Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin landform origins, Kansas and Missouri, USA, overview essay

Authors

A geomorphic history based on topographic map evidence

Abstract:

This is an overview essay providing highlights from more detailed essays illustrating and describing the origin of the Marais des Cygnes River and tributary valleys and their drainage divides. The more detailed essays can be found under Marais des Cygnes River on this website’s sidebar category list. All interpretations in this overview essay and in the more detailed essays are based on topographic map evidence. The Marais des Cygnes River originates in eastern Kansas (south and west of Topeka) and flows in a south-southeast, east-northeast, and southeast direction to western Missouri where it joins the east-oriented Little Osage River (near Schell City) to form the east- and northeast-oriented Osage River, which flows to join the Missouri River near Jefferson City. Evidence illustrated and discussed in the detailed essays describes how the Marais des Cygnes River valley and its tributary valleys eroded headward from what was once the newly eroded Osage River valley to capture immense south-oriented floods flowing from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet. Flood waters were captured in sequence from south to north by headward erosion of deep east-oriented Missouri River tributary valleys and diverted east to what was then an actively eroding Missouri River valley. Headward erosion of the Marais des Cygnes River valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to what was then the newly eroded Little Osage River valley and also to actively eroding south-oriented Neosho River tributary valleys, which are located in the Arkansas River drainage basin. Headward erosion of the South Grand River valley, north of the Marais des Cygnes River, beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the eastern Marais des Cygnes River valley. Headward erosion of the deep Kansas River valley and its east-oriented Wakarusa River tributary valley from what was then the newly eroded Missouri River valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded western Marais des Cygnes River valley. Evidence presented in the essays supporting this flood origin interpretation includes positions and orientations of the Marais des Cygnes valley and tributary valleys, positions and orientations of adjacent valleys and tributary valleys, and through valleys eroded across present day drainage divides.

Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin location map

Figure 1: Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin location map. National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Marais des Cynes River drainage basin history

This overview essay gives highlights of topographic map evidence illustrated and described in more detailed essays interpreting Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin landform origins (the more detailed essays can be found under Marais des Cygnes River on the website sidebar category list). All interpretations in this essay and in the more detailed essays are based on topographic map evidence and no effort has been made to introduce other types of evidence. The Marais des Cygnes River originates as a southeast-oriented stream south and west of Topeka, Kansas and then turns to flow in an east-northeast direction to Ottawa, Kansas. From Ottawa the Marais des Cygnes River flows in a southeast direction to join the east oriented Little Osage River (west of Schell City, Missouri) to form the east and northeast-oriented Osage River. On figure 1 the Little Osage River is the unlabeled east-oriented stream flowing through Fulton, Kansas (near the Missouri border) and the Marmaton River is a Little Osage River tributary. The Osage River joins the east-oriented Missouri River near Jefferson City, Missouri. North of the Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin in Kansas is the east-oriented Kansas River drainage basin. The unlabeled (on figure 1) east-oriented Kansas River tributary located south of Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas is the Wakarusa River. South of the Marais des Cygnes River headwaters (south of Topeka) is the south-southeast oriented Neosho River drainage basin, with the Neosho River eventually flowing to the southeast-oriented Arkansas River. The Marais des Cygnes-Neosho River drainage divide area located north of Emporia, Kansas is the drainage divide between the Missouri River drainage basin to the north and the Arkansas River drainage basin to the south. Further east in Kansas and in Missouri the east-oriented Little Osage River drainage basin is located south of the Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin and the Missouri River-Arkansas River drainage divide is located south of the Marmaton River. Also, in Missouri the southeast-oriented South Grand River drainage basin is located north of the Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin, with the South Grand River flowing to the east- and northeast-oriented Osage River.

  • The Marais des Cygnes River valley and tributary valleys eroded headward across an immense south-oriented flood. Flood waters were derived from a rapidly melting North American ice sheet. At the time the Marais des Cygnes River valley was eroded the ice sheet southern margin was located in southeast South Dakota (probably just north of the present day Missouri River valley). At that time large supra huge glacial melt water rivers had carved giant ice-walled and ice-floored (later bedrock-floored) canyons into the decaying ice sheet’s surface and water from these huge melt water rivers was flowing south from the canyon mouths across eastern Nebraska and eastern Kansas to what was then the actively eroding Neosho River valley. At that time the Missouri River valley was still eroding headward across the state of Missouri and the Osage River valley was eroding headward slightly in advance of the Missouri River valley. The Marais des Cygnes River valley eroded headward from the Osage River valley slightly behind headward erosion of the Little Osage valley, which eroded headward slightly behind headward erosion of the Marmaton River valley. Marais des Cygnes River valley headward erosion beheaded all south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Little Osage River valley, which had previously beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Marmaton River valley. Headward erosion of the Marmaton River valley and subsequently headward erosion of the Marais des Cygnes River headwaters valleys beheaded many south-oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding Neosho River valley and its actively eroding south-oriented tributary valleys. Finally headward erosion of the Missouri River-Kansas River-Wakarusa River valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding Marais des Cygnes valley and Marais des Cygnes valley headward erosion ceased.
  • This Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin is just one of many drainage basins crossed by flood flow routes from South Dakota to eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Other overview essays and related detailed essays readers may wish to inspect include the Osage River drainage basin landform origins essays, the Kansas River drainage basin landform origins essays, the Elkhorn River drainage basin landform origins essays, the NE Missouri River essays, and the James River drainage basin landform origins essays. The flood origin interpretation based on topographic map evidence and presented in this overview essay and in the more detailed essays is a fundamentally different interpretation than previously published interpretations based on other types of evidence. Topographic evidence illustrated and described in the Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project builds a case for a “thick ice sheet that melted fast” geomorphology paradigm. Previously published interpretations are based on a geomorphology paradigm built from other types of evidence and do not see evidence for the large volumes of melt water that once flowed across eastern Kansas and western Missouri and generally assume ice sheets did not significantly alter the pre-glacial landscape. The “thick ice sheet that melted fast” geomorphology paradigm implies deep glacial erosion, deep melt water flood erosion, and ice sheet related crustal warping significantly altered the landscape so the pre-glacial landscape has been almost completely or completely destroyed. The two paradigms are fundamentally different and future geomorphology researchers will have to determine which of the two geomorphology paradigms will lead to the most productive geomorphology research results.

Figure 2. Regional map showing Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin in Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 2 is a somewhat more detailed regional map (than figure 1) illustrating the Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin area in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Cass and Bates Counties are in Missouri and counties west of Cass and Bates Counties are in Kansas. The Marais des Cygnes River headwaters flow in southeast and south-southeast directions to Melvern Lake in southern Osage County. From Melvern Lake the Marais des Cygnes River flows in an east-northeast direction to Ottawa in Franklin County and then turns to flow in a southeast direction across Miami County, the Linn County northeast corner and into Bates County and to join the east-oriented Little Osage River in the figure 2 southeast corner. The east-oriented Little Osage River is located along the figure 2 south edge just south of Linn County. South of Melvern Lake in Osage County is John Redmond Lake in Coffey County. John Redmond Lake is a reservoir located on the southeast oriented Neosho River, which flows diagonally across Coffey County. North of Osage County and flowing through Douglas County is the east-oriented Wakarusa River, which in eastern Douglas County turns to flow in a northeast direction to join the east-oriented Kansas River, which is located north of the figure 2 map area. The southeast-oriented South Grand River can be seen in Cass County and flows along the Cass County-Bates County border near the figure 2 east center edge. Note how many of the figure 2 drainage routes are oriented in southeast or south directions and how those few northeast and east-oriented drainage routes shown almost always have southeast-oriented headwaters and/or tributaries. The predominance of southeast and south oriented figure 2 drainage routes is evidence the drainage routes were eroded by south and southeast-oriented flood waters, which flowed across the entire figure 2 map area. Valleys in the figure 2 map area eroded headward into the region in sequence, with the southern valleys being eroded before valleys further to the north. While flood flow entering the figure 2 map area was predominantly south-oriented, headward erosion of deep valleys altered flood flow movements. Since deep valleys eroded headward into the region from the east most flood flow movement alterations caused flood waters to move in southeast directions toward actively eroding valley heads. Northeast and east-oriented valleys eroded headward across south and southeast-oriented flood flow. North and northwest-oriented tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on north ends of beheaded south- and southeast-oriented flood flow routes.

Figure 3: Topographic map illustrating Wakarusa River-Marais des Cygnes River drainage divide area east of Overbrook, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.  

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of the Wakarusa River-Marais des Cygnes River drainage divide area east of Overbrook, Kansas. Overbrook is located in the figure 3 west center area and is located in the Osage County northeast corner region (see figure 2). North-oriented streams flowing to the figure 3 north edge are Wakarusa River tributaries. Note how some of these tributaries have northwest-oriented headwaters and/or tributaries. South-oriented streams flowing to the figure 3 south edge are Marais des Cygnes River tributaries. Follow the drainage divide from the figure 3 west edge eastward to the figure 3 east edge and note the numerous north-south oriented through valleys crossing the drainage divide. The through valleys are generally defined by a single contour line on each side, which means the through valleys are shallow. However, the through valleys exist and provide evidence of multiple south-oriented flood flow routes to what at one time were actively eroding south-oriented Marais des Cygnes River tributary valleys. The tributary valleys were eroding headward from what was at that time the newly eroded Marais des Cygnes River valley. At that time the east-oriented Wakarusa River and Kansas River valleys north of the figure 3 map area did not exist (nor did other Missouri River tributary valleys exist north of the figure 3 map area). Flood waters were free to move south from the decaying ice sheet to the newly eroded Marais des Cygnes River valley. The Wakarusa River-Marais des Cygnes River drainage divide was created when headward erosion of the deep east-oriented Wakarusa River valley (north of figure 3) beheaded and reversed the south-oriented flood flow routes. Headward erosion of the Wakarusa River valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes in sequence from east to west and flood flow routes were beheaded one at a time. Flood waters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to erode north-oriented Wakarusa River tributary valleys. Because flood flow routes were interconnected, reversed flood flow on a newly beheaded flood flow route could capture flood waters still moving south on flood flow routes west of the actively eroding Wakarusa River valley head. Such captures of flood flow helped erode the north-oriented Wakarusa River tributary valleys.

Figure 4: Marais des Cygnes River-Neosho River drainage divide near Lebo, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 4 provides another example of the type of topographic map evidence supporting the interpretation that the Marais des Cygnes River valley eroded headward across massive south-oriented flood flow and illustrates the Marais des Cygnes River-Neosho River drainage divide area near Lebo, Kansas. Lebo is located in the Coffey County northwest corner between Melvern Lake and John Redmond Lake. Melvern Lake is a reservoir flooding the Marais des Cygnes River valley and located along the figure 4 north center edge north of Lebo. John Redmond Lake is a reservoir flooding the Neosho River valley and is seen in the figure 4 southwest corner. Note how the north and northeast-oriented Marais des Cygnes River tributary valleys are linked by shallow through valleys with south-oriented Neosho River tributary valleys. Also note how southeast-oriented tributaries to northeast-oriented Long Creek (flowing to the figure 4 northeast corner area and eventually to the Marais des Cygnes River) are linked by through valleys with north-oriented Marais des Cygnes River tributaries. Again the through valleys are generally shallow, however they exist and they are numerous. The through valleys provide evidence the southeast-oriented Neosho River valley eroded headward into the region first to capture massive south-oriented flood flow. The south-oriented Neosho River tributary valleys eroded headward from the newly eroded Neosho River valley along south-oriented flood flow routes. Headward erosion of the northeast-oriented Long Creek valley and its tributary valleys then beheaded and reversed flood flow to erode north-oriented Long Creek and Long Creek tributary valleys. Next headward erosion of the deep Marais des Cygnes River valley beheaded south-oriented flood flow routes to actively eroding south- and southeast-oriented Long Creek tributary valleys and proceeding further west beheaded and reversed south-oriented flood flow to the actively eroding south-oriented Neosho River tributary valleys. The reversals of flood flow eroded the north-oriented Marais des Cygnes River tributary valleys.

Figure 5: Marais des Cygnes River-Little Osage River drainage divide area west of Blue Mound, Kansas. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software. 

Figure 5 completes the examples of topographic map evidence shown in this overview essay and illustrates the Marais des Cygnes River-Little Osage River drainage divide area west of Blue Mound, Kansas and also the Osage River drainage divide with the Neosho River. Blue Mound is located in the Linn County southwest corner (see figure 2) and in figure 5 is the town located near the east edge and north of the southeast corner. South and southeast-oriented streams flowing to the figure 5 south edge are Little Osage River tributaries. The North Fork Little Osage River originates in the figure 5 center area north of the town of Kincaid and flows in a south and southeast direction to the figure 5 south center edge and then turns to flow in an east direction south of the figure 5 map area. Streams flowing to the figure 5 north edge eventually reach the Marais des Cygnes River. The southeast-oriented Marais des Cygnes River is located north of the figure 5 map area. East of figure 5 the Marais des Cygnes River and Little Osage River join to form the east and northeast-oriented Osage River, which eventually flows to the Missouri River. Southwest, northwest, and southwest-oriented Deer Creek in the figure 5 west center and southwest corner areas is a Neosho River tributary. The southeast and south-southeast oriented Neosho River is located west and southwest of the figure 5 map area and eventually flows to the southeast-oriented Arkansas River. The Marais des Cygnes River-Neosho River drainage divide is seen in the figure 5 northwest quadrant while the Neosho River-Little Osage River drainage divide is seen in the southwest quadrant. Note how the various drainage basins are linked by through valleys providing evidence that at one time multiple routes of flood water moved across the present day drainage divides. While most of the through valleys are shallow the figure 5 map area also includes some relatively deep through valleys as well. Just west of the town of Blue Mound there is a deep north-south oriented through valley linking a northwest-oriented tributary valley to north-northeast oriented South Fork Sugar Creek with south-oriented headwaters of Irish Creek. The map contour interval is 10 meters and the through valley is defined by three contour lines on each side. The through valley was eroded by south-oriented flood flow eroding the south-oriented Irish Creek valley headward from what was then the newly eroded Little Osage River valley. Headward erosion of the east-oriented Sugar Creek valley from what was then the actively eroding Marais des Cygnes River valley then beheaded and reversed the flood flow to create the north-oriented South Fork Sugar Creek valley. Further west south-oriented headwaters valleys of the North Fork Little Osage River north of Kincaid are linked by through valleys with north-oriented Marais des Cygnes River tributary valleys and also with northwest-oriented Deer Creek tributary valleys. While the drainage history recorded by these through valleys is complex and is better left to discussions in the more detailed essays, the multiple through valleys provide evidence of south-oriented flood flow across all drainage divides. Examples illustrated in this overview essay are just a sample of evidence illustrated and described in the detailed essays.

Introduction to Missouri River drainage basin research project essay series

  • This Marais des Cygnes River drainage basin landform origins overview essay and its related detailed essays is one of a series of overview essays and related detailed 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 collection in this series relates to a specific Missouri River tributary, tributary to a present day Missouri River tributary, or a present day Missouri River valley segment. Each essay illustrates and discusses detailed topographic map evidence describing the evolution of a secondary drainage divide separating specified Missouri River tributary valleys.
  • 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 Marais des Cygnes 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

This essay has only provided a sample of the drainage divide evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” geomorphology paradigm. Many additional examples could be provided, especially by using more detailed topographic maps. Readers are encouraged to look at mosaics of detailed topographic maps to see the abundance of supporting data. Maps used in this study were created by the United States Geological Survey and can be purchased in hard copy from the United States Geological Survey or from dealers offering United States Geological Survey maps. Hard copy maps can also be observed at United States Geological Survey map depositories located in major research libraries and elsewhere throughout the United States and in other countries. Illustrations used in this essay were created using National Geographic Society TOPO software and digital data. National Geographic Society digital maps can be purchased from the National Geographic Society or from dealers offering National Geographic Society digital maps.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: