Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry drainage divide area landform origins in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA

Authors

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the region between Fifteenmile Creek and Gooseberry Creek in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin. Gooseberry Creek flows in a north direction from Absaroka Range southeast end into the Bighorn Basin and then turns to flow in an east and southeast direction to join the north oriented Bighorn River as a barbed tributary. Fifteenmile Creek originates north of the east oriented Gooseberry Creek segment and flows in an east and southeast direction to also join the Bighorn River as a barbed tributary. Several southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributaries and southeast oriented tributaries to east oriented Fiftennmile Creek tributaries drain southeast oriented erosion surfaces bounded on the north by north-facing escarpments, which form the Fifteenmile Creek south valley wall. Through valleys link the southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary valleys with north oriented Fifteenmile Creek tributary valleys. The barbed tributaries, valley orientations, erosion surfaces, escarpments, through valleys, and similar landform features are interpreted to have been formed by immense south and southeast oriented floods that crossed the Bighorn Basin prior to a massive flood flow reversal that created the present day north oriented Bighorn River drainage system. Floodwaters were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing from western Canada to and across the Bighorn Basin. Mountain ranges surrounding the Bighorn Basin emerged as floodwaters flowed across them and the Bighorn River was initiated as a south oriented flood flow channel. Headward erosion of the Gooseberry Creek valley from the south oriented Bighorn River flood flow channel first captured south and southeast floodwaters west of the Bighorn River flood flow channel. Next Fiftennmile Creek valley and tributary valley headward erosion beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Gooseberry Creek valley. Headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley in Montana (from space in the deep “hole” the melting ice sheet had occupied) beheaded the south oriented Bighorn River flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the present day north oriented Bighorn River drainage route. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented Greybull River valley from the newly reversed Bighorn River then beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding Fifteenmile Creek and Gooseberry Creek valleys.

Preface

The following interpretation of detailed topographic map evidence is one of a series of essays describing similar evidence for all major drainage divides contained within the Missouri River drainage basin and for all major drainage divides with adjacent drainage basins. The research project is interpreting evidence in the context of a previously unexplored deep glacial erosion paradigm, which is fundamentally different from most commonly accepted North American glacial history interpretations. Project essays are listed on the sidebar category list under their appropriate Missouri River tributary drainage basin, Missouri River segment drainage basin (by state), and/or state in which the Missouri River drainage basin is located.

Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to use topographic map interpretation methods to explore the Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin. Map interpretation methods can be used to unravel many geomorphic events leading up to formation of present-day drainage routes and development of other landform features. While each detailed topographic map feature provides detailed evidence to be explained, the solution must be consistent with explanations for adjacent area map evidence as well as solutions to big picture map evidence puzzles. I invite readers to improve upon my solutions and/or to propose alternate solutions that better explain evidence and are also consistent with adjacent map area and big-picture evidence. Readers may do so either by making comments here or by writing and publishing their own essays and then by leaving a link to those essays in a comment here.

This essay is also exploring a new geomorphology paradigm in which erosional landforms are interpreted as evidence left by immense glacial melt water floods. Implied in that interpretation is the immense floods were derived from a thick North American ice sheet that created a deep “hole” in the North American continent and also melted fast. The previously unexplored paradigm being tested in this and other Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays is a thick North American ice sheet, comparable in thickness to the Antarctic ice sheet, occupied the North American region usually recognized to have been glaciated, and through its weight and erosive actions created a deep North American “hole”. The southwestern rim of that deep “hole” is today preserved in the high Rocky Mountains. The ice sheet through its weight and deep erosion (and perhaps deposition along major south-oriented melt water flow routes) caused significant crustal warping and tectonic change, through its action of melting fast produced immense floods that flowed across the continent, and through its action of melting fast systematically opened up space in the ice sheet created “hole” so headward erosion of newly developed north-oriented drainage systems captured immense south-oriented melt water floods and diverted immense melt water floods north into space the ice sheet had once occupied.

If this previously unexplored paradigm is correct the geographic region explored by this essay should contain evidence of immense floods that were captured by headward erosion of new valley systems so as to cause the floods to flow in a different direction. Ability of this previously unexplored paradigm to explain Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area landform evidence in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area 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 Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin and illustrates the Wyoming Bighorn Basin region. The Montana state line is a short distance north of the north edge of figure 1. A region in Yellowstone National Park can be seen in the northwest corner of figure 1 and the Yellowstone River originates south of the Yellowstone National Park southeast corner and flows in a north-northwest direction to Yellowstone Lake. From Yellowstone Lake the Yellowstone River flows in generally a northwest direction into Montana where it turns to flow in roughly an east direction before turning to flow in a northeast direction to eventually join the Missouri River. The Wind River originates near Togwotee Pass (south of the Yellowstone River headwaters) and flows in a southeast direction to Riverton where it turns to flow to Boysen Reservoir and then north through Wind River Canyon (unlabeled in figure 1, but a deep canyon eroded across the Owl Creek Mountains) into the Bighorn Basin at Thermopolis where the river name changes. North of the Thermopolis the river is known as the Bighorn River, which flows in a north direction to the towns of Worland and Greybull before reaching the north edge of figure 1. North of figure 1 the Bighorn River flows in a north-northeast direction to join the Yellowstone River in Montana. Fifteenmile Creek is an east and southeast oriented stream originating near Meeteetse and joining the north oriented Bighorn River as a barbed tributary near Worland. Gooseberry Creek is a north, northeast, east, and southeast oriented Bighorn River tributary south of Fifteenmile Creek. North and west of Fifteenmile Creek is the north-northwest, east, northeast, east-southeast, and northeast oriented Greybull River, which joins the Bighorn River near the town of Greybull. West of the Gooseberry Creek northeast oriented headwaters is northeast oriented Wood River (not labeled in figure 1), which joins the Greybull River a short distance upstream from Meeteetse. The Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage area investigated in this essay includes the region north and west of Gooseberry Creek, south of Fifteenmile Creek, and south and east of the Wood River-Greybull River upstream from Meeteetse.

The north oriented Bighorn River drainage system seen in figure 1 developed during massive south and southeast oriented floods. Floodwaters were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and flowed from western Canada to and across the Bighorn Basin. At that time the Absaroka Range (to the west), the Owl Creek Mountains (to the south), the Beartooth and Pryor Mountains (north of figure 1) and the Bighorn Mountains (to the east) had not emerged as mountain ranges and the melt water floods could freely flow into the Bighorn Basin and then south into the Wind River Basin (south of the Owl Creek Mountains). The mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters flowed across them. Emergence of the mountain ranges was probably caused by ice sheet related crustal warping and perhaps by flood erosion and deposition. Ice sheet related crustal warping and deep glacial erosion (underneath the thick ice sheet) created a deep “hole” in which the ice sheet was located. The region seen in figure 1 could be considered to be located along the deep “hole’s” deeply eroded southwest rim. As the mountain range gradually emerged south and southeast oriented floodwaters entering the Bighorn Basin were gradually channeled into fewer and fewer routes across the rising Owl Creek Mountains and in time the Wind River Canyon route became the only outlet to the south. The east and southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek valley eroded headward from the major south oriented flood flow channel to the Wind River Basin to capture south and southeast oriented flood flow west of the south oriented flood flow channel. Next headward erosion of Fifteenmile Creek valley beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded Gooseberry Creek valley. About that time a massive flood flow reversal took place. The flood flow reversal was caused by headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley (in Montana) from space in the deep “hole” being opened up by ice sheet melting. Headward erosion of the deep Yellowstone River valley beheaded a south oriented flood flow channel supplying floodwaters to the Bighorn Basin area. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Bighorn River drainage route seen today. The newly reversed Bighorn River drainage route captured the southeast oriented flood flow channel on the Wind River alignment and other southeast oriented valleys that had been supplying floodwaters to the previous south oriented flood flow channel. At the same time the northeast oriented Greybull River valley eroded headward from the newly reversed flood flow channel to capture south and southeast oriented floodwaters west of the newly reversed Bighorn River. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented Greybull River valley and its tributary valleys beheaded all flood flow routes to the newly eroded Fifteenmile and Gooseberry Creek valleys.

Detailed location map for Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area

Figure 2: Detailed location map Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 2 provides a more detailed location map for the Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin. The Bighorn River flows in a north direction in the east half of figure 2. Meeteetse is a town in the northwest quadrant of figure 2 and Fifteenmile Creek originates near Meeteetse and flows in an east and southeast direction to join the Bighorn River near Worland. Gooseberry Creek originates near the southwest corner of figure 2 and flows in a north-northeast direction to near Soapy Dale Peak and then turns to flow in an east and southeast direction to join the Bighorn River near the town of Neiber. Note how most streams flowing to the north oriented Bighorn River from the west flow in southeast directions to enter the Bighorn River as barbed tributaries. These barbed tributaries are evidence of the south and southeast oriented flood flow routes that existed prior to the reversal of flood flow that created the north oriented Bighorn River drainage route. Named Fifteenmile Creek tributaries of interest in this essay are located in the Dutch Nick Flat area west of Worland and include Crooked Creek, Middle Fork, and South Fork. Note how South Fork originates near Squaw Teats and flows in a southeast direction almost to Gooseberry Creek before turning to flow in an east and northeast direction to join Middle Fork, which then joins southeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek. Named Gooseberry Creek tributaries of interest in the essay include south-southeast oriented Gillies Draw, which originates near Squaw Teats, and east and southeast oriented Buffalo Creek, located south of Meeteetse. West and south of the Fifteenmile Creek headwaters (near Meeteetse) the Greybull River and its Wood River tributary are located west of the north-northeast and east oriented Gooseberry Creek headwaters. The Wood River flows in a northeast direction from the west edge of figure 2 (near southwest corner to join the east oriented Greybull River , which then turns to flow in a northeast direction to Meeteetse and then to the north edge of figure 2 (west of center). In addition to the Wood River a Greybull River tributary of interest in this essay is north oriented Iron Creek located south and west of Meeteetse.

Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area near the Bighorn River

Figure 3: Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area near the Bighorn River. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of the Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area near the Bighorn River. The Bighorn River flows in a north-northeast direction across the southeast corner of figure 3. Gooseberry Creek flows in an east and southeast direction from the west center edge of figure 3 to join the north oriented Bighorn River near the south edge of figure 3. Fifteenmile Creek flows in a southeast direction from the north center edge of figure 3 to join the Bighorn River near the east edge of figure 3. Note otherwise southeast oriented streams also flowing to the north oriented Bighorn River as barbed tributaries. These barbed tributaries are evidence the Bighorn River originated as a south oriented drainage route. The multiple southeast oriented streams flowing to the Bighorn River also provide evidence that a south-southwest oriented drainage route on the present day Bighorn River alignment captured multiple southeast oriented flood flow channels such as might be found in a southeast oriented anastomosing channel complex and that the direction of flow in the Bighorn River valley was changed after the capture events took place. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 20 meters in the north half and 50 meters in the south half, which somewhat obscures through valleys linking the Fifteenmile and Gooseberry Creek valleys. However by careful study of figure 3 in the Schuster Flats area a north-to-south oriented through valley can be seen. The through valley floor elevation appears to be between 1360 and 1380 meters with elevations to east rising to more than 1420 meters and elevations to the west rising even higher. This rather insignificant north-to-south oriented through valley was eroded by south oriented flood flow moving to the southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek valley prior to headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek valley. Headward erosion of the Fifteenmile Creek valley captured the south oriented flood flow and floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow route reversed flow direction to create the north and north-northeast oriented Schuster Draw drainage route. This evidence suggests prior to headward erosion of the southeast oriented Bighorn River tributary valleys floodwaters in the region were flowing in a south direction. The evidence also suggests the southeast oriented Bighorn River tributary valleys eroded headward in sequence from the south to the north with headward erosion of each new valley beheading south oriented flood flow routes to the newly eroded southeast oriented valley to the south.

Crooked Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Crooked Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 4 provides a topographic map of the Crooked Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area west and north of figure 3 and includes a significant overlap area with figure 3. Gooseberry Creek flows in an east direction near the south edge of figure 4 before turning to flow in a southeast direction to the southeast corner of figure 4. Fifteenmile Creek flows in a southeast direction (with a jog to the northeast) across the northeast corner of figure 4. The Middle Fork Fifteenmile Creek flows from the west edge of figure 4 (north half) in an east-southeast and east direction to join Fifteenmile Creek at the point where Fifteenmile Creek makes its jog to the northeast. Note southeast oriented Middle Fork tributaries draining Dutch Nick Flat. The South Fork Fifteenmile Creek flows from the west edge of figure 4 (just north of Gooseberry Creek) in an east and east-northeast direction before turning to flow in a north-northeast direction to join the Middle Fork Fifteenmile Creek. Note southeast oriented South Fork tributaries especially in the southwest quadrant of figure 4. Timber Creek is a northeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek tributary just barely seen in the northwest corner of figure 4 and Crooked Creek is an east-southeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek tributary flowing along the north side of Dutch Nick Flat. Drainage routes in figure 4 can best be explained by headward erosion of valleys in sequence to capture southeast oriented flood flow moving across the entire region. Headward erosion of the Gooseberry Creek valley captured the southeast oriented flood flow first, but before deep southeast oriented tributary valleys could be eroded headward erosion of the South Fork Fifteenmile Creek valley captured the flood flow and beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Gooseberry Creek valley, which continued to capture flood flow west of figure 4. Headward erosion of the Middle Fork Fifteenmile Creek valley next captured the southeast oriented flood flow and beheaded southeast oriented flood flow channels to the newly eroded South Fork valley. Next headward erosion of the Crooked Creek valley beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Middle Fork valley. Headward erosion of the Fifteenmile Creek and Timber Creek valley next captured the flood flow and beheaded flood flow routes to the Crooked Creek valley. Fifteenmile Creek headward erosion next beheaded flood flow routes to the newly eroded Timber Creek valley. Figure 6 below illustrates the region west of figure 4 to show how this sequence of flood flow captures continued in a westward direction.

Detailed map of South Fork Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Detailed map of South Fork Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 5 provides a detailed topographic map to illustrate the South Fork Fifteenmile Creek-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 4. Gooseberry Creek flows in an east direction near the south edge of figure 5. While not seen in figure 4 the greater detail in figure 5 shows short southeast and south-southeast oriented tributaries and tributary valleys. The South Fork Fifteenmile Creek flows in an east-northeast direction in the north half of figure 5. Figure 5 also shows north and north-northwest oriented South Fork Fifteenmile Creek tributaries and tributary valleys. A close look at the drainage divide reveals numerous north-to-south oriented through valleys linking the north oriented South Fork Fifteenmile Creek tributary valleys with the south oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary valleys. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 20 feet and some of through valleys are defined by as many as four contour lines on a side suggesting the through valleys could more than 60 feet deep. The through valleys and the tributary valley orientations suggest headward erosion of the east oriented Gooseberry Creek valley captured numerous south and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels such as would be found in a south oriented anastomosing channel complex. At that time there was no South Fork Fifteenmile Creek valley and floodwaters were flowing on a surface at least as high as the present day drainage divide elevation. Headward erosion of the South Fork Fifteenmile Creek valley next captured the south and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels and in the process beheaded the flood flow routes to the newly eroded Gooseberry Creek valley. Floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create the north oriented South Fork Fifteenmile Creek tributary drainage routes. Since flood flow channels were beheaded in sequence from east to west the reversed flood flow in newly beheaded and reversed flood flow channels captured south oriented flood flow still moving west of the actively eroding South Fork Fifteenmile Creek valley head. This captured flood flow provided water volumes needed to erode the north oriented valleys.

Fifteenmile Creek-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Fifteenmile Creek-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 6 illustrates the Fifteenmile Creek-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area west and slightly north of figure 4 and there is an overlap area with figure 4. Gooseberry Creek flows in an east direction near the south edge of figure 6. The Middle Fork Fifteenmile Creek originates in the north center area of figure 6 and flows on the northeast side of East Ridge in an east-southeast direction to the east center edge of figure 6. Squaw Teats is located west of the East Ridge northwest end. The South Fork Fifteenmile Creek originates near Squaw Teats and flows in a southeast direction almost to the Gooseberry Creek valley and then turns to flow in an east direction to the east edge of figure 6 (north of Gooseberry Creek). West of the southeast oriented South Fork Fifteenmile Creek segment are southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributaries including Murphy Draw, Gillies Draw with its Jack Seller Draw tributary, and Quartz Gulch. North of the headwaters of these southeast oriented streams is a north-facing escarpment and northwest oriented drainage routes to Fifteenmile Creek near the northwest corner of figure 6 and north oriented drainage routes to east-northeast and north oriented Big Draw (north of figure 6), which drains to Fifteenmile Creek. The north-facing escarpment was eroded into what was a southeast oriented erosion surface by headward erosion of the deep Fifteenmile Creek valley and its Big Draw tributary valley. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 20 meters and the escarpment is approximately 100 meters high. The northwest oriented valleys near the northwest corner of figure 6 and the north oriented Big Draw tributary valleys were eroded by reversals of flood flow on beheaded southeast oriented flood flow channels. The southeast oriented slope if projected headward across the Fifteenmile Creek valley to the north suggests the Fifteenmile Creek valley was significantly deeper than 100 meters as it eroded headward across the southeast and south oriented flood flow routes. Figure 7 illustrates the Big Draw-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area to better illustrate the north-facing escarpment and the southeast oriented erosion surface.

Detailed map of Big Draw-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Detailed map of Big Draw-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 7 provides a detailed topographic map of the Big Draw-South Fork Fifteenmile Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 6. East Ridge is a labeled landform located in the east half of figure 7. The Middle Fork Fifteenmile Creek originates near the north end of East Ridge and then flows in a southeast direction along the East Ridge northeast side to the east edge of figure 7 (south of center). East of figure 7 the Middle Fork flows in an east and east-northeast direction to join Fifteenmile Creek. Squaw Teats is a labeled landform near the center of figure 7. The South Fork Fifteenmile Creek originates near Squaw Teats and flows in a southeast direction to the south edge of figure 7 (east half). East of figure 7 the South Fork flows in an east-northeast direction and north-northeast direction to join the Middle Fork. Gillies Draw is a labeled south-southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary seen in the southwest quadrant of figure 7. Big Draw originates near the northwest corner of figure 7 and drains in an east-northeast direction to the north center edge of figure 7. North of figure 7 Big Draw turns to drain in more of a north direction to east and southeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek. Note how on the escarpment rim between Squaw Teats and the north end of East Ridge there is a through valley linking a north oriented Big Draw tributary valley with the southeast oriented South Fork Fifteenmile Creek headwaters valley. The map contour interval for figure 7 is 20 feet and the through valley floor elevation is between 5640 and 5660 feet. Elevations to the east rise to at least 5713 feet while Squaw Teats to the west rises to 6173 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 53 feet deep. Squaw Teats appears to be an erosional residual, which probably means more than 500 feet of material was removed by southeast oriented flood flow in the through valley area. The southeast oriented streams are flowing on what was a southeast oriented erosion surface sloping to what was at that time the newly eroded east oriented Gooseberry Creek valley. The erosion surface was eroded by southeast oriented flood flow moving into the Gooseberry Creek valley. Headward erosion of deep Big Draw valley captured the southeast oriented flood flow and diverted the floodwaters to the actively eroding Fifteenmile Creek valley head. Elevations in the Big Draw valley near the north center edge of figure 7 are in the 5200 foot range suggesting the Big Draw valley was significantly more than 400 feet deep as it eroded headward into the region.

Greybull River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Greybull River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 8 provides a topographic map of the Greybull River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area west of figure 6 and includes a small overlap area with figure 6. The Greybull River (not labeled in figure 8) flows in a northeast direction from the west edge of figure 8 (north of center) to the north edge of figure 8 (near Meeteetse). The Wood River flows in a north direction from the west edge of figure 8 (near southwest corner) to the northeast oriented Greybull River. Iron Creek is a north oriented Greybull River tributary in the west half of figure 8. Gooseberry Creek can be seen flowing in an east direction near the south center edge of figure 8. The unnamed southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary south of Iron Creek is Rooster Creek, which is seen in detail in figure 9. Buffalo Creek is a southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary flowing to near the southeast corner of figure 8. The Little Buffalo Basin appears to be an eroded dome surrounding by hogback ridges and is drained by east oriented Little Buffalo Creek, which flows to southeast oriented Buffalo Creek. A Fifteenmile Creek headwaters stream originates near the highway south and east of Meeteetse and flows in a northeast direction to Hole in the Ground where it turns to flow in a southeast direction before turning to flow in a northeast direction to the northeast corner of figure 8. East of figure 8 Fifteenmile Creek flows in an east and southeast direction. Note how the Little Buffalo Creek headwaters have eroded a deep water gap across the hogback on the west side of Little Buffalo Basin and is linked by a through valley with north oriented Iron Creek. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 20 meters and the water gap is defined by ten contour lines on each side suggesting it is almost 200 meters deep. In other words a 200-meter deep through valley links the north oriented Iron Creek valley with the east oriented Little Buffalo Creek valley. Another deep water gap can be seen on the east side of Little Buffalo Basin where Buffalo Creek exits the Basin to enter the northwest-to-southeast oriented through valley used by the highway from Meeteetse to the southeast corner of figure 8. The northwest-to-southeast oriented through valley is now drained by a northwest oriented Greybull River tributary at the northwest end, a southeast oriented Fifteenmile Creek headwaters stream segment in the middle, and southeast oriented Buffalo Creek in the southeast and was originally eroded by southeast oriented flood flow moving to the newly eroded Gooseberry Creek valley. Headward erosion of the Fifteenmile Creek valley then captured the southeast oriented flood flow. Subsequently headward erosion of the northeast oriented Greybull River valley beheaded the southeast oriented flood flow channel and floodwaters on the northwest end reversed flow direction to create the northwest oriented Greybull River tributary drainage route. The Iron Creek-Little Buffalo Creek through valley was eroded by south and east oriented flood flow that was beheaded by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Greybull River valley. The Little Buffalo Basin was eroded by southeast oriented flood flow at a time when the deep northeast oriented Greybull River to the north did not exist. Note southeast oriented streams in Little Buffalo Basin flowing to east oriented Little Buffalo Creek.

Detailed map of Iron Creek-Rooster Creek drainage divide area

Figure 9: Detailed map of Iron Creek-Rooster Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 9 provides a detailed topographic map of the Iron Creek-Rooster Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 8. Gooseberry Creek flows in a northeast and east direction from the south edge of figure 9 (east of center) to the east edge of figure 9. Rooster Creek originates near the center of figure 9 and flows in an east, east-southeast, and southeast direction to join east oriented Gooseberry Creek. Coal Draw is an east and southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary west of Rooster Creek. Buck Canyon is an east, south, southeast, east, and southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek tributary west and south of Coal Draw. Iron Creek originates near the center of figure 9 and flows in a north direction to the north center edge of figure 9 and north of figure 9 joins the northeast oriented Greybull River. Little Buffalo Creek originates near the north center edge of figure 9 (just east of Iron Creek) and flows in an east direction through a deep water gap before flowing in an east-northeast direction to the north edge of figure 9 (near northeast corner). East of figure 9 Little Buffalo Creek flows to southeast oriented Buffalo Creek, which then flows to east and southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 20 feet and the water gap is defined by more than 25 contour lines on each side suggesting it is more than 500 feet deep.  Another way of looking at the situation is a 500-foot plus deep through valley links the north oriented Iron Creek valley and northeast oriented Greybull River valley with the east oriented Little Buffalo Creek valley and Gooseberry Creek valley. A through valley can also be seen near the center of figure 9 linking the north oriented Iron Creek valley with the east oriented Rooster Creek headwaters valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 6640 and 6660 feet. Elevations east of the through valley rise to 6878 feet and to the west to more than 7000 feet suggesting the through valley is at least 200 feet deep. These and other through valleys seen in figure 9 were eroded by south and southeast oriented flood flow channels moving floodwaters to the east and southeast oriented Gooseberry Creek valley prior to headward erosion of the northeast oriented Greybull River valley. The west-facing escarpment near the west edge of figure 9 is the east wall of the north-to-south oriented through valley linking the Wood River valley with the Gooseberry Creek valley and which is seen in figure 10 below. Prior to headward erosion of the northeast oriented Wood River and Greybull River valley the through valley was a south oriented flood flow channel. Greybull and Wood River valley headward erosion beheaded the south oriented flood flow channel.

Wood River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area

Figure 10: Wood River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 illustrates the Wood River-Gooseberry Creek drainage divide area and is located south and west of figure 6 and includes a small overlap area with figure 8. Gooseberry Creek flows in a north-northeast, north, and northeast direction from the south center edge of figure 10 to the east edge of figure 10 (north half).  The Wood River flows in an east and northeast direction from the west edge of figure 10 (south half) to the north edge of figure 10 (east half, near town of Sunshine). Note in the northeast quadrant the through valley used by the road from Sunshine, which links the Wood River valley with the Gooseberry Creek valley. The map contour interval for figure 10 near the north edge is 20 meters and further south it is 50 meters. The through valley elevation where the road crosses the drainage divide is between 2040 and 2060 meters. East of the through valley elevations rise to more than 2180 meters and west of the through valley elevations exceed 2200 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 140 meters deep. The through valley is the deepest of several through valleys linking the Wood River valley with the Gooseberry Creek valley. The through valleys were eroded by south and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels prior to headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Wood River valley. Floodwaters were moving to a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Gooseberry Creek alignment seen in figure 10. Headward erosion of the deep east and northeast oriented Gooseberry Creek valley first beheaded the south oriented flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Gooseberry Creek drainage route. The flood flow reversal was probably aided by crustal warping that was raising the mountains in the Gooseberry Creek headwaters area and south of figure 10. The reversed flood flow for a time captured south and southeast oriented flood flow in the Gooseberry Creek headwaters area and diverted that flood flow in a north, northeast, and east direction in the Gooseberry Creek valley. However, headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Wood River valley and its northeast oriented tributary valleys beheaded in sequence from the northeast to the southwest the south and southeast oriented flood flow channels supplying floodwaters to the newly reversed Gooseberry Creek valley.

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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