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

Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

This overview essay provides highlights from more detailed essays describing drainage divide areas for the Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin (which should not be confused with the Nebraska Platte River drainage basin, which is addressed by a separate overview essay and separate more detailed essays). The Iowa and Missouri Platte River is located in an elongate south-oriented drainage basin bounded on the east and west by other elongate south-oriented drainage basins and drains to the Missouri River at a location a short distance upstream from Kansas City, Missouri. Generally Platte River tributaries are also located in narrow south-oriented drainage basins. The closely spaced and converging valleys in the Platte River drainage basin suggest the valleys were eroded headward along what was once a large south-oriented flood formed anastomosing channel complex. Flood waters were probably derived from a rapidly melting thick North American ice sheet located north of the Platte River drainage basin and were captured by headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley. The deep Platte River valley and its south-oriented tributary valleys then eroded headward from the newly eroded Missouri River valley north wall. Evidence for beheaded diverging flood flow channels can be found in the form of north-oriented (barbed) tributary valleys draining to the south-oriented Platte River and/or its south-oriented tributaries and also in the form of shallow through valleys crossing drainage divides. The more detailed essays upon which this overview essay is based use topographic maps to illustrate evidence supporting this flood origin interpretation.

Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin location map

Figure 1: Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin location map (select and click on maps to enlarge). National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.


The Iowa and Missouri River Platte River drainage basin is located in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri and should not be confused with the Nebraska Platte River, which is discussed in the Nebraska Platte River drainage basin landform origins overview essay (found under Platte River (NE) on sidebar category list.  Figure 1 above illustrates the region where southwest Iowa, northwest Missouri, southeast Nebraska, and northeast Kansas meet. The Missouri River flows in a south-southeast direction from Omaha (near figure 1 northwest corner) to Kansas City (near figure 1 south edge) with a jog to the east and southwest near St Joseph, Missouri (the Nebraska Platte River flows in a south and east direction to join the Missouri River at Plattsmouth, just south of Omaha). At Kansas City the Missouri River turns to flow in an east-northeast direction to Brunswick, Missouri and then in a southeast, south, east, and southeast direction to the figure 1 south edge. South of figure 1 the Missouri River turns again to flow in more of an east direction to join the south-oriented Mississippi River. The Iowa and Missouri Platte River is a south-oriented Missouri River tributary originating north of Creston, Iowa (on black railroad line in southwest Iowa) and joining the Missouri River south of Platte City (a short distance north of Kansas City). A major Platte River tributary is the One Hundred and Two River, which originates in southern Iowa (just east of the Platte River) and then flows in a south direction near Maryville in northwest Missouri to join the Platte River near St Joseph. Note how the Missouri River almost meets the south-oriented One Hundred and Two and Platte Rivers in the St Joseph region, but then veers in a south-southwest direction before turning to flow in a south-southeast direction to meet the south-oriented Platte River. Also note how west of the south-oriented One Hundred Two River is the parallel and south-oriented Nodaway River, which joins the Missouri River upstream from St Joseph. East of the Platte River in southern Iowa and northern Missouri is the parallel and south-oriented Grand River, which turns in northern Missouri to flow in  a southeast direction to join the Missouri River near Brunswick. Note how Missouri River tributaries and their tributaries from the north (seen in figure 1) are closely spaced and often flow parallel to each other in narrow south-oriented drainage basins. These south-oriented drainage routes originated as channels in what was once an immense south-oriented anastomosing channel complex formed by massive south-oriented glacial meltwater floods. Flood waters were captured by headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley and then deep valleys eroded headward along the south-oriented flood flow channels. Adjacent river drainage basin areas are described in essays found under appropriate river or river segment names on the sidebar category list.

Northern Platte River drainage basin area in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri

Figure 2: Northern Platte River drainage basin area in southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 2 begins our overview of the Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin area by looking at the Platte River drainage basin northern end and shows Iowa and Missouri county boundaries and names. Page, Taylor, Ringgold, and Decatur Counties are located in Iowa north of the state line while Atchison, Nodaway, Worth, and Harrison Counties are located south of the state line in Missouri. The Platte River originates in northwest Union County and flows in a south direction into southwest Ringgold County where it turns to flow  in a southwest direction to the Worth County northwest corner. From the Worth County northwest corner the Platte River flows in a south-southwest direction to the figure 2 south edge. Note how in southwest Ringgold County and western Worth County (immediately to the east of the Platte River) is the parallel Grand River, which south of the figure 2 map area turns to flow in a southeast direction while the Platte River continues to flow in a south direction. The One Hundred and Two River originates in southern Adams County (south of Corning) and flows in a south-southwest direction into west-central Taylor County and then in a south direction past Maryville in Nodaway County to the figure 2 south edge. South of the figure 2 map area the One Hundred and Two River joins the south-oriented Platte River, which then continues to flow in a south direction. West of the One Hundred and Two River in western Nodaway County is the parallel Nodaway River, which south of the figure 2 map area directly flows to the Missouri River. Note how almost all Grand River, Platte River, One Hundred and Two River, and Nodaway River tributaries shown are oriented in the same directions as the rivers to which they flow. These tributaries converge with each other and with the main south-oriented rivers just as channels in a flood formed anastomosing channel complex would be expected to converge. While not visible on figure 2, which does not show contour lines, shallow through valleys link headwaters of the south-oriented tributaries with adjacent valleys and provide evidence of the diverging flood flow channels that once existed. Each of the more detailed essays in this Platte River essay series illustrates and describes at least eight topographic maps for the specific Platte River drainage divide region identified by its title. Figures 3, 5, and 7 in this overview essay provide a three samples of the topographic map evidence presented in the more detailed essays.

Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex in northern Platte River drainage basin

Figure 3: Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex in northern Platte River drainage basin. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 3 illustrates evidence shown in detailed essays (found under Iowa/Missouri Platte River on sidebar category list) to demonstrate Platte River drainage basin valleys were eroded headward along diverging and converging channels of a former south oriented anastomosing channel complex. Maryville, Missouri is the large town in the figure 3 southwest corner. Ravenswood is the smaller town in the figure 3 southeast corner. The One Hundred and Two River flows in a south direction in the large valley located just east of Maryville. The Platte River flows in a south-southwest direction near the figure 3 east edge and is joined near Ravenswood by south-oriented Honey Creek. Note how between the south-oriented One Hundred and Two and Platte Rivers are multiple south-oriented tributaries, which converge with each other and eventually with one of the two major south-oriented rivers, which eventually converge south of the figure 3 map area. As already noted Honey Creek converges with the Platte River, but note how Honey Creek also has south- and southeast-oriented tributaries. East of Honey Creek is south-oriented Long Branch, which also has south-oriented converging tributaries. South of the figure 3 map area Long Branch joins the south-oriented Platte River. East of Long Branch is Mozingo Creek, which has south-oriented converging tributaries, and which joins the One Hundred and Two River south of the figure 3 map area. And east of Mozingo Creek is the south-oriented One Hundred and Two River. Most One Hundred and Two River tributaries are long and oriented in a south direction. The closely spaced, parallel, and converging valleys were eroded headward along flood flow channels in what was a large south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley (at the south end of the Platte River drainage basin) captured the south-oriented flood flow and deep valleys then began to erode headward along the south-oriented flood flow channels. Headward erosion of the deep valleys along the most successful of the flood flow channels beheaded diverging and somewhat less successful south-oriented flood flow channels. After being beheaded headward erosion of these less successful south-oriented flood flow channel valleys then ceased and these less successful flood channel valleys are today south-oriented tributary valleys. Evidence for the less successful diverging flood flow channels can sometimes be seen in the form of shallow through valleys linking heads of south-oriented tributary valleys with adjacent south-oriented valleys and also in the form of barbed (north-oriented) tributary valleys draining into the south-oriented valleys. Evidence for these diverging is usually seen best on more detailed topographic maps, several of which are included in each of the detailed essays. However, easy to identify barbed tributaries can be seen in the figure 3 northwest quadrant along the east side of the One Hundred and Two River valley and its south-southwest oriented Norvey Creek tributary valley.

Middle Platte River drainage basin region in northwest Missouri

Figure 4: Middle Platte River drainage basin region in northwest Missouri. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 4 provides a location map for the middle Platte River drainage basin located south of the figure 3 map area and includes overlap areas with figure 3. Again county names and boundaries are shown. The Missouri River flows in a southeast direction from the figure 4 west edge (north half) to St Joseph (located in northern Buchanan County) and then turns to flow in a south-southwest direction and forms the boundary between Missouri to the east and Kansas to west (Doniphan County is located in Kansas). The Platte River flows in a south-southwest direction from the figure 4 north center edge (near Nodaway-Worth County border) to the Andrew County north edge and then flows in a south direction across eastern Andrew and Buchanan Counties to the figure 4 south center edge. The parallel One Hundred and Two River flows in a south direction from the figure 4 north edge (slightly west of center) past Maryville and across central Andrew County to northern Buchanan County where east of St Joseph it joins the south-oriented Platte River. West of the One Hundred and Two River the parallel Nodaway River flows in a south direction from the figure 4 north edge across eastern Nodaway County and then along the Holt County eastern border to join the Missouri River at the Holt-Andrew County border. Note how the southeast-oriented Missouri River almost meets the south-oriented One Hundred and Two and Platte Rivers in the St Joseph area, but then veers off in a south-southwest direction while the Platte River (reinforced with the One Hundred and Two River flow) continues to flow in a south direction. The southeast and south-southwest oriented Missouri River valley eroded headward across the south-oriented anastomosing flood flow channels, while the south-oriented Platte River, One Hundred and Two River, and Nodaway River valleys and most of their tributary valleys were eroded headward along the south-oriented flood flow channels. Flood waters responsible for eroding the deep southeast and south-southwest oriented Missouri River valley were derived from giant melt water rivers emerging from huge ice-walled and bedrock-floored canyons carved into the decaying ice sheet surface. Evidence for these ice-walled and bedrock-floored canyons is described in essays listed under James River and Big Sioux River on the sidebar category list. Flood waters responsible for the south-oriented anastomosing channel complex were probably derived from melting ice sheet areas located in northern Iowa which are described in essays for drainage divide areas east of the Missouri River contained in the Missouri River drainage basin between Sioux City, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri  overview essay and its related detailed essays.

Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex north of St Joseph, Missouri

Figure 5: Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex north of St Joseph, Missouri. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 5 provides an example of topographic map evidence seen in the Platte River drainage basin middle section located north of the St Joseph, Missouri. Savannah is the town located near the figure 5 northwest corner. South, southwest, and west-oriented streams flowing to the figure 5 west edge join the southeast and south oriented Missouri River located just west of figure 5. The One Hundred and Two River flows in a south direction from the figure 5 north to south edge in the west half, and is located east of Savannah. East of the One Hundred and Two River is the south-oriented Platte River, which also flows from the figure 5 north edge to the south edge. Note how the Platte River and One Hundred and Two River valleys are converging near the figure 5 south edge. Between the One Hundred and Two River and the Platte River is south-oriented Long Branch, which joins the One Hundred and Two River near Avenue City. East of the south-oriented Platte River is south-oriented Muddy Creek, which originates north of Helena in the figure 5 northeast quadrant. And east of Muddy Creek is south-oriented Third Fork, which flows from the north to south edge near the figure 5 east edge. Note how all major drainage routes are oriented in south directions and how the south-oriented tributary valleys converge with the larger south-oriented valleys. With the exception of the Missouri River tributaries, along the figure 5 west edge, all of the south-oriented valleys converge eventually into the south-oriented Platte River valley. The closely spaced converging south-oriented valleys observed suggests the valleys originated as channels in a large south-oriented anastomosing channel complex. Evidence for diverging valleys can be also found on figure 5, although is much easier to see on more detailed topographic maps. A north-oriented (barbed) tributary to the south-oriented One Hundred and Two River can be seen west of Avenue City in the figure 5 southwest quadrant. Also just east of Savannah a south, southwest, and west-oriented Missouri River tributary valley (Dillon Creek) is linked by a shallow through valley to a north-oriented One Hundred and Two River tributary valley (which drains to the One Hundred and Two River north of the figure 5 map area). South and east of the town of Kodiak (east of Savannah) a northwest-southeast oriented through valley links a west-oriented One Hundred and Two River tributary valley with an east-southeast oriented Long Branch tributary valley. North and northeast-oriented tributaries to the south-oriented Platte River can be seen near the figure 5 north edge. Close study of other drainage divides reveals additional through valleys linking valleys on opposites sides, although evidence is subtle and is much better seen on more detailed topographic maps, samples of which are included in the more detailed collection essays.

Southern Platte River drainage basin area in western Missouri

Figure 6: Southern Platte River drainage basin area in western Missouri. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

Figure 6 provides a location map for the south end of the Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin. The Missouri River flows in a southeast, east, and south-southwest direction from the figure 6 north edge along the Doniphan County north and east borders and then turns at Atchison, Kansas to flow in a south-southeast direction to Kansas City near the figure 6 south edge. From Kansas City the Missouri River meanders in an east direction and forms Clay and Ray County south boundaries as it flows to the figure 6 east edge. Note how the Missouri River turns from flowing in a southeast direction to flowing in a south-southwest direction near St Joseph, Missouri along the Buchanan County west boundary. The Platte River flows in a south direction from the figure 6 north edge into and across eastern Buchanan County to the Platte County northeast corner. From the Platte County northeast corner the Platte River flows in a south-southwest direction across Platte County to join the south-southeast oriented Missouri River. The south-oriented One Hundred and Two River joins the Platte River just east of St Joseph and Third Fork flows in a south-southwest direction from the Buchanan County northeast corner to join the Platte River a short distance downstream from where the One Hundred and Two and Platte Rivers converged. Note again how the region is dominated by south-oriented Missouri River tributaries and south-oriented tributaries to those tributaries. But some interesting deviations can be found. For example, originating in southern Buchanan County, south of St Joseph, is north and south-oriented Bee Creek, which flows directly to the Missouri River east of the Platte River. The north oriented Bee Creek headwaters provide evidence headward erosion of the Bee Creek valley beheaded and reversed flood flow in what had been a diverging and parallel south-oriented flood flow route. East of the north oriented Bee Creek headwaters is an unnamed north and west-oriented stream, which joins the Missouri River just south of Lake Contrary. On more detailed maps this stream is named Contrary Creek and flows to the south-oriented Missouri River valley as a north-oriented barbed tributary. The north-oriented Contrary Creek valley was eroded by a reversal of flood flow on the north end of a beheaded south-oriented flood flow channel. The south-oriented flood flow channel was beheaded by headward erosion of the deep south-southwest oriented Missouri River valley.

Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex south of St Joseph, Missouri

Figure 7: Evidence of former anastomosing channel complex south of St Joseph, Missouri. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

 

  • Figure 7 provides topographic map evidence demonstrating the existence of a large south-oriented anastomosing channel complex prior to headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley. The south-southwest oriented Missouri River valley can be seen in the figure 7 northwest quadrant. The south edge of the St Joseph urban area is located on the Missouri River valley east bank along the figure 7 north edge. The north-oriented stream entering the Missouri River valley at the south edge of the St Joseph urban area is Contrary Creek, which originates south of the figure 7 map area. After entering the Missouri River valley Contrary Creek turns to flow in a west direction to join the meandering Missouri River, which is located west of the figure 7 map area (the Missouri River meander channel seen along the figure 7 north edge is flowing in a west direction). As previously described the north-oriented Contrary Creek valley was eroded when headward erosion of the deep Missouri River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow on the north end of a south-oriented flood flow channel. The One Hundred and Two River joins the south-oriented Platte River (at the “Y” north of Garrettsburg) in the figure 7 northeast corner and the Platte River then meanders in a south direction to the figure 7 south edge. Faucett is a small town located just north of the figure 7 south center edge. The north, northeast, southeast, and south oriented stream flowing to the figure 7 south center edge just south of Faucett is Bee Creek. Note the southeast and south-oriented tributary joining Bee Creek near Faucett and how that tributary is linked north of Willow Brook by a shallow through valley with a north-northeast oriented segment of a southeast and north-northeast oriented Pigeon Creek tributary, where Pigeon Creek flows in a southeast, northeast, and east-southeast direction to join the south-oriented Platte River. The shallow through valley north of Willow Brook provides evidence of a former south-oriented flood flow channel beheaded by headward erosion of the Pigeon Creek valley (which eroded headward from what was then the newly eroded deep Platte River valley). Also note how Bee Creek has a southeast-oriented tributary that joins it at the elbow of capture where it turns from flowing in a northeast direction to flowing in a southeast direction. Note how that southeast-oriented Bee Creek tributary is linked by a shallow through valley with a northwest-oriented Contrary Creek tributary valley. The through valley is evidence of a diverging southeast-oriented flood flow channel, which once linked the south-oriented Contrary Creek flood flow channel with the south-oriented Bee Creek flood flow channel. In the figure 7 north center area note north-northwest oriented Whitehead Creek, which joins the Missouri River north of the figure 7 map area. Note how the north-oriented Whitehead Creek headwaters are linked to a south-oriented Pigeon Creek tributary valley, which is aligned with the south-oriented Bee Creek valley further to the south. East of the north-northwest oriented Whitehead Creek headwaters is north-northeast oriented Candy Creek, which is a barbed tributary flowing to the south-oriented One Hundred and Two River (and Platte River). Unlike evidence further north in the Platte River drainage basin there is nothing subtle about evidence for diverging flood flow channels in the figure 7 map area. Detailed essays under Iowa/Platte River on the sidebar category list illustrate and discuss similar evidence for diverging flood flow channels from throughout the Iowa and Missouri Platte River drainage basin.

Introduction to Missouri River drainage basin research project essay series

  • This Iowa and Missouri Platte 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 and provides highlights of a series of more detailed essays illustrating and discussing detailed topographic map evidence describing the evolution of a secondary drainage divide areas within the specified river or river segment drainage basin. The Missouri River drainage basin research project series is being developed one essay at a time and overview essays are added as significant tributaries are reached. Overview essays and their related detailed essays can be 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 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 Platte River drainage basin 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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