Nowood River-Nowater Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin, USA

Authors

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the region between Nowood River and Nowater Creek in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin. The Nowood River flows in a northeast, north, and northwest direction along the southeast side of the Bighorn Basin and then into the Bighorn Basin to join the north oriented Bighorn River. Nowater Creek originates just north of the Nowood River headwaters and flows in a north and northwest direction to also join the north oriented Bighorn River and is located south and west of the Nowood River. Valley orientations and through valleys crossing drainage divides are interpreted to have originated as flood flow channels prior to the development of the present day drainage systems. Floodwaters are interpreted to have been derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing in south and southeast directions from western Canada to and across the Bighorn Basin and surrounding mountain ranges. At least initially the Bighorn Basin and surrounding mountain ranges had not emerged as distinctive topographic features and floodwaters could flow across what are today high mountain ranges. The Bighorn Basin and surrounding mountain ranges emerged as ice sheet related crustal warping and deep erosion created a deep “hole” in which the ice sheet was located and the Bighorn Basin and surrounding mountain ranges could be considered to be located on a deeply eroded and warped segment of the deep “hole’s” southwest rim. South and southeast flood flow routes across the emerging Bighorn Basin were beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the much deeper northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley. The Yellowstone River valley eroded headward from space at the south end of the deep “hole” being opened up by the ice sheet melting to capture the south and southeast oriented flood flow moving across Montana. Flood flow channels were beheaded in sequence from east to west with floodwaters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversing flow to create north oriented drainage routes. The newly created north oriented drainage routes captured flood flow still moving in south and southeast direction west of the actively eroding Yellowstone River valley head. Such captures of flood flow provided large volumes of water to erode the north oriented Nowood River and Nowater Creek valleys and their north oriented tributary valleys and also to erode the north oriented Bighorn River valley. Topographic maps illustrated and discussed in this essay demonstrate floodwaters once crossed drainage divides between what are today two independent north oriented drainage systems.

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-Nowater 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 Nowood River-Nowater 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.

Nowood River-Nowater Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: -Nowood River-Nowater 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-Nowater Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin and illustrates a region in Wyoming. The Bighorn Mountains extend in a north-to-south direction in the east half of figure 1 and the Powder River Basin is located east of the Bighorn Mountains along the east edge of figure 1. The Owl Creek Mountains extend in a west-to-east direction in the southwest quadrant of figure 1. The Wind River Basin is located south of the Owl Creek Mountains. The Absaroka Range is located north of the Owl Creek Mountains west end and in the northwest corner of figure 1. The Bighorn Basin is located north of the Owl Creek Mountains, east of the Absaroka Range, and west of the Bighorn Mountains and is drained by the north oriented Bighorn River. The Wind River flows in a southeast direction from the west edge of figure 1 (south half) into the Wind River Basin and then to Riverton where it turns to flow in a northeast and north direction to Boysen Reservoir. From Boysen Reservoir the Wind River flows through Wind River Canyon (not labeled in figure 1) to enter the Bighorn Basin near Thermopolis. As the Wind River enters the Bighorn Basin the river name changes to become the Bighorn River. From Thermopolis the Bighorn River flows in a north direction to Worland, Manderson, and Greybull and the north edge of figure 1 and north of figure 1 (in Montana) joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. The Nowood River is a northeast, north, and northwest oriented tributary joining the Bighorn River near Manderson. Nowater Creek is a north and northwest oriented tributary south and west of the Nowood River and joins the Bighorn River south of Worland. The Nowood River-Nowater Creek drainage divide area investigated in this essay is located south and west of the Nowood River and north and east of Nowater Creek.

Today the Bighorn Basin is drained in a north direction by the north oriented Bighorn River drainage system, which was developed during a massive reversal of south oriented melt water floods. The floodwaters were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing from western Canada to and across the present day Bighorn Basin. At that time, at least initially, the Bighorn Basin and surrounding mountain ranges had not emerged as distinct topographic features and the floodwaters could freely flow in south and southeast directions across what are today major mountain ranges. The regional mountain ranges and Bighorn Basin emerged as floodwaters flowed across them and as the ice sheet related crustal warping created a deep “hole” in which the ice sheet was located. The region seen in figure 1 could be considered to be a segment of the deep “hole’s” deeply eroded and warped southwest rim.  The massive flood flow reversal took place when ice sheet melting began to open up space at the southern end of the deep “hole”, which at least initially drained in a south direction using 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 and southeast oriented melt water floods flowing across Montana. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow channels in sequence from east to west and floodwaters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create north oriented drainage routes. These newly formed north oriented drainage routes then captured southeast oriented flood flow channels located west of the actively eroding Yellowstone River valley head. Flood flow in the Powder River Basin was beheaded and reversed first and the southeast oriented North Fork Powder River seen in the east half of figure 1 is evidence of the capture of a southeast oriented flood flow channel. Eventually Yellowstone River headward erosion beheaded south oriented flood flow channels supplying floodwaters to the eastern Bighorn Basin and floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Nowood-Bighorn River drainage route, which captured southeast oriented flood flow still moving on the present day Nowater Creek alignment and also into the Wind River Basin. In time flood flow routes further west in the Bighorn Basin were beheaded and reversed to create the north and northwest oriented Nowater Creek drainage route, which probably also captured southeast oriented flood flow still moving into the Wind River Basin. Next the Wind River Canyon drainage route was beheaded and reversed and captured southeast oriented flood flow from west of the actively eroding Yellowstone River valley head still flowing into the emerging Wind River Basin. Note in figure 1 southeast oriented streams flowing as barbed tributaries to the north oriented Wind River Canyon-Bighorn River drainage route.

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

Figure 2: Detailed location map Nowood River-Nowater 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-Nowater Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Bighorn Basin. The green colored area in the northeast corner of figure 2 is National Forest land in the Bighorn Mountains. The Bighorn Mountains extend in a south direction from the green colored area to the south edge of figure 2. The brown colored area in the southwest quadrant of figure 2 is Wind River Indian Reservation land. The Owl Creek Mountains are located in the Wind River Indian Reservation. Boysen Reservoir is the lake straddling the south edge of figure 2 at the east margin of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Wind River flows through Wind River Canyon from Boysen Reservoir to enter the Bighorn Basin near Thermopolis where the river name changes to become the Bighorn River. The Bighorn River then flows in a north direction to the north center edge of figure 2 and north of figure 2 eventually joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. The Bridger Mountains are located east of Wind River Canyon and Lyesite Mountain is located near the south edge of figure 2 between the Bridger Mountains and the Bighorn Mountains. Nowater Creek and the Nowood River originate on the northeast side of Lyesite Mountain. Nowater Creek flows in a north and northwest direction from near Lyesite Mountain to join the Bighorn River south of Worland. The East Fork Nowater Creek is a west oriented tributary located just under the word “WASHAKIE”.  The Nowood River flows in a northeast and north direction from near Lyestie Mountain to the small town of Bigtrails and then in a north-northwest direction to the town of Tensleep. From Tensleep the Nowood River flows in a northwest direction to join the Bighorn River near Manderson (near north edge of figure 2). Some labeled Nowood River tributaries of interest in this essay (from north to south) include north and northwest oriented Cottonwood Creek, north and northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek, and Buffalo Creek with its east oriented North Fork. While almost all drainage routes in the Nowood River-Nowater Creek drainage divide area are today oriented in a north direction southwest oriented barbed tributaries can be seen flowing to the Nowood River in the northeast corner area of figure 2 and southeast oriented barbed tributaries can be seen flowing to the north oriented Bighorn River. These barbed tributaries provide evidence of south oriented flood flow channels that once crossed the figure 2 region.

Nowater Creek-Bates Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: Nowater Creek-Bates 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 Nowater Creek-Bates Creek drainage divide area. Lyesite Mountain is the “Mountain” located near the southwest corner of figure 3. Hawks Butte is a labeled high point located near the county line east of the Lyesite Mountain north end. Nowater Creek originates just east of Hawks Butte and flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 3 (west half). Between the Nowater Creek headwaters and Hawks Butte are the headwaters of south and east-northeast oriented Bates Creek, which flows to the northeast oriented Nowood River, which then flows to the east edge of figure 3 (north half). Note how the much deeper north oriented Nowater Creek valley is aligned with the south oriented Bates Creek headwaters valley and also how the two opposing drainage routes are linked by a through valley. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 20 meters and the through valley floor elevation is between 2020 and 2040 meters. Hawks Butte has an elevation of 2152 meters and the Lyesite Mountain elevation near the southwest corner of figure 3 is shown as 2146 meters suggesting the through valley is approximately 130 meters deep. While relatively shallow compared to the 400 meter drop Nowater Creek makes as it flows to the north the through valley is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by floodwaters moving between the Nowater Creek drainage basin and the Nowood River drainage basin. Buffalo Creek is a north-northeast and north oriented Nowood River tributary formed at the confluence of its north-northwest and north-northeast oriented East Fork and north-northeast oriented West Fork and flows to the north edge of figure 3 (east of center-Buffalo Springs Creek flows to the north edge west of center). Cornell Gulch is a northeast and southeast oriented Nowood River tributary located in the east center area of figure 3. The Cornell Gulch valley is linked by a through valley with a northwest oriented Buffalo Creek tributary valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 1680 and 1700 meters and is approximately 140 meters deep. Other shallower through valleys also link the north oriented West Fork and East Fork Buffalo Creek valleys with the northeast oriented Nowood River valley. These through valleys are also water-eroded features and are evidence water once crossed the Buffalo Creek-Nowood River drainage divide. While the region was first crossed by south oriented flood flow and the present day north oriented drainage routes are probably on the alignments of former south oriented flood flow channels the dominance of north oriented drainage routes today suggests the final flood flow movement was in a north direction. If so reversed flood flow in the Nowood River drainage system may have captured large volumes of southeast oriented flood flow that had entered the Wind River Basin located south and west of figure 3, although other interpretations are possible. The Nowater Creek-Badwater Creek drainage divide area essay discusses the region immediately to the south and looks at additional evidence pertinent to this problem.

Detailed map of Buffalo Creek-Cornell Gulch drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Buffalo Creek-Cornell Gulch 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 Buffalo Creek-Cornell Gulch drainage divide seen in less detail in figure 3. The Nowood River can just barely be seen flowing in a northeast direction in the southeast corner of figure 4. Cornell Gulch drains in a northeast and southeast direction in the southeast quadrant of figure 4. The East Fork Buffalo Creek flows in a northwest direction across the southwest corner of figure 4 and then turns to flow in a north-northeast direction to near the north edge of figure 4 where it joins the West Fork Buffalo Creek to form north-northeast oriented Buffalo Creek (north of figure 4). A through valley in the east half of section 4 links the Cornell Gulch valley with the valley of a north-northwest oriented Buffalo Creek tributary. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 40 feet except near the west edge where the contour interval is 20 feet. The through valley floor elevation is between 5840 and 5880 feet. Elevations in section 17 to the east rise to 6295 feet and elevations in section 24 to west rise to 6262 feet suggesting the through valley may be as much as 380 feet deep. Other through valleys can be seen in figure 4. For example on the boundary between sections 23 and 24 there is a shallower through valley linking a north oriented Buffalo Creek tributary valley with a southeast oriented East Buffalo Creek tributary valley. This second through valley has a floor elevation of between 6000 and 6040 feet and is at least 160 feet deep. These and other through valleys in the region are water-eroded features and provide evidence of flood flow channels that once crossed the region. The through valley orientations along and across what appear to be hogback ridges suggest complex flood flow movements, which probably were shaped by the regional geologic structures. What is important to recognize is that before development of the present day drainage routes flood flow channels crossed what are today drainage divides.

Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo 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 Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo Creek drainage divide area north and east of figure 3 and there is no overlap area with figure 3. Big Trails is the small town near the southeast corner of figure 5. The Nowood River flows in a north direction from just west of Big Trails from the south edge of figure 5 to the north edge of figure 5, but makes a short jog to the west to be joined by a north oriented tributary (Willow Creek). Buffalo Creek flows in a north-northeast direction from the south center of figure 5 to join its east-southeast and east oriented North Fork and then to flow in an east direction to join the Nowood River a short distance north of the Nowood River’s westward jog. Bud Kimball Creek flows in a north and northeast direction between Big Cedar Ridge and Little Cedar Ridge in the northwest quadrant of figure 5 and joins the Nowood River north of figure 5. Mud Gulch is a northeast and east-northeast oriented Nowood River tributary east of Bud Kimball Creek and Indian Creek is an east and southeast oriented Nowood River tributary south of Mud Gulch and which flows to the north oriented Nowood River as a barbed tributary. Note how through valleys link the Mud Gulch valley with the Indian Creek valley. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 20 meters and the deepest through valley floor elevation is between 1460 and 1480 meters. Elevations on either side of the through valleys rise to more than 1540 meters suggesting the deepest through valley is at least 60 meters deep. Similar through valleys link the north and northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek valley with the east oriented North Fork Buffalo Creek valley and are approximately 40 meters deep. These through valleys were probably eroded by south and southeast oriented flood flow prior to the reversal of flood flow on the Nowood River drainage route or as flood flow was being reversed in the Nowood River drainage basin. Headward erosion of the North Fork Buffalo Creek valley first captured the south and southeast oriented flood flow and diverted the floodwaters to what was probably a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Nowood River alignment. About the same time flood flow on the Nowood River alignment was beheaded and reversed and the northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek valley then eroded headward from the newly reversed Nowood River flood flow channel to capture south oriented flood flow still moving west of the Nowood River flood flow channel. Floodwaters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction create the north oriented Bud Kimball Creek headwaters drainage routes.

Detailed map of Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo 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 Bud Kimball Creek-North Fork Buffalo Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5. The North Fork Buffalo Creek flows in an east and east-southeast direction in the southwest quadrant of figure 6 and then in an east direction along the south edge of the southeast quadrant of figure 6. Bud Kimball Creek flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 6 (west of center). Big Cedar Ridge is located west of the Bud Kimball Creek headwaters and Little Cedar Ridge is located east of Bud Kimball Creek. Mud Gulch drains in a north-northeast direction to the northeast corner of figure 6. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 20 feet. In the north half of section 28 there is a north-to-south oriented through valley linking the north oriented Bud Kimball Creek headwaters valley with the valley of a south-southeast oriented North Fork Buffalo Creek tributary. The through valley floor elevation is between 5100 and 5120 feet. Big Cedar Ridge to the west rises to at least 5300 feet and elevations of at least 5280 feet can be found in northwest quadrant of section 27 to the east. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 160 feet deep. Indian Creek is the unnamed east oriented stream flowing to the east center edge of figure 6. Additional, but shallower through valleys link north oriented Bud Kimball Creek tributary valleys with other south oriented North Fork Buffalo Creek tributary valleys. A similar but shallower north-to-south oriented through valley can be seen in the northeast corner of section 20 and links the north oriented Mud Gulch headwaters with the east oriented Indian Creek headwaters. Additional shallow north-to-south oriented through valleys link north oriented Mud Gulch tributary valleys with the east oriented Indian Creek valley. These through valleys were eroded by south oriented flood flow channels that were first captured by headward erosion of the east oriented North Fork Buffalo Creek valley and next were captured (in the east half of figure 6) by headward erosion of the east oriented Indian Creek valley. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented Mud Gulch valley next beheaded the south oriented flood flow channels in the east half of figure 6 and floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create north oriented Mud Gulch tributary and headwaters drainage routes. Next headward erosion of the northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek valley (north of figure 6) beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow channels to the newly eroded Mud Gulch and North Fork Buffalo Creek valleys. Floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Bud Kimball headwaters and tributary drainage routes seen in figure 6.

Little Cottonwood Creek-Bud Kimball Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Little Cottonwood Creek-Bud Kimball 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 Little Cottonwood Creek-Bud Kimball Creek drainage divide area north and slightly west of figure 5 and includes a thin overlap area with figure 5. Tensleep is the unidentified town seen along the north edge of the northeast quadrant of figure 7. The Nowood River flows in a north direction from the south edge of figure 7 (near southeast corner) to the north edge (just west of Tensleep). North of figure 7 the Nowood River turns to flow in a northwest direction to eventually join the north oriented Bighorn River. Castle Gardens is a labeled location near the center of figure 7 and Wild Horse Butte is near Castle Gardens. Little Cottonwood Creek originates west of Wild Horse Butte and flows in a north, north-northeast, and north direction to the north center edge of figure 7 and north of figure 7 joins the northwest oriented Nowood River. South of Wild Horse Butte is southeast and east oriented North Fork Bud Kimball Creek, which joins northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek, which flows from the south center edge of figure 7 to join the north oriented Nowood River in the southeast quadrant of figure 7. A north-to-south oriented through valley links the north oriented Little Cottonwood Creek valley with the southeast and east oriented North Fork Bud Kimball Creek valley and also with the north and northeast oriented Bud Kimball Creek valley south of figure 7. In figure 7 the through valley is best seen in the region between North Butte on the west and Wild Horse Butte on the east. The map contour interval for figure 7 is 20 meters and the through valley floor elevation between the two named buttes is between 1500 and 1520 meters. Wild Horse Butte reaches an elevation of 1658 meters and North Butte reaches an elevation 1665 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 135 meters deep. A south oriented flood flow channel probably eroded the through valley during the reversal of flood flow on the Nowood River alignment. Flood flow movements during the flood flow reversal process were complex and flood flow was often reversed on one flood flow channel before flood flow on adjacent flood flow channels was beheaded and reversed. Regardless of whether the Nowood River flood flow channel had been reversed or not headward erosion of the North Fork Bud Kimball Creek valley first captured the south oriented flood flow on the Little Cottonwood Creek alignment. Next headward erosion of the northwest oriented Nowood River valley north of figure 7 beheaded and reversed the flood flow on the Little Cottonwood Creek alignment so as to create the north oriented Little Cottonwood Creek drainage route. The Honeycombs seen in the southwest quadrant of figure 7 and the northwest quadrant of figure 5 appear to form a west-facing escarpment-surrounded basin drained by west oriented East Fork Nowater Creek (seen in southwest corner of figure 7). The escarpment-surrounded basin may be an abandoned headcut. If so large volumes of west oriented floodwaters flowed across the south half of figure 7 before or during the reversal of flood flow in the Nowood River drainage basin, which may have corresponded with the reversal of flood flow on the Bighorn River alignment to the west. .

Detailed map of Little Cottonwood Creek-North Fork Bud Kimball Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of Little Cottonwood Creek-North Fork Bud Kimball 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 Little Cottonwood Creek-North Fork Bud Kimball Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 7. North Butte is located in section 30 in the southwest quadrant of figure 8. Wild Horse Butte is located in section 16, north and east of the center of figure 8. Little Cottonwood Creek originates in section 20 (west of Wild Horse Butte) and flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 8 (slightly west of center). North Fork Bud Kimball Creek originates at North Butte in section 30 and flows in a southeast, northeast, and east direction to the east edge of figure 8 (near southeast corner). A through valley in the southeast quadrant of section 20 links a northwest oriented Little Cottonwood Creek headwaters valley with a southeast oriented North Fork Bud Kimball Creek tributary valley. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 20 feet and the through valley floor elevation is between 4960 and 4980 feet. Wild Horse Butte rises to 5441 feet and North Butte rises to 5462 feet. The similarity of the North Butte and Wild Horse Butte elevations suggests floodwaters at one time flowed on an erosion surface at least as high as the tops of North and Wild Horse Buttes today. If so, the entire region was deeply eroded and the through valley depth is approximately 460 feet. East of the Honeycombs and not seen in figure 8 elevations are several hundred feet lower suggesting much deeper erosion to the east. Floodwaters apparently removed great strips of bedrock material as they flowed across the region. Again this region experienced complex flood flow movements with floodwaters first moving in a south direction and later being beheaded and reversed in sequence (generally from east to west) with the reversed flood flow sometimes moving in a north direction adjacent to flood flow channels still moving floodwaters in a south direction as the reversal process took place.

Little Slick Creek-East Fork Nowater Creek drainage divide area

Figure 9: Little Slick Creek-Nowater Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 9 provides a topographic map of the Little Slick Creek-Nowater Creek drainage divide area west of figure 7 and there is no overlap area with figure 7. The Bighorn River flows in a north-northeast direction across the northwest corner of figure 9. Slick Creek is a southwest and north-northwest oriented stream east of Worland and flows to the north edge of figure 9 (north of Worland) and joins the Bighorn River north of figure 9. Little Slick Creek is a northwest oriented Slick Creek tributary. The East Fork Sand Creek originates near the east center edge of figure 9 and flows in a northwest, north-northwest, and north direction to the north edge of figure 9. North of figure 9 Sand Creek flows in a north-northwest direction roughly parallel to the Bighorn River and joins the northwest oriented Nowood River a short distance upstream from where the Nowood River joins the Bighorn River. The East Fork Nowater Creek flows in a west direction from the southeast corner of figure 9 to join northwest oriented Nowater Creek near the southwest corner of figure 9, with Nowater Creek joining the Bighorn River west of figure 9.  Shallow through valleys link the north-northwest oriented East Fork Sand Creek valley with south and south-southeast oriented East Fork Nowater Creek tributary valleys. Also shallow northwest-to-southeast oriented through valleys link the northwest oriented Little Slick Creek valley with a southwest oriented East Fork Nowater Creek valley and further cross the drainage divide between that southwest oriented tributary and the East Fork Nowater Creek. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 20 meters and the shallow through valleys are usually defined by only one or two contour lines on a side. The through valleys provide evidence of what were probably multiple southeast and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels that crossed the region prior to headward erosion of north-northeast oriented Bighorn River valley to the west. The north-northeast oriented Bighorn River valley was probably eroded during the flood flow reversal and beheaded the southeast and south-southeast oriented flood flow channels, which had previously been captured by headward erosion of the west oriented East Fork Nowater Creek valley. Floodwaters on northwest ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create the northwest and north-northwest oriented Bighorn River tributary drainage routes seen today.

Detailed map of Little Slick Creek-North Fork Nowater Creek drainage divide area

Figure 10: Detailed map of Little Slick Creek-North Fork Nowater Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 provides a detailed topographic map of the Little Slick Creek-North Fork Nowater Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 9. The East Fork Nowater Creek flows in a west direction near the south edge of figure 10. A south and southwest oriented East Fork Nowater Creek tributary originates north and west of figure 10 and flows from the east edge of figure 10 (north half) before joining the East Fork Nowater Creek near the south center edge of figure 10. Little Slick Creek originates in section 13 and flows in a northwest direction on the northeast side of Banjo Flats to the north center edge of figure 10 and north of figure 10 joins north-northwest oriented Slick Creek to flow to the Bighorn River. An abandoned north-northwest oriented headcut (or escarpment-surrounded basin) can be seen on the west side of Banjo Flats and the north-northwest oriented streams in sections 15, 16, and 22 are headwaters of north-northwest oriented Sage Creek. The map contour interval for figure 10 is 20 feet and while contour lines in figure 10 are difficult to read elevations in the north-northwest oriented Sage Creek drainage basin are generally more than 100 feet lower than elevations along the north-northwest oriented basin rim. A close look at the Bighorn River-East Fork Nowater Creek drainage divide reveals numerous shallow northwest-to-southeast oriented through valleys. A radio tower is located on a hill in the southwest corner of section 20 (near west edge of figure 10) with an elevation of 4549 feet. East of that hill the drainage divide elevation drops to less than 4440 feet before rising to more 4500 feet in section 22. Elevations then drop before rising in sections 14 and 23 to more than 4520 feet. This pattern continues eastward along the drainage divide. Depending on how the through valleys are defined the deepest through valleys could be considered to be more than 100 feet deep. The through valleys were probably eroded by southeast oriented flood flow which first moved across the region, although the flood flow was subsequently reversed to flow in a northwest and north-northwest directions when the much deeper north-northeast oriented Bighorn River valley beheaded the southeast oriented flood flow. The flood flow reversal apparently moved large volumes of floodwaters in a north-northwest direction to erode the deeper north-northwest oriented Sage Creek abandoned headcut (or escarpment-surrounded basin).

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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