Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the southern Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, USA

Authors

 

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the region between Nowood River and Badwater Creek in the southern Bighorn Mountains. The Nowood River is a northeast, north, and northwest oriented drainage route flowing from the Bighorn Basin south margin along the Bighorn Basin east margin and then into the central Bighorn Basin to join the north oriented Bighorn River, which then flows to the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. Badwater Creek originates in the southern Bighorn Mountains and flows in a southwest, northwest, and southwest direction to near Lyesite where it is joined by west-northwest oriented Alkali Creek and then flows in a west direction to join the north oriented Wind River at the south end of Wind River Canyon. At the north end of Wind River Canyon the Wind River name changes to become the Bighorn River. North-to-south oriented through valleys eroded across the Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide in the Lyesite Mountain area and southern Bighorn Mountains provide evidence of diverging and converging flood flow channels that once crossed the region. Floodwaters are interpreted to have been derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing from western Canada to and across Wyoming. At that time present day mountain ranges and basins were just beginning to emerge and at least initially floodwaters could freely flow across what are today major topographic barriers. The north and northwest oriented Nowood River alignment was initially a south oriented flood flow channel on the eastern margin of the emerging Bighorn Basin and the Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek valley was initially an east oriented flood flow channel south of the emerging Bridger and Bighorn Mountains. Ice sheet related crustal warping raised the Bridger and Bighorn Mountains as the ice sheet created a deep “hole” in which it was located. Headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley from space at the south end of the deep “hole” that was being opened up by ice sheet melting beheaded south oriented flood flow channels in Montana in sequence from east to west. Floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction and then captured south and southeast oriented flood flow from west of the actively eroding Yellowstone River valley head. A massive flood flow reversal east of the Bighorn Mountains occurred first and headward erosion of the north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River valley captured east oriented flood flow moving on the east oriented Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek alignment and diverted the floodwaters to the newly eroded Yellowstone River valley. Next headward erosion of the deep Yellowstone River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow in the eastern Bighorn Basin and floodwaters on the Nowood River alignment reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Nowood River drainage route and probably also captured some of the east oriented flood flow moving on the Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek alignment. Finally, south oriented flood flow on the Wind River Canyon alignment was beheaded and reversed to create the north oriented Wind River-Bighorn River route through Wind River Canyon and in the southern Bighorn Basin. The new north oriented flood flow channel through Wind River Canyon then captured the east oriented flood flow moving to the east oriented Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek alignment. Floodwaters on the west end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the west oriented Alkali Creek-Badwater Creek drainage route. Elevations of through valleys linking the north oriented Nowood River valley with the west oriented Badwater Creek valley in the southern Bighorn Mountains are as much as 400 meters higher than similar through valleys crossing Lyesite Mountain to the west. These through valleys may have been eroded at the same time and if so they may document more than 400 meters of tectonic uplift in the Bighorn Mountains since that time.

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 Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the southern Bighorn Mountains. 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 Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area landform evidence in the southern Bighorn Mountains will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Nowood River-Badwater 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 Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area in the southern Bighorn Mountains and illustrates a region in west-central Wyoming. Casper is the largest city shown and is located near the southeast corner of figure 1 and the northeast and east oriented North Platte River can be seen flowing through Casper. East of figure 1 the North Platte River flows in an east and southeast direction into Nebraska. The Wind River flows in a southeast direction from the west edge of figure 1 (south of center) to Riverton and then turns in a northeast and north direction to flow to Boysen Reservoir. From Boysen Reservoir the Wind River flows through Wind River Canyon (not labeled in figure 1) to Thermopolis where the river name changes to the Bighorn River. From Thermopolis the Bighorn River flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 1 (west of center). North of figure 1 the Bighorn River joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River in Montana. Wind River Canyon is a deep canyon eroded across the Owl Creek Mountains. The Powder River is formed at the confluence of its southeast oriented North Fork, northeast oriented Middle Fork, and northeast and north-northeast oriented South Fork near the town of Kaycee (in east center area of figure 1) and then flows in an east and north direction to the north edge of figure 1 (near northeast corner). In Montana north of figure 1 the Powder River joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. The north-to-south oriented mountains between the north oriented Bighorn River and the north oriented Powder River are the Bighorn Mountains (“Mountains” in figure 1). The Bridger Mountains (not labeled in figure 1) are located east of Wind River Canyon and west of the Bighorn Mountains south end. The Nowood River originates near the point where the Bridger Mountains merge into the southern Bighorn Mountains and flows in a northeast, north, and northwest direction on the west side of the Bighorn Mountains and into the Bighorn Basin (which is west of the Bighorn Mountains and north of Owl Creek Mountains) to join the north oriented Bighorn River near Manderson. Badwater Creek is shown, but not labeled in figure 1 and flows in a southwest direction from the southern Bighorn Mountains to near Lyesite and then flows in a west direction to join the north oriented Wind River at Boysen Reservoir. The unlabeled west-northwest oriented stream joining Badwater Creek near Lyesite is Alkali Creek. The unlabeled south oriented stream joining Badwater Creek near Lyesite is Bridger Creek. The Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area investigated in this essay is east of Bridger Creek, south and east of the Nowood River, north of Alkali Creek and west of a line extending from Arminto to the Badwater Creek headwaters and then north to the Nowood River.

Today the Bighorn and Powder Rivers are north oriented drainage systems, although as seen in figure 1 both river systems have southeast oriented tributaries. The southeast oriented tributaries are relics of a time when the figure 1 region was crossed by south and southeast oriented flood flow channels. Floodwaters were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing from western Canada to and across the region seen in figure 1. At that time the mountain ranges and basins had not emerged as distinctive topographic features and floodwaters could freely flow across what are today major topographic barriers. Emergence of the mountain ranges and basins occurred as floodwaters flowed across the region and as ice sheet related crustal warping (and deep glacial erosion under the ice sheet) created a deep “hole” in which the ice sheet became located. The region in figure 1 could be considered a segment of the deep “hole’s” deeply eroded southwest rim. Eventually ice sheet melting began to open up space at the south end of the deep “hole”, which was drained by south oriented flood flow channels east of figure 1. The deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley then eroded headward from that newly opened up deep “hole” space to capture the south oriented flood flow moving across present day Montana and beheaded south oriented flood flow routes (in sequence from east to west). Floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded south oriented flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create north oriented Yellowstone River tributary systems, which then captured southeast and south oriented flood flow still moving across Montana west of the actively eroding Yellowstone River valley head. The north oriented Powder River drainage system was created in this manner and deeply eroded the Powder River Basin (east of the Bighorn Mountains) while south oriented flood flow continued to flow across the Bighorn Basin. Headward erosion of the north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River valley captured south oriented flood flow moving across the present day Wind River Basin to a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the North Platte River alignment (east and south of figure 1). Next a reversal of flood flow in the Bighorn Basin created the north oriented Nowood River-Bighorn River drainage system, which captured south, southeast, and east oriented flood flow from west of figure 1. The Nowood River drainage route originated as a south oriented flood flow route and was subsequently reversed to create the north oriented Bighorn River tributary it is today. The west-northwest oriented Alkali Creek and west oriented Badwater Creek drainage route originated as an east and east-southeast oriented flood flow route to the east and southeast oriented North Platte River drainage route and then was captured by headward erosion of the northeast and north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River valley and was subsequently reversed during the Bighorn Basin flood flow reversal (which reversed flood flow through Wind River Canyon) to form the west oriented drainage systems they are today.

Detailed location map for Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area

Figure 2: Detailed location map Nowood River-Badwater 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 Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide area in the southern Bighorn Mountains. Boysen Reservoir is located near the southwest corner of figure 2 and the Wind River flows in a north direction from Boysen Reservoir through Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis (west of East Thermopolis) and then becomes the Bighorn River, which flows to the north edge of figure 2 (near northwest corner). The Bighorn Mountains are located in the east half of figure 2. The small town of Badwater is located at the south end of the Bighorn Mountains. Badwater Creek flows in a southwest direction to Badwater and then turns flow in a northwest direction along the northeast side of Cedar Ridge before turning in a southwest direction to the towns of Lost Cabin and Lyesite. From Lyesite Badwater Creek flows in a west direction to join the north oriented Wind River at Boysen Reservoir. Arminto is a small town near the south edge of the southeast quadrant of figure 2. Alkali Creek flows in a west-northwest direction from Arminto to join Badwater Creek near Lyesite. Lyesite Mountain is a labeled mountain north of the town of Lyesite. Bridger Creek is a south oriented Badwater Creek tributary located west of Lyesite Mountain. Lyesite Creek flows in a south direction from Lyesite Mountain to join Bridger Creek. Cottonwood Creek is a labeled south-southwest oriented Bridger Creek tributary. The Nowood River (not labeled in figure 2) originates near the Lyesite Creek headwaters and flows in a northeast and north direction to the north edge of figure 2 (east of center, near small town of Bigtrails). Labeled north oriented Nowood River tributaries of interest in this essay are Lone Tree Creek, Trout Creek, and Deep Creek. Labeled Badwater Creek tributaries east of the town of Lyesite of interest in this essay are Synder Creek, Sioux Creek, and Clear Creek. Streams flowing to the east edge of figure 2 are tributaries to the north oriented Powder River with the South Fork Powder River flowing in a north-northeast direction east of figure 2 and the Middle Fork Powder River headwaters being located east of the small town of Bigtrails. Generally the Middle Fork Powder River headwaters are located at higher elevations than the Nowood River valley to the west. The highway between Arminto and Badwater does not follow the Alkali Creek route (which the railroad follows), but uses a route on the northeast side of Cedar Ridge. This highway route suggests the presence of a northwest t0 southeast oriented through valley linking the Badwater Creek valley with the Alkali Creek headwaters. At one time southeast oriented floodwaters flowed in that through valley first to the east and southeast oriented North Platte River valley and later were captured by headward erosion of the north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River valley.

Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of the Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide area. Lyesite Mountain occupies much of the west central area of figure 3. Bridger Creek originates on the north side of Lysite Mountain and flows in a north direction almost to the north edge of figure 3 (west of center) before turning to flow in a southwest, south, and south-southeast direction along the west side of Lyesite Mountain to the south edge of figure 3 (west half) and south of figure 3 joins west oriented Badwater Creek. Meadow Creek originates on Lyesite Mountain south of the north oriented Bridger Creek headwaters and flows in a south, west, and south direction to join Bridger Creek south of figure 3. Lyesite Creek originates on Lysite Mountain (east of Meadow Creek) and flows in a south, southwest, and south direction to the south edge of figure 3 (west of center) and joins Bridger Creek south of figure 3. East of the Lyesite Creek headwaters are headwaters of south and east-northeast oriented Bates Creek, which joins the northeast oriented Nowood River, which originates along the east edge of Lysite Mountain. South of the northeast oriented Nowood River headwaters is Cottonwood Pass. East of Cottonwood Pass are headwaters of north oriented Stove Creek and east of Stove Creek is north oriented Lone Tree Creek, both flowing to the northeast oriented Nowood River. South of Cottonwood Pass is south oriented Cottonwood Creek, which south of figure 3 joins west oriented Badwater Creek. Note how drainage segments on opposite sides of Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide are often aligned with each other. For example the northeast oriented Nowood River headwaters valley is aligned with the southwest oriented Lysite Creek valley segment in the south center area of figure 3. A close look at figure 3 reveals a northeast-to-southwest oriented through valley that links the two opposing drainage routes. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 20 meters and the through valley floor elevation is shown as 2025 meters. Elevations south of Cottonwood Pass (east of Cottonwood Creek) exceed 2200 meters and elevations on Lyesite Mountain to the northwest rise to more than 2160 meters. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 130 meters deep. The direction of flow in the through valley is not obvious, although the through valley was eroded by southwest or northeast oriented flood flow. Most likely the valley was probably eroded by northeast oriented flood flow moving from the present day west oriented Badwater Creek alignment to what was then a newly reversed flood flow channel on the north and northwest oriented Nowood River alignment (east and north of figure 3) although different interpretations are possible. However, the elbows of capture, the barbed tributaries, and the through valleys seen in figure 3 all are evidence of complex flood flow movements as the present day drainage system evolved. .

Detailed map of Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 4 provides a detailed topographic map of the Nowood River-Lyesite Creek drainage divide seen in less detail in figure 3. The Nowood River originates near the southeast corner of section 25 and flows in a north-northwest direction before turning to flow in a north-northeast direction to the northeast corner of figure 4. Lyesite Creek flows from the north edge of figure 4 (slightly west of center in section 15) in a south direction to the west half of section 26 and then turns to flow in a southwest direction to near the southwest corner of figure 4 (where it turns to flow in a south direction to join Bridger Creek south of figure 4). A through valley or pass in the northwest corner of section 25 links the southwest oriented Lyesite Creek valley segment with the north-northeast oriented Nowood River valley. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 20 feet and the through valley elevation is shown as 6645 feet. Elevations in the southwest corner of section 31 rise to 7102 feet. Elevations on Lyesite Mountain north and west of figure 4 rise to 7072 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley could be more than 400 feet deep. The East Fork Lyesite Creek originates in section 36  (directly south of the north-northwest oriented Nowood River headwaters) and flows in a west and south-southwest direction to the south center edge of figure 4. A through valley links the Nowood River valley with the East Fork Lyesite Creek valley and has a floor elevation of between 6700 and 6720 feet. These two through valleys are located on what at one time were diverging and converging flood flow channels. If so, the drainage direction in either the Nowood River valley or in the Lyesite Creek valley has changed since that time. As stated in the figure 1 discussion the Nowood River alignment was established as a south oriented flood flow channel that was subsequently reversed to create the present day north oriented Nowood River drainage system. Also as stated in the figure 1 discussion the Badwater Creek drainage route was initiated as an east oriented flood flow channel that was subsequently reversed to create a west oriented drainage route. It is possible the flood flow reversals created complex flood flow movements, some of which took place in the region seen in figure 4. In other words a simple answer to which direction the floodwaters flowed may not be possible.

Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 5 provides a topographic map to illustrate the Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area east and slightly south of figure 3 and includes a significant overlap area with figure 3. Cottonwood Pass is near the center of figure 5. Cottonwood Creek (“Creek” in figure 5) originates near Cottonwood Pass and flows in a south direction to the south center edge of figure 5 and south of figure 5 flows to west oriented Badwater Creek. Stove Creek originates slightly east of Cottonwood Pass and flows in a north direction to join the Nowood River near the north edge of figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 20 meters and the Cottonwood Pass elevation is shown as 2050 meters. Elevations south and east of Cottonwood Pass rise to more than 2200 meters and immediately to the west of Cottonwood Pass elevations rise to at least 2160 meters. These elevations suggest Cottonwood Pass is at least 110 meters deep. Cottonwood Pass is one of several north-to-south oriented through valleys seen in figure 5 linking north oriented Nowood River tributary valleys with south oriented Badwater Creek tributary valleys. For example east of Cottonwood Creek is a north-to-south oriented through valley linking the north oriented Stove Creek headwaters valley with the south oriented Synder Creek valley (not labeled in figure 5, but immediately east of Cottonwood Creek). Near the east edge of figure 5 Sioux Pass links the north oriented Trout Creek valley with the southwest oriented Sioux Creek valley (better seen in figures 7 and 8). These north-to-south oriented through valleys were probably first eroded by south oriented flood flow moving to the Badwater Creek valley, although it is possible the final flood flow movements were in a north direction. If so those final flood flow movements occurred after south oriented flood flow on the Nowood River alignment had been reversed to flow in a north direction. East oriented flood flow moving across the Wind River Basin was then captured by the reversed flood flow on the Nowood River alignment. Subsequently flood flow entering the Wind River Basin from the west was captured by reversed flood flow in Wind River Canyon, which caused a reversal of flood flow on the Badwater Creek alignment to create the west oriented Badwater Creek drainage route.

Detailed map of Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 6 illustrates a detailed topographic map of the Stove Creek-Cottonwood Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5 and includes overlap areas with figure 4. The Lyesite Creek elbow of capture can be seen in section 26 near the northwest corner of figure 6. The Nowood River flows in a north-northwest and north direction in section 25 and north of figure 6 turns to flow in a north-northeast direction.  The East Fork Lyesite Creek originates in section 36 and flows in a west and southwest direction to the west edge of figure 6 (south half). Cottonwood Pass is located on the boundary between sections 31 and 32 and Cottonwood Creek flows in a south-southwest direction from near Cottonwood Pass and south of figure 6 joins west oriented Badwater Creek. Stove Creek flows in a north direction in sections 33 and 28 to the north edge of figure 6 (near northeast corner) and north of figure 6 joins the northeast and north oriented Nowood River. A north-northeast oriented Stove Creek tributary originates near Cottonwood Pass and joins Stove Creek in the southwest corner of section 28. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 20 feet and the Cottonwood Pass elevation is 6727 feet. Elevations in section 31 rise to 7102 feet and elevations south of section 6 (near south edge of figure 6) rise to 7599 feet. These elevations suggest Cottonwood Pass is almost 400 feet deep. Cottonwood Pass is a water-eroded feature and was eroded by a flood flow channel being eroded into an erosion surface that was at least as high as the higher points seen in figure 6. Note how the Cottonwood Pass area is linked by through valleys with the East Fork Lyesite Creek valley. Again the question that needs to be asked is “which way was the flood flow moving?” Initially the floodwaters were flowing in a south direction from the present day north oriented Bighorn Basin to the eastern Wind River Basin and then in an east and southeast direction to the North Platte River valley. However, as floodwaters in the Bighorn Basin were reversed to create the north oriented Nowood River drainage route the reversed floodwaters probably captured east oriented floodwaters from the western Wind River Basin and diverted those captured floodwaters in a northeast and north-northeast direction to the newly developed north oriented Nowood River drainage route. In addition crustal warping probably was altering regional elevations as floodwaters flowed across the region and has probably further altered regional elevations since the flood flow ended.

Deep Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Deep Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 7 provides a topographic map of the Deep Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area east and slightly south of figure 5 and includes an overlap area with figure 5. Sioux Pass is located near the west edge of figure 7 (slightly north of center). The west oriented stream south of Sioux Pass and flowing to the west edge of figure 7 is Sioux Creek, which west of figure 7 turns to flow in southwest and south-southwest direction to join southwest and west oriented Badwater Creek. Trout Creek originates in the west center region of figure 7 (east of Sioux Pass) and flows in a west and north-northwest direction to the north edge of figure 7 (west half) and north of figure 7 joins the north-northeast, north, and northwest oriented Nowood River. East of the west oriented Trout Creek headwaters are headwaters of north-northeast and northwest oriented Deep Creek, which flows to the north center edge of figure and which north of figure 7 after a number of twists and turns joins the north and northwest oriented Nowood River. The unlabeled south-southwest oriented stream south of the Deep Creek headwaters is Badwater Creek, which originates east of the Deep Creek headwaters. South of figure 7 Badwater Creek turns to flow in a northwest and southwest direction before turning to flow in a west direction to join the north oriented Wind River. Drainage routes along the east edge of figure 7 flow to the Powder River. Sioux Pass is a major through valley linking the north oriented Trout Creek valley with the south oriented Sioux Creek valley. The contour interval for figure 7 is 20 meters and the Sioux Pass elevation is shown as 2170 meters. The ridge immediately to the west rises to at least 2380 meters and higher elevations found on the ridges to the east. These elevations suggest Sioux Pass is at least 200 meters deep. Another major through valley links the north oriented Deep Creek valley with the south oriented Badwater Creek valley. The elevation of this through valley is shown as 2485 meters. The ridge to the west rises to at least 2700 meters and elevations of at least 2700 meters can be found on the ridge to the east. These elevations suggest the Deep Creek-Badwater Creek through valley is also at least 200 meters deep. These through valleys are water-eroded valleys and are evidence diverging and converging flood flow channels that once crossed the region. Today floors of the former flood flow channels have different elevations, although when originally eroded the flood flow channels may have had similar floor elevations. If so, uplift of 400 meters or more has occurred in the Deep Creek-Badwater Creek headwaters through valley region compared to the Nowood River-Lyesite Creek through valley region since the flood flow ended.

Detailed map of Trout Creek-Sioux Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of Trout Creek-Sioux Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 8 provides a detailed topographic map of the Trout Creek-Sioux Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 7. The west oriented stream near the south edge of the southwest quadrant of figure 8 is Sioux Creek, which west and south of figure 8 turns to flow in a south-southwest direction to join southwest and west oriented Badwater Creek. Trout Creek originates in the southwest corner of section 10 (near southeast corner of figure 8) and flows in a west and north-northwest direction to the north edge of figure 8 (west of center) and north of figure 8 joins the north-northeast, north, and northwest oriented Nowood River. Sioux Pass is located in the northeast quadrant of section 12 (west half of figure 8). A southeast oriented stream flows from the Devils Slide area to just south of Sioux Pass and then turns to flow in a south-southwest direction to join Sioux Creek. A northeast and north-northeast oriented stream flows from near Sioux Pass to join Trout Creek. The contour interval for figure 8 is 20 feet and the Sioux Pass elevation is between 7120 and 7140 feet. West of Devils Slide near the west edge of figure 8 elevations rise to 7817 feet. Elevations east of Sioux Pass rise to more than 8000 feet. These elevations suggest Sioux Pass is almost 700 feet deep. Sioux Pass is a water-eroded valley and was initially eroded by south oriented flood flow. However, as previously mentioned there was a reversal of flood flow when south oriented flood flow on the Nowood River alignment was beheaded and reversed to create the north oriented Nowood River drainage route. If so, the newly created Nowood River drainage route probably captured some of flood flow entering the Wind River Basin from the west and the captured floodwaters then diverted to flow in a northeast and north direction through Sioux Pass. The drainage divide was created when a reversal of flood flow on the Wind River Canyon alignment captured all of the east oriented flood flow on the Badwater Creek alignment and diverted those floodwaters more directly into the Bighorn Basin and then to the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley, which had eroded headward from space in the deep “hole” the melting ice sheet was opening. That capture of the east oriented flood flow by the Wind River Canyon flood flow reversal caused a reversal of flood flow on the Badwater Creek alignment, which created the west oriented Badwater Creek drainage system seen today.

Detailed map of Deep Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area

Figure 9: Detailed map of Deep Creek-Badwater 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 Deep Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 7. Deep Creek originates in section 18 (near center of figure 9) and flows in a north-northeast direction to the north edge of figure 9 (east half). North of figure 9 Deep Creek turns to flow in a northwest direction and eventually joins the north and northwest oriented Nowood River. Badwater Creek originates east of figure 9 and flows in a southwest direction from the east center edge of figure 9 to the south center edge where it turns to flow in a south direction. South of figure 9 Badwater Creek turns to flow in a south-southwest, northeast, southwest, and west direction to eventually join the north oriented Wind River near the south end of Wind River Canyon. A south oriented Badwater Creek tributary originates east of Okie Pasture in sections 24 and 19 and flows in a south direction to the south center edge of figure 9. The road intersection in the southwest quadrant of section 18 is located on the floor of a north-to-south oriented through valley linking the north oriented Deep Creek valley with the south oriented Badwater Creek tributary valley. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 20 feet and the road intersection elevation is 8153 feet. The ridge to the west rises to 8910 feet in section 14. Elevations exceeding 9000 feet are found east of figure 9 just east of the Badwater Creek headwaters. These elevations suggest the north-to-south oriented through valley in which the road intersection is located could be as much 850 feet deep. The through valley is a water eroded feature and was probably eroded by south oriented flood flow moving from the present day north oriented Deep Creek valley to the south oriented Badwater Creek tributary valley. However, as previously mentioned when floodwaters in the Nowood River drainage basin were reversed that the reversed flood flow probably captured some of the east oriented flood flow on the Badwater Creek alignment and diverted that flood flow in a north direction to the newly reversed Deep Creek drainage route. If so, the through valley in figure 9 is almost 1500 feet higher than the through valleys seen in figure 4 to the west. This elevation difference can maybe be explained by uplift of the Bighorn Mountains that has occurred since  flood flow ended.

Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 10 provides a topographic map of the Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek drainage divide area south and slightly west of figure 7 and there is no overlap area with figure 7 although the gap between figures is small. Badwater Creek flows in a southwest direction from the north center edge of figure 10 to near the town of Badwater where it turns to flow in a northwest and west direction to the northwest corner of figure 10. Willow Creek is southeast oriented stream near the northeast corner of figure 10, which joins west-southwest oriented Dry Fork, which near the center of figure 10 turns to flow in a northwest direction to join Badwater Creek at the elbow of capture (where Badwater Creek turns to flow in a northwest direction). Cedar Ridge is a northwest-to-southeast ridge located on the southwest side of the northwest oriented Badwater Creek valley. South-southwest oriented streams flowing to the south edge of figure 10 are tributaries of west-northwest oriented Alkali Creek, which is located south of figure 10. West of figure 10 Alkali Creek joins Badwater Creek near the town of Lyesite, where Badwater Creek turns from flowing in a southwest direction to flowing in a west direction. South and east of figure 10 (just east of the Alkali Creek headwaters) is a broad west-to-east oriented through valley linking the west oriented Alkali Creek valley with an east and northeast oriented South Fork Powder River tributary valley. Unlike through valleys seen in earlier figures in this essay, gradients on either side of the Alkali Creek-South Fork Powder River through valley are very low. Before the reversal of flood flow in Wind River Canyon the Badwater Creek valley west of Lyesite and the Alkali Creek valley east of Lyesite were a major east oriented flood flow channel that had been captured by headward erosion of the north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River valley. Prior to being captured by the South Fork Powder River valley the east oriented floodwaters had been moving to the North Platte River valley near present day Casper (see figure 1). This evidence supports the interpretation that some of the east oriented flood flow from the east-oriented Badwater Creek-Alkali Creek flood flow channel may have been captured by reversed flood flow in the Nowood River drainage basin and moved in northeast and north directions across the present day Nowood River-Badwater Creek drainage divide to what was then the newly reversed Nowood River drainage route.

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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