Missouri River drainage basin landform origins downstream from Kansas City, Missouri, USA

· Missouri, MO Missouri River, Overview essays
Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

This overview essay provides highlights of more detailed essays (found under MO Missouri River on sidebar category list) describing drainage divide areas for Missouri River tributaries downstream from Kansas City. Each of the detailed essays uses topographic map interpretation methods to determine origins of landform features observed on illustrated topographic maps for a specified and detailed drainage divide area within the Missouri state Missouri River drainage basin. Landform features interpreted include valley orientations and spacing, drainage divides, through valleys eroded across drainage divides, elbows of capture, barbed tributaries, and incised meanders. The Missouri River flows in a south-southeast direction to Kansas City, Missouri and then turns flow in an east-northeast direction to Brunswick, Missouri. From Brunswick the Missouri River flows in southeast, east, and northeast directions to join the south-oriented Mississippi River as a barbed tributary. Major tributaries from the north are generally oriented in south directions and often flow parallel to each other in closely spaced south-oriented valleys. These south-oriented valleys are interpreted to have been eroded headward along channels in what was once an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet and were captured by headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley. Flood flow to the actively eroding south-oriented valleys was subsequently captured by headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Des Moines River valley and its tributary valleys. Prior to headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley flood water flowed south across the present day Ozark Plateau. Headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley and its north-northeast oriented Gasconade River and east- and northeast oriented Osage River tributary valleys (probably aided by Ozark Plateau uplift as flood waters were flowing across it) beheaded and reversed south-oriented flood flow routes to erode what are today north-oriented Missouri, Gasconade, and Osage River tributary valleys. Detailed essays illustrate and discuss hundreds of landform features supporting this flood origin interpretation.

Missouri River drainage basin downstream from Kansas City location map

Figure 1: Missouri River drainage basin downstream from Kansas City location map. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

This overview essay provides a brief summary of more detailed essays illustrating and interpreting topographic map evidence found along detailed drainage divide areas in the Missouri River drainage basin located downstream from Kansas City, Missouri. Separate overview essays describe the Kansas and Missouri Osage River drainage basin, the Kansas and Missouri Marais des Cygnes drainage basin, the Gasconade River drainage basin, the Iowa and Missouri Grand River drainage basin, the Iowa and Missouri Chariton River drainage basin, and the Iowa and Missouri River Platte River drainage basin (the Iowa and Missouri Platte River joins the Missouri River a short distance upstream from Kansas City). An effort was made to systematically survey the entire Missouri River drainage basin area downstream from Kansas City and to include drainage divide areas in the state of Missouri and also in southern Iowa and in eastern Kansas. As seen in figure 1 above the Missouri River flows in a southwest and south-southeast direction along the Kansas-Missouri border to Kansas City. From Kansas City the Missouri River flows in an east-northeast direction to Brunswick, Missouri and then in a southeast, south, east, and southeast direction to Jefferson City. From Jefferson City the Missouri River flows in an east-northeast, east, southeast, and northeast direction to join the south-oriented Mississippi River just north of St Louis. Note how the Missouri River flows to the Mississippi River as a barbed tributary. Major Missouri River tributaries from the north include the Iowa and Missouri Platte River (which joins the Missouri River upstream from Kansas City), the Iowa and Missouri Grand River (which joins the Missouri River near Brunswick), and the Chariton River (which joins the Missouri River between Brunswick and Glasgow). Major Missouri River tributaries from the south include the east- and northeast-oriented Osage River (which joins the Missouri River near Jefferson City) and the north-northeast oriented Gasconade River (which joins the Missouri River downstream from Jefferson City near the town of Gasconade). While not seen on figure 1 the Osage River and Gasconade River have major north-oriented tributaries flowing from the Ozark Plateau area, which is located south of the figure 1 map area.
  • Hundreds of topographic maps included in the detailed essays accessed by detailed essays found under MO Missouri River and the various Missouri state Missouri River tributary names on the sidebar category list provide evidence the entire figure 1 map region (and the entire Missouri River drainage basin upstream from figure 1) were crossed by immense south-oriented floods as present day valleys eroded headward into the region. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet, which at the time figure 1 drainage routes were eroded, was located north of the figure 1 map area. Initially there was no Missouri River valley, nor any Missouri River tributary valleys, and the Ozark Plateau did form the topographic barrier it does today. Flood waters from the north were free to flow in a south direction across the figure 1 map area to eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico. Headward erosion of the deep Mississippi River valley and its tributary valleys (from south to north) systematically captured the south-oriented flood waters and diverted the flood flow to the actively eroding Mississippi River valley. West of the Mississippi River valley tributary valleys eroded headward from the east to the west and also in sequence from south to north. For example, in the state of Arkansas, south of the figure 1 map area, headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Arkansas River valley and its tributary valleys captured the south-oriented flood flow in advance of headward erosion of the southeast-oriented White River and its tributary valleys, which beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Arkansas River valley. South-oriented White River tributary valleys then eroded headward from the newly eroded White River valley north wall along  and across south-oriented flood flow routes into southern Missouri.

Missouri River-White River drainage divide area in Ozark Plateau region

Figure 2: Missouri River-White River drainage divide area in Ozark Plateau region. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 2 illustrates drainage routes along the Missouri River-White River drainage divide region located in the southern Missouri Ozark Plateau. The Osage River flows from near Schell City (near figure 2 west edge, north of center) to Harry S. Truman Reservoir and then to the Lake of the Ozarks before flowing in a northeast direction to join the Missouri River near Jefferson City. South-oriented streams flowing to the figure 2 south edge (except in the southeast corner) are tributaries to the southeast-oriented White River, which is located in the state of Arkansas south of the figure 2 map area. Note how these south-oriented White River tributaries originate in the region labeled as the Ozark Plateau, which today stands higher than surrounding regions and is a topographic barrier. Just prior to Ozark Plateau uplift and headward erosion of the deep Missouri River-Osage River valley south-oriented flood waters could freely flow from the rapidly melting ice sheet in the north to and across the Ozark Plateau region to what were then actively eroding south-oriented White River tributary valleys. Next headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley and its east and northeast-oriented Osage River tributary valley captured the south-oriented flood flow routes in sequence from east to west. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented tributary valleys. These massive flood flow reversals were probably aided by Ozark Plateau uplift, which probably occurred as flood waters were flowing across the region. Also, because flood flow routes were beheaded in sequence from east to west, newly reversed flood flow routes eroding deep north-oriented valleys could capture yet to be beheaded flood flow from flood flow routes further to the west. Such captures of yet to be beheaded flood flow provided water volumes required to erode significant north-oriented tributary valleys and also account for northeast and other valley orientations. Topographic map evidence reveals many situations, including what appear to be incised meanders, where adjacent valleys were eroded by water moving in opposite directions. These situations provide evidence of the flood flow reversals, which proceeded from east to west across the Ozark Plateau region. Topographic map evidence shows all Ozark Plateau drainage divides were crossed by south-oriented flood flow routes prior to those flood flow routes being beheaded and reversed. Map evidence also suggests all drainage divide areas were eroded by the flood waters with south-oriented flood waters producing the greatest erosion, although south of the Osage and Missouri River valleys reversed (or north-oriented) flood water also deeply eroded many regions.

Osage River headwaters region in eastern Kansas

Figure 3: Osage River headwaters region in eastern Kansas. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 3 illustrates drainage routes in the Osage River headwaters region in eastern Kansas. The Missouri River serves as the Kansas-Missouri state line north of Kansas City and then flows in an east-northeast direction to Brunswick where it turns to flow in a southeast, south, east, and southeast direction to the figure 3 east center edge. The Missouri River drainage basin between Sioux City, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri landform origins overview essay and its related detailed essays describe drainage divide areas for the region upstream from Kansas City. Joining the Missouri River at Kansas City is the east-oriented Kansas River. Essays describing Kansas River drainage basin regions are found under Kansas River on the sidebar category list. South of the Kansas River is the southeast, east, and southeast oriented Marais des Cygnes River, which joins the east-oriented Little Osage River (not labeled in figure 1) and the east and northeast-oriented Marmaton River near Schell City, Missouri (in the figure 3 south center region) to form the east and northeast oriented Osage River. The Kansas and Missouri Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin landform origins overview essay and its related detailed essays and the Kansas and Missouri Osage River drainage basin landform origins overview essay and its detailed essays describe those drainage basins. Note how the Maramaton River headwaters are located south of the Little Osage River headwaters, which are located south of the Marais des Cygnes River headwaters, which extend further west than the Little Osage River headwaters. South of these Osage River tributary headwaters is the southeast and south-southeast oriented Neosho River and west of the Neosho River is the southeast-oriented Verdigris River. South of the figure 3 map area the Verdigris River joins the Neosho River, which then joins the southeast-oriented Arkansas River. Drainage divides separating each of these rivers was crossed by south oriented flood flow, which was first captured by headward erosion of the Arkansas River valley (not seen in figure 3). Headward erosion of the Neosho River valley then proceeded from the newly eroded Arkansas River valley north wall along and across the south and southeast-oriented flood flow routes. Flood flow to the newly eroded Neosho River valley was then beheaded by headward erosion of the Marmaton River valley, with flood flow to the newly Marmaton River valley being beheaded by Little Osage River valley headward erosion. Next Marais des Cygnes River valley headward erosion beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Little Osage River valley and also to the newly eroded Neosho River valley west of the Little Osage River headwaters. Kansas River valley headward erosion then beheaded south- and southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Marais des Cygnes River valley and to what is today the Neosho River headwaters valley, which is located west of the Marais des Cygnes River headwaters.

Des Moines River-Missouri River drainage divide area

Figure 4: Des Moines River-Missouri River drainage divide area. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 4 illustrates the Des Moines River-Missouri River drainage divide area located in southern Iowa. As the deep Missouri River valley eroded headward across the figure 1 map area south-oriented tributary valleys eroded headward from the newly eroded Missouri River valley north wall. These south-oriented valleys included the Chariton River valley, the Grand River valley, and the Platte River valley and their tributary valleys. The Chariton River originates in southern Iowa and flows in an east direction to Rathbun Lake (in figure 4 north center area) and then turns to flow in a south direction to join the Missouri River in the figure 4 south center region. The Grand River originates near Afton, Iowa (west of the Chariton River headwaters) and flows in a south direction into northern Missouri where it turns to flow in a southeast direction before turning to flow in a south direction to join the Missouri River near Brunswick, Missouri. Note how the southeast-oriented Grand River segment has several south-oriented tributaries including Locust Creek, Medicine Creek, and the Thompson River. The Platte River also originates near Afton, Iowa and flows in a south direction parallel to and adjacent to the Grand River and continues to flow in a south direction after the Grand River turns to flow in a southeast direction. Many of the south-oriented valleys and their south-oriented tributary valleys in this region north of the Missouri River appear to have eroded headward along what were flood flow channels in what had been an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex, which was captured by Missouri River valley headward erosion. The southeast-oriented Grand River valley headward erosion from the actively eroding Missouri River valley head was across the south-oriented flood flow channels and closely spaced south-oriented tributary valleys eroded headward from that actively eroding Grand River valley. Headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Grand River valley was not able to capture south-oriented flood flow in what is today the south-oriented Platte River valley even though the south-oriented Platte River and Grand River headwaters flow parallel and adjacent to each other and are linked by through valleys eroded across the narrow drainage divide. Note how north and east of the south-oriented Missouri River tributaries in northeast Missouri and eastern Iowa there are closely spaced and roughly parallel southeast-oriented Mississippi River tributaries, with the southeast-oriented Des Moines River flowing from the figure 4 north center edge to join the Mississippi River along the Iowa-Missouri state line. What appears to have happened here is flood water from the immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex draining to the newly eroded Missouri River valley was being captured by an equally immense southeast-oriented anastomosing channel complex draining to what was then a newly eroded south-oriented Mississippi River valley. Headward erosion of the south-oriented Chariton River valley captured some east and southeast-oriented flood flow routes to the Mississippi River valley, although further north headward erosion of the southeast-oriented Des Moines River valley and its tributary valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the Missouri River valley.

Introduction to Missouri River drainage basin research project essay series

  • This Missouri River drainage basin downstream Kansas City 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 and provides highlights from several more detailed essays illustrating and discussing topographic map evidence describing the evolution of a secondary drainage divide separating specified Missouri River tributary valleys. The Missouri River drainage basin research project is being developed one essay at a time and overview essays are added as significant tributaries are reached. All published essays can be found under appropriate Missouri River tributary or Missouri 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 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 Missouri River drainage basin east of Kansas City evidence in this overview essay and its related detailed essays 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.

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