topographic maps to be seen. Barbed tributaries are common in the Grand River drainage basin, although often the barbed tributaries are shorter than those seen in figure 3. The barbed tributaries provide evidence of former diverging flood flow channels beheaded by headward erosion of deeper valleys. The more detailed essays for Missouri Grand River drainage basin areas illustrate and describe  additional barbed tributary examples.

Evidence for anastomosing channels along Platte River-Grand River drainage divide

Figure 4: Evidence for anastomosing channels along Platte River-Grand River drainage divide. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 4 illustrates an example of topographic map evidence for a former anastomosing channel complex in northwest Worth County, Missouri. The west to east oriented Iowa-Missouri state line is located near the figure 4 north edge. Grant City, Missouri is the larger town in the figure 4 east half and Parnell is the somewhat smaller town located in the figure 4 southwest quadrant. Athelstan, Iowa is the even smaller town located just north of the state line and west of the figure 4 north center area. The Platte River flows in a southwest direction from the figure 4 north center edge and then turns to flow in a south direction to near Parnell and the flows in a south-southwest direction to the figure 4 south edge. South of the figure 4 map area the Platte River continues to flow in a south direction and eventually joins the Missouri River a short distance upstream from Kansas City. Note how Platte River tributaries from the west are oriented in south directions and flow for considerable distances parallel to each other and to the south oriented Platte River before eventually joining the south oriented Platte River. The Grand River is located in the large southwest, south, and south-southwest oriented valley immediately east of the Platte River valley and flows from the figure 4 north edge (east half) to the south edge (west half). South of the figure 4 map area the Grand River turns to flow in a southeast direction to join the Missouri River near Brunswick, which is a considerable distance downstream from Kansas City (see figure 1). X Branch is the south and south-southeast oriented tributary joining the Grand River near the figure 4 south edge. Other tributaries to the Grand River from both sides are relatively short and the Grand River as seen in figure 4 has a very narrow drainage basin. Note through valleys crossing the Platte River-Grand River drainage divide south and east of Athelstan near the figure 4 north edge. Marlowe Fork is the south-oriented stream between the Grand River and Grant City and Middle Fork is the south-southwest oriented stream located east of Grant City. Marlowe Creek joins the Middle Fork south of Grant City near the figure 4 south edge and Middle Fork then flows in a south direction to the south edge. South of figure 4 Middle Fork eventually joins the southeast-oriented Grand River. Note how southeast-oriented Marlowe Creek tributaries are linked by through valleys with north-oriented Grand River tributaries. The closely spaced south-oriented valleys seen in figure 4 originated as channels in an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the deep southeast-oriented Grand River valley captured south-oriented flood flow from all south-oriented flood flow channels westward to the X Branch valley, but did not capture south-oriented flood flow moving in the Platte River valley. Headward erosion of the deep southwest-oriented Grand River valley beheaded and reversed south- and southeast-oriented flood flow to the actively eroding Marlowe Creek valley and soon after headward erosion of the deep southwest-oriented Platte River valley beheaded south- and southeast-oriented flood flow to the newly eroded Grand River valley.

Detailed topographic map of Platte River-Grand River drainage divide

Figure 5: Detailed topographic map of Platte River-Grand River drainage divide. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 5 provides a detailed map of the Platte River-Grand River drainage divide area south of Athelstan, which was seen in less detail in figure 4 above. The figure 5 north edge is just south of the Iowa-Missouri state line. The Grand River flows in a southwest direction across the figure 5 southeast quadrant. The Platte River flows in a southwest, northwest, and southwest direction across the figure 5 north center area and northwest quadrant. Note how Grand River tributaries are oriented in east, southeast, and south directions and  frequently originate on the edge of the Platte River valley. Also note how the Grand River tributary valleys are linked by through valleys with the Platte River valley. The deepest of the through valleys is located in the section 5 northeast quadrant and has a valley floor elevation of between 1050 and 1060 feet (the map contour interval is ten feet). Drainage divide elevations to the southwest rise to more than 1210 feet at Devils Horn in the figure 5 southwest quadrant. To the northeast drainage divide elevations rise to more than 1170 feet in section 34 and continuing north and east of the figure 5 map area eventually rise to more than 1210 feet. Other slightly shallower through valleys can be seen elsewhere along the figure 5 drainage divide. The multiple through valleys crossing the present day Platte River-Grand River drainage divide were eroded as deep channels on the floor of a much broader south oriented flood flow channel, which eroded the entire region between the 1210 foot high drainage divide elevations. Headward erosion of the deep southwest-oriented Grand River valley first captured the south oriented flood flow and the deep south and southeast-oriented flood flow channels next eroded headward from the newly eroded Grand River valley. Next headward erosion of the deep Platte River valley beheaded the actively eroding south and southeast-oriented Grand River tributary valleys. The northwest-oriented Platte River valley segment was eroded by a reversal of flood flow on the northwest end of a beheaded southeast-oriented flood flow channel. The figure 5 map area shows an exceptionally deep through valley, although through valleys crossing drainage divides are common throughout the Grand River drainage basin and provide evidence of former flood flow channels.

Detailed topographic map of Middle River-Thompson River drainage divide

Figure 6: Detailed topographic map of Middle River-Thompson River drainage divide. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 6 provides a detailed topographic map of the Middle River-Thompson River drainage divide area north of Creston, Iowa (see figure 1). The Middle River is a tributary to the southeast-oriented Des Moines River, which flows directly to the south oriented Mississippi River. The Thompson River is a Grand River tributary, with the Grand River flowing to the Missouri River, which then flows to the south oriented Mississippi River. East and southeast-oriented Thompson River headwaters are located north of the south-southwest oriented Grand River headwaters and headward erosion of the Thompson River valley (and Thompson River tributary valleys) beheaded south and southeast-oriented flood flow to what was then the actively eroding Grand River valley. Headward erosion of the Middle River valley and its tributary valleys next captured south- and southeast-oriented flood flow moving to the actively eroding Thompson River valley. Figure 6 evidence documents how headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Middle River valley and its tributary valleys beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Thompson River valley. The Middle River meanders in a southeast direction in sections 18, 17, 20, and 21 in the figure 6 northeast quadrant. Bruce Branch is an east-northeast, east-southeast, and east-northeast oriented Middle River tributary flowing from the figure 6 west edge (north half) to join the Middle River in section 18 near the figure 6 north edge. The Thompson River originates just west of the figure 6 west center edge and flows in an east direction to the section 27 northeast corner before turning to flow in a southeast, east, and southeast direction to the figure 6 south edge (east half). Note how Bruce Branch has multiple north and northwest-oriented tributaries and how the Thompson River has several southeast-oriented tributaries. Also note how the north and northwest-oriented Bruce Branch tributary valleys are linked by shallow through valleys with the southeast-oriented Thompson River tributary valleys. Perhaps the easiest through valley to see is in section 22. The map contour interval is 20 feet and the section 22 through valley floor elevation is between 1300 and 1320 feet. Elevations on either side in section 22 rise to more than 1340 feet. The through valley is not deep, but it exists and provides evidence of a southeast-oriented flood flow channel to the actively eroding Thompson River valley, which was beheaded by headward erosion of the deep Bruce Branch valley. Most other figure 6 through valleys are defined by a single contour line on each side, but they provide evidence of additional south-oriented flood flow channels. This overview essay has only provided a sample of the topographic map evidence presented in the Grand River drainage basin landform origins more detailed Missouri (MO) Grand River drainage basin essays.

Introduction to Missouri River drainage basin research project essay series

  • This Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin landform origins overview essay is one of a series of overview essays in the Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project. The research project  goal is to use topographic map evidence to describe the evolution of drainage divides separating each significant present day Missouri River tributary valley and also to describe the evolution of drainage divides separating the present day Missouri River drainage basin from adjacent drainage basins. Each overview essay relates to a specific Missouri River tributary, tributary to a present day Missouri River tributary, or a present day Missouri River valley segment. Each of the overview essays provides highlight from a series of much more detailed essays illustrating and discussing  topographic map evidence for a secondary drainage divide areas within the specified Missouri River tributary valleys (with overview essays and their related detailed essays being found under appropriate river or river segment names on the sidebar category list).
  • The Missouri River drainage basin research project introduces a new regional geomorphology paradigm. An essay titled “About the ‘thick ice sheet that melted fast’ geomorphology paradigm” provides a brief introduction to the new paradigm and how the new paradigm emerged. Detailed evidence illustrated and discussed in the Missouri River drainage basin research project essay series builds a strong case for (1) deep glacial erosion of the North American continent by a thick North American ice sheet that created and occupied a deep “hole”, (2) rapid melting of that thick North American ice sheet, (3) immense floods of south-oriented melt water, (4) headward erosion of deep east, northeast and north-oriented valley systems to capture the south-oriented melt water floods and to divert the melt water further and further northeast into space the ice sheet had once occupied, (5) deep flood water erosion of the North American continent surface, and (6) crustal warping that resulted in uplift of mountain ranges as flood waters were deeply eroding what are now high mountain regions. This interpretation is fundamentally different from most previous interpretations. The Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin evidence in this overview essay and the more detailed essays on which the overview essay is based is presented for review and discussion by qualified research geomorphologists and geologists.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: