Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area landform origins in central Wyoming, USA

Authors

 

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the region between Salt Creek and the North Platte River in central Wyoming. The study region is located north of an east oriented North Platte River segment located just north of the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. The North Platte River flows in a north and northeast direction to the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains and then turns to flow in an east and southeast direction along the Laramie Mountains north and northeast flanks before flowing into Nebraska. While there are south oriented drainage routes north of the east oriented North Platte River segment they are generally short and most disappear as surface streams before reaching the North Platte River. North of the headwaters of these south oriented streams are headwaters of north-northwest oriented Salt Creek and northeast and north-northeast oriented Teapot Creek, which flows to Salt Creek. Salt Creek flows to the north oriented Powder River and the Powder River then flows into Montana and to join the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. East of the north-northwest oriented Salt Creek drainage basin is Pine Ridge and headwaters of northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributaries. Included in the Salt Creek drainage basin is the Teapot Dome structure and Salt Creek tributaries have eroded deep water gaps across hogback ridges surrounding the eroded Dome’s central basin. Drainage routes in the region are interpreted to have formed during immense melt water floods, which flowed from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet in western Canada to and across the region. Floodwaters deeply eroded the region as the Laramie Mountains emerged to the south. The deep North Platte River valley eroded headward along the emerging Laramie Mountains northeast flank and then along the Laramie Mountains north flank until it beheaded and reversed a south oriented flood flow channel that had been eroding headward west of the Laramie Mountains. At about the same time headward erosion of the deep Cheyenne River valley south of the Black Hills and into Wyoming began to capture some of the floodwaters flowing to the actively eroding North Platte River valley. A major flood flow reversal in the Powder River Basin next occurred when the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley eroded headward from the south end of the deep “hole” the massive ice sheet had occupied, which was being opened up by ice sheet melting. The deep Yellowstone River valley beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow routes to the Powder River Basin, which then captured northeast oriented flood flow moving to the Cheyenne River valley. Evidence for flood flow movements is found today in numerous shallow through valleys eroded across the regional drainage divides. The through valleys provide evidence of multiple diverging and converging flood flow channels such as are found in anastomosing channel complexes.

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 Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area landform origins in central Wyoming, USA. 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 Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area landform evidence in central  Wyoming will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Salt Creek-North Platte River 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 Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area in central Wyoming and illustrates a region in central Wyoming. Casper is the largest city shown and is located north of the south center edge of figure 1. The Laramie Mountains northwest end is located south of Casper. The North Platte River flows in a northeast direction from the south edge of figure 1 to Alcova Reservoir and then to Casper. At Casper the North Platte River turns to flow in an east, south, and southeast direction to the south edge of figure 1 (near Glendo). South and east of figure 1 the North Platte River flows in a southeast direction to Nebraska where it joins the South Platte River to form the Platte River. North of Casper the Powder River is formed east of Kaycee at the confluence of the north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River, northeast oriented Middle Fork Powder River, and southeast oriented North Fork Powder River and flows in an east and north direction to the north center edge of figure 1. North of figure 1 the Powder River flows into Montana where it joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. The North and Middle Forks Powder River originate in the Bighorn Mountains. East of the Bighorn Mountains is the Powder River Basin. Salt Creek is the unnamed north-northwest oriented Powder River tributary originating east of Teapot Dome and flows near the towns of Midwest and Edgerton before reaching the Powder River. The unnamed northeast oriented tributary joining Salt Creek near Midwest is Teapot Creek and the shorter unnamed north oriented tributary joining Salt Creek near Midwest is Little Teapot Creek. East of the Salt Creek headwaters are northeast oriented Cheyenne River headwaters. Near the east edge of figure 1 the Cheyenne River turns to flow in a southeast direction into South Dakota and then around the Black Hills south end where it turns to flow in a northeast direction to join the south oriented Missouri River as a barbed tributary. The Belle Fourche River originates near the town of Wright and flows in a northeast direction to the north edge of figure 1 (east half). North and east of figure 1 the Belle Fourche River flows in a northeast and southeast direction around the Black Hills north end and then joins the northeast oriented Cheyenne River. The Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area investigated in this essay is located south of north-northwest oriented Salt Creek and its northeast oriented Teapot Creek tributary and north of the North Platte River and includes the Teapot Dome area.

Central Wyoming drainages routes evolved during massive south and southeast oriented melt water floods from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet. Floodwaters flowed from western Canada across Montana to Wyoming and points further to the south. At least initially Wyoming and Montana mountain ranges had not emerged and floodwaters could freely flow across what are today high mountain barriers. Mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters deeply eroded surrounding regions and as ice sheet related crustal warping raised the mountain ranges relative to the adjacent regions. Ice sheet related crustal warping and deep glacial erosion also created a deep “hole” in which the massive ice sheet was located. Deep south oriented flood flow channels eroded headward along both sides of the emerging Laramie Mountains with headward erosion of the deep southeast North Platte River valley reaching the Laramie Range northwest end  and then eroding a northeast oriented valley headward to capture the south and southeast oriented flood flow moving between the emerging Rattlesnake Hills and emerging Laramie Mountains. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the north oriented North Platte River drainage route south of figure 1. About the same time the Cheyenne River valley eroded headward along the Black Hills south margin and then into northeast Wyoming. Headward erosion of the deep North Platte River and Cheyenne River valleys and their tributary valleys (many oriented in northeast directions) captured south oriented flood flow from further to the west and that captured flood flow moved in east and northeast directions to these actively eroding valley systems. About the same time ice sheet melting also opened up space at the south end of the deep “hole” in which the ice sheet was located. At first this newly opened up space drained in a south direction into eastern Nebraska. Deep northeast oriented valleys then eroded headward from this newly opened up space at the south end of the deep “hole” to capture the south and southeast oriented ice marginal melt water floods. The deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley eroded headward across Montana (north of figure 1) and beheaded flood flow routes to Wyoming in sequence from east to west. Floodwaters on north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction create north oriented drainage routes. In figure 1 the north oriented Powder River drainage route was created first and captured southeast oriented flood flow still moving across what were then the emerging Bighorn Mountains (see southeast oriented North Fork Powder River). The north-northwest oriented Salt Creek and north oriented Little Teapot Creek drainage routes were created by reversals of south oriented flood flow while the northeast oriented Teapot Creek valley eroded headward across south and southeast oriented flood flow. The northeast oriented Middle Fork and north-northeast oriented South Fork Powder River eroded headward to capture southeast and east oriented flood flow moving to the actively eroding North Platte River, Cheyenne River, and tributary valleys.

Detailed location map for Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area

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

Figure 2 provides a detailed location map for the Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide area in central Wyoming. Casper is located near the south center edge of figure 2. The North Platte River flows in a northeast direction (from south of figure 2) to Casper and then in an east direction along the south edge of the southeast quadrant of figure 2 before turning to flow in a south and southeast direction along the Laramie Mountains northeast flank. The northwest end of the Laramie Mountains is located south of the east oriented North Platte River segment. The Middle Fork Casper Creek flows in a northeast direction from near the southwest corner of figure 2 to near the town of Natrona where it turns to flow in an east direction to the town of Illco where it is joined by the southeast oriented North Fork Casper Creek to form Casper Creek. Casper Creek then flows in a south-southeast direction from Illco to join the North Platte River near the town of Mills (on west side of Casper). North of Casper are two south oriented drainage systems flowing toward the North Platte River, but disappearing as surface streams before reaching the North Platte River. The western drainage system is unnamed in figure 2, but on more detailed maps includes McPherson Draw and Statzer Draw. The eastern southwest and south-southwest oriented stream is Sand Spring Creek with McKenzie Draw being its south oriented tributary. The South Fork Powder River flows in a northeast direction from west edge of figure 2 (near southwest corner) to the town of Powder River and then in a north-northeast direction to join the east oriented Powder River east of Kaycee. The Powder River then flows in an east direction to near the town of Sussex where it turns to flow in a north direction to the north center edge of figure 2. Salt Creek originates a short distance north of the Sand Spring Creek headwaters and flows in a north-northwest direction to near the town of Midwest and then in a north-northwest and northeast direction to join the Powder River near Sussex. Little Teapot Creek is the north oriented Salt Creek tributary flowing through the Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve. Teapot Creek is the northeast and north-northeast tributary joining Salt Creek near the Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve north end. Castle Creek is the northeast and north-northeast oriented Salt Creek tributary originating near Merino and flowing north and west of Teapot Creek. East of the Sand Spring Creek and Salt Creek headwaters is Pine Ridge and east of Pine Ridge are headwaters of northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributaries. The region east of Pine Ridge was last eroded by south oriented floodwaters that were deflected by the emerging Laramie Mountains (south of the southeast quadrant of figure 2) and then were captured by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributary valleys. The region west of Pine Ridge was last eroded by south oriented floodwaters to the actively eroding east oriented North Platte River valley and which were then beheaded and reversed during a massive flood flow reversal in the western Powder River Basin with the reversed flood flow moving to space at the south end of the deep “hole” the melting ice sheet had opened up. North oriented drainage routes flowing to the north edge of figure 2 were formed by the massive flood flow reversal that took place in the Powder River Basin.

Salt Creek-Sand Spring Creek drainage divide area  south

Figure 3: Salt Creek-Sand Spring Creek drainage divide area south. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of the Salt Creek-Sand Spring Creek drainage divide area. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 20 meters. Pine Ridge is located in the east half of figure 3. East-northeast and northeast oriented streams originating along Pine Ridge are tributaries to the northeast, southeast, and northeast oriented Cheyenne River, which joins the south oriented Missouri River in South Dakota. The southwest oriented stream labeled “Creek” in figure 3 and flowing to near the southwest corner of figure 3 is Sand Spring Creek, which south and west of figure 3 flows in more of a south direction toward the east oriented North Platte River, but which disappears as a surface stream before reaching the North Platte River. Salt Creek originates north and east of the center of figure 3 and flows in a north, west, north, and northwest direction to the north edge of figure 3 (west of center) and north of figure 3 flows in a north-northwest direction to eventually join the north oriented Powder River, which flows into Montana to join the northeast oriented Yellowstone River. Ormsby Draw is a north oriented Salt Creek tributary located west of the north center area of figure 3. West of Ormsby Draw in north and north-northeast oriented Bobcat Creek, which joins Salt Creek north of figure 3. Coopers Draw is the north-northeast oriented Salt Creek tributary west of Bobcat Creek and Seven Creek is the north-northeast oriented Salt Creek tributary flowing across the northwest corner of figure 3.  A north-to-south oriented through valley links the north oriented Bobcat Creek valley with the southwest oriented Sand Spring Creek valley and is located in the west half of figure 3. The through valley floor elevation is between 1760 and 1780 meters. Elevations on the ridge east of the through valley rise to 1890 meters and elevations west of the through valley rise to 1826 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 46 meters deep. While not deep compared to through valleys seen elsewhere in the Missouri River drainage basin the through valley is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by south oriented flood flow prior to the reversal of flood flow on the Bobcat Creek and Salt Creek alignments. The south oriented flood flow probably was flowing to the actively eroding and deeper North Platte River valley. Another north-to-south oriented through valley links the north oriented Ormsby Draw valley with the southwest oriented Sand Spring Creek valley and has a valley floor elevation of between 1780 and 1800 meters. Elevations on either side of this second through valley rise to more than 1840 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 40 meters deep. The north, east, and north oriented Salt Creek headwaters valley is linked by an east oriented through valley with a northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributary valley. This third through valley is at least 60 meters deep and provides evidence the northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributary valley captured south oriented flood flow moving on the Salt Creek alignment. The reversal of flood flow on the Salt Creek alignment ended flood flow to the northeast oriented Cheyenne River tributary valley.

Detailed map of Bobcat Creek-Sand Spring Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Bobcat Creek-Sand Spring 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 Bobcat Creek-Sand Spring Creek drainage divide area. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 20 feet. Sand Spring Creek flows in a southwest direction from the east center edge of figure 4 to the south center edge of figure 4 and south of figure 4 turns to flow in more of a south direction toward the North Platte River (see figure 2), but disappears as a surface stream and never reaches the North Plate River. Bobcat Creek originates in section 33 and flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 4 (west half). North of figure 4 Bobcat Creek joins north-northwest oriented Salt Creek, which flows to the north oriented Powder River. A through valley in section 33 links the north oriented Bobcat Creek valley with a south oriented Sand Spring Creek tributary valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 5820 and 5840 feet. Elevations in section 32 to the west rise to more than 6020 feet and in section 35 to the east elevations rise to 5975 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 135 feet deep and may have been deeper at one time. The through valley is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by south oriented flood flow moving from the present day north oriented Bobcat Creek and Salt Creek valleys (and Powder River valley further to the north) to the North Platte River valley location, but which was captured by headward erosion of the southwest oriented Sand Spring Creek valley. Ormsby Draw (not labeled in figure 4) originates near the corner of sections 23, 24, 25, and 26 in the northeast quadrant of figure 4 and flows in a north direction to join north and north-northwest oriented Salt Creek north of figure 4. A north-to-south oriented through valley along the border between sections 25 and 26 links the north oriented Ormsby Draw valley with a south oriented Sand Spring Creek tributary valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 5880 and 5900 feet. Elevations in section 25 to the east rise to more than 6030 feet and elevations in section 27 to the west rise to 6029 feet suggesting the through valley is at least 130 feet deep. This second through valley was eroded by another south oriented flood flow channel that diverged from the flood flow channel on the Bobcat Creek alignment. These diverging and converging flood flow channels describe what was once a south oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the deeper southwest oriented Sand Spring Creek valley captured the south oriented flood flow and diverted the floodwaters in a southwest direction.

East Teapot Creek-McKenzie Draw drainage divide area

Figure 5: East Teapot Creek-McKenzie Draw drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 5 illustrates the East Teapot Creek-McKenzie Draw drainage divide area and is located west of figure 3 and there is an overlap area with figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 20 meters. Seven Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to near the northeast corner of figure 5. Coopers Draw drains in a north-northeast to the east edge of figure 5 (north half and south and east of Seven Creek). North and east of figure 5 Seven Creek and Coopers Draw drain to north-northwest Salt Creek. Teapot Creek (labeled “Creek” in figure 5) is the northeast oriented stream flowing from the west center edge of figure 5 to the north edge of figure 5 (near highway and Teapot Rock). Horse Ranch Creek is the northeast and north oriented tributary joining Teapot Creek at Beaton Reservoir. East Teapot Creek flows in a northwest direction across the north center area of figure 5 to join Teapot Creek near Teapot Rock along the north edge of figure 5. McKenzie Draw originates north of McKenzie Flat (in southeast quadrant of figure 5) and drains in a south direction to join Sand Spring Creek shortly before Sand Spring Creek disappears as a surface stream. McPherson Draw is the unlabeled south oriented drainage route originating south of Twentymile Hill and south of figure 5 disappears as a surface drainage route. Meyers Draw is the south oriented drainage route located between McPherson Draw and McKenzie Draw and also disappears as a surface drainage route south of figure 5. The Salt Creek-North Platte River drainage divide just east of Twentymile Hill is crossed by shallow north to south oriented through valleys usually defined by one or two contour lines on a side. Figure 6 provides a detailed topographic map to better illustrate the shallow through valleys. The northwest oriented East Teapot Creek headwaters valley appears to be linked with the north-northeast oriented Seven Creek valley and this linkage suggests the Seven Creek valley captured southeast oriented flood flow moving on the East Teapot Creek alignment. This observation is consistent with the interpretation that flood flow channels were beheaded and reversed in sequence from east to west, although in this case southeast oriented flood flow on the East Teapot Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Teapot Creek valley while flood flow on the Seven Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the Salt Creek valley. If correctly interpreted flood flow on the Salt Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed before flood flow on the East Teapot Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Teapot Creek valley.

Detailed map of East Teapot Creek-Meyers Draw drainage divide area

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

Figure 6 provides a detailed topographic map of the East Teapot Creek-Meyers Draw drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 20 feet and the darker contour lines are every 100 feet. Meyers Draw is the south oriented drainage route labeled “Draw” in the southeast quadrant of figure 6. McPherson Draw is the unlabeled south oriented drainage route in the southwest quadrant of figure 6. South of figure 6 both Meyers Draw and McPherson Draw disappear as surface drainage routes, although both are headed towards the North Platte River. The Twentymile Hill Oil Field is located in the north center area of figure 6. North oriented drainage routes in the Twentymile Hill Oil Field area flow to northwest East Teapot Creek, which then flows to northeast and north-northeast oriented Teapot Creek, which flows to north-northwest oriented Salt Creek with water eventually reaching the north oriented Powder River. Contour lines in figure 6 are faint and difficult to read, but if you look closely there is a north to south oriented through valley in section 2 linking a north oriented East Teapot Creek tributary valley with the south oriented McPherson Draw valley. The through valley floor elevation appears to be between 5760 and 5780 feet. Elevations near the east edge of section 9 to the west rise to 5891 feet and elevations along the border between sections 11 and 12 to the east rise to 5879 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley is approximately 100 feet deep. Further east a north to south oriented through valley is seen along the border of sections 1 and 6 and is crossed by a north-northeast oriented pipeline. This eastern through valley links a north oriented East Teapot Creek tributary valley with the south oriented Meyers Draw valley. The through valley floor elevation also appears to be between 5760 and 5780 feet. Elevations in section 6 to the northeast rise to 5898 feet and elevations along the border of sections 11 and 12 to the southwest rise to 5879 feet suggesting this eastern through valley is also approximately 100 feet deep. These through valleys are water-eroded valleys and were eroded by diverging and converging flood flow channels before the reversal of flood flow on the East Teapot Creek alignment north of figure 6. Similar through valleys can be found all along the East Teapot Creek-North Platte River drainage divide.

Teapot Creek-North Fork Casper Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: Teapot Creek-North Fork Casper Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 7 illustrates the Teapot Creek-North Fork Casper Creek drainage divide area west and slightly south of figure 5 and includes an overlap area with figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 7 is 20 meters. Horse Ranch Creek flows in a northeast and north-northeast direction from near the center of figure 7 to near the northeast corner of figure 7 and north and east of figure 7 joins Teapot Creek. Statzer Point is a high spot located in the north center area of figure 7. Teapot Creek originates east of Statzer Point and flows in a northeast direction to the north edge of figure 7 (near northeast corner) and north and east of figure 7 joins Salt Creek. McPherson Draw drains in a southwest direction across the southwest corner of figure 7 and south of figure 7 turns in a south direction and then disappears as a surface stream. The North Fork Casper Creek flows in an east and southeast direction across the southwest corner of figure 7 and south of figure 7 flows to south-southeast oriented Casper Creek, which flows to the east oriented North Platte River. Statzer Draw originates west of Statzer Point and flows in a south-southwest and south direction to join the North Fork Casper Creek near the south edge of figure 7. Smith Draw and Twentymile Draw are southwest and south-southwest oriented North Casper Creek tributaries draining to the south edge of figure 7 (west of center). The Teapot Creek-North Fork Casper Creek drainage divide is oriented in north-northwest to south-south-southeast direction and is crossed by several shallow through valleys linking northeast oriented valleys draining to Teapot Creek with southwest oriented valleys draining to the Casper Creek. The through valleys are defined by up to three contour lines on a side and some are defined by only one contour line on a side. The through valleys suggest the region may have been crossed by northeast oriented flood flow that perhaps moving to the north oriented Little Teapot Creek valley and north-northwest oriented Salt Creek valley to create the northeast oriented Teapot Creek valley and tributary valleys. Next headward erosion of the deeper south-southeast oriented Casper Creek valley and its southeast oriented North Fork Casper Creek valley from the newly eroded east oriented North Platte River valley beheaded the northeast oriented flood flow. Floodwaters on southwest ends of the beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction to create the southwest oriented North Fork Casper Creek tributary valleys. There are may be better ways to interpret the flood flow movements, but there is no question that the Teapot Creek-Casper Creek drainage divide was once crossed by multiple flood flow channels.

Detailed map of Teapot Creek-Statzer Draw drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of Teapot Creek-Statzer Draw 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 Teapot Creek-Statzer Draw drainage divide seen in less detail in figure 7 above. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 20 feet. Statzer Point is located in the northwest quadrant of section 20. Statzer Draw headwaters drain in a south and southwest direction in sections 19 and 24 (west of Statzer Point) and then Statzer Draw drains in a south-southwest direction to the south edge of figure 8. South of figure 8 Statzer Draw drains to southeast oriented North Fork Casper Creek with water eventually reaching the east and southeast oriented North Platte River.  Teapot Creek originates in sections 21 and 28 (east and south of Statzer Point) and flows in a northeast direction to the east edge of figure 8 (north half). East and north of figure 8 Teapot Creek flows to north-northwest oriented Salt Creek, which flows to the north oriented Powder River. Henderson Draw is a northeast oriented Teapot Creek tributary draining to the east center edge of figure 8. Horse Ranch Creek originates in section 34 and flows in a northeast direction across the southeast corner of figure 8. East of figure 8 Horse Ranch Creek flows to Teapot Creek with water eventually reaching the north oriented Powder River. A through valley near the corner of sections 20, 21, 28, and 29 (south and east of Statzer Point) links the northeast oriented Teapot Creek valley with the valley of a southwest and south-southwest oriented Statzer Draw tributary. The section corner, which is located in the through valley is shown as having an elevation of 5787 feet. Elevations south of the through valley, on the border of sections 28 and 29, rise to more than 5920 feet while Stazer Point to the northwest has an elevation of 5902 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 115 feet deep. Similar southwest to northeast oriented through valleys can be seen elsewhere along the Stazer Draw-Teapot Creek drainage divide. The multiple through valleys provide evidence of diverging and converging flood flow channels such as are found in anastomosing channel complexes. The through valleys were eroded by either northeast oriented flood flow moving to the Teapot Creek valley or southwest oriented flood flow moving to the Stazer Draw valley. Evidence in figure 8 could be interpreted either way, although based on evidence from a bigger region I suspect the northeast oriented flood flow direction is more likely. If so the south-southwest oriented Statzer Draw valley eroded headward across northeast oriented flood flow channels moving floodwaters to the Teapot Creek valley at the time the deep east oriented North Platte River valley was eroding headward to the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains.

Little Teapot Creek-East Teapot Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 9 illustrates the Little Teapot Creek-East Teapot Creek drainage divide area north and slightly east of figure 5 and includes an overlap area with figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 20 meters. Pine Ridge and the Salt Creek-Cheyenne River drainage divide is located just east of figure 9 and can just barely be seen in the northeast corner of figure 9. The Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve is located in the north center area of figure 9. Salt Creek flows in a northwest and north-northwest direction from the east edge of figure 9 to the north center edge of figure 9 with water eventually reaching the north oriented Powder River. Teapot Creek flows in a north-northeast direction from the south edge of figure 9 (near southwest corner) to the north edge of figure 9 (north of the Teapot Dome Naval Petroleum Reserve). North of figure 9 Teapot Creek joins Salt Creek. East Teapot Creek flows in a northwest direction from the south edge of figure 9 (west half) to join north-northeast oriented Teapot Creek near Teapot Rock. Little Teapot Creek flows in a north and north-northwest direction on the Teapot Dome structure floor to join Teapot Creek near the north center edge of figure 9. Teapot Dome is exactly what the name implies, an eroded dome structure identified by hogback ridges surrounding a central basin. Little Pine Ridge is the name for the hogback ridge along the east side of the Teapot Dome structure. The Teapot Dome western hogback ridge has been deeply eroded. For example northeast oriented Little Teapot Creek tributary have eroded water gaps across the western hogback ridge. The water gaps are defined by five contour lines on each side suggesting they are at least 80 meters deep and may be even deeper. Little Teapot Creek has eroded an equally deep water gap at the south end of the structure. These water gaps provide evidence the Little Teapot Creek drainage system was established at a time when the regional surface was at least as high as the highest points on the hogback ridges today. In other words the regional surface elevation has been lowered at least meters since the Little Teapot Creek drainage routes were established. Large volumes of flood water were required to remove the volumes of bedrock material involved and to erode multiple water gaps across the hogback ridges.

Detailed map of South Teapot Dome area

Figure 10: Detailed map South Teapot Dome area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 provides a detailed topographic map of the South Teapot Dome area seen in less detail in figure 9. The map contour interval for figure 10 is 20 feet. Salt Creek flows in a north-northwest direction from the east center edge of figure 10 to the north edge of figure 10 (near northeast corner). Little Pine Ridge is the north to south oriented ridge located west of Salt Creek and is the hogback ridge on the east side of the Teapot Dome structure. Little Teapot Creek flows in a north direction from the south center edge through a water gap in sections 23 and 26 across the south end of the hogback ridges rimming the Teapot Dome eroded central basin. Once in the eroded central basin Little Teapot Creek flows in a north direction to join Teapot Creek and Salt Creek north of figure 10 with water flowing to the north oriented Powder River. Little Teapot Creek as it flows through the water gap in sections 23 and 26 crosses the 5300-foot contour line. Elevations on the hogback ridge to the west rise to more than 5620 feet and elevations on the hogback ridge to the east rise to 5663 feet. These elevations suggest the water gap is at least 320 feet deep. In section 22 a northeast oriented Little Teapot Creek tributary has eroded another 300-foot deep water gap. Further north in section 16 another northeast oriented Little Teapot Creek tributary has eroded a much larger and even deeper water gap. These water gaps were probably eroded by northeast and north oriented flood flow moving to the north-northwest oriented Salt Creek valley and then to the newly reversed north oriented Powder River valley. Prior to the reversal of flood flow on the Powder River and Salt Creek alignments floodwaters may have been flowing to the actively eroding northeast oriented Cheyenne River headwaters valleys east of figure 10 or to the actively eroding east and southeast oriented North Platte River valley south of figure 10. Competition by the deep North Platte River, Cheyenne River, and Powder River valleys, which were eroding headward into the region from different directions created some complex flood flow movements, which were further complicated by the presence of geologic structures seen in figure 10. What can be said with certainty is the floodwaters deeply eroded the Teapot Dome central basin and removed several hundred feet of bedrock material and also deeply eroded the regions surrounding the Teapot Dome hogback ridges. Figure 10 evidence is not adequate to determine whether the Teapot Dome structure was uplifted as floodwaters flowed across it or whether overlying materials had buried the Teapot Dome structure, which the floodwaters subsequently removed. In either case  floodwaters deeply eroded the structure and the region.

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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