Wind River-Green River drainage divide area landform origins along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA

Authors

 

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the region between the Wind River and the Green River along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range. The Wind River flows in a southeast direction along the Wind River Range northeast flank before turning to become the north oriented Wind and then Bighorn River, which flows to the northeast-oriented Yellowstone River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The Green River flows in a northwest direction along the Wind River Range southwest flank before turning to flow in a south direction to eventually join the southwest oriented Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. Northwest oriented Green River headwaters valleys are linked by through valleys or passes with south oriented Green River tributary valleys. Further north and northeast oriented Wind River tributary valleys are linked by through valleys or passes with valleys of southwest oriented or barbed tributaries to the northwest oriented Green River. The through valleys or passes, valley orientations, barbed tributaries, and similar evidence are interpreted in the context of a large-scale south oriented anastomosing channel complex that crossed the region prior to and during the emergence of the Wind River Range as a high mountain range. The south oriented floodwaters responsible for eroding the diverging and converging flood flow channels were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and were flowing from western Canada to and across Wyoming. Emergence of the Wind River Range and other mountain ranges occurred as floodwaters deeply eroded surrounding basins and valleys and as ice sheet related crustal warping raised the mountain ranges. Headward erosion of deep south-oriented valleys in the present day Green River drainage basin eroded the emerging Wind River Range southwest flank as floodwaters flowed across the rising Wind River Range. Headward erosion of a south oriented Green River valley beheaded a southeast and south oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented Green River headwaters alignment. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow to the deeper south oriented Green River valley and to create the northwest oriented Green River headwaters drainage route. Headward erosion of the southeast oriented Wind River valley and its northeast oriented tributary valleys next beheaded and reversed flood flow routes flowing to the actively eroding Green River valley and tributary valleys. After flood flow across the region had ended and after the Wind River Range had emerged as a high mountain range the Wind River Range was glaciated. Glaciers filled, deepened, and otherwise altered many of the flood-eroded valleys, although valley orientations were not significantly changed nor were new valleys eroded. Evidence for the former south oriented anastomosing channel complex is easy to see and is found at some of the highest present day Wind River Range elevations.

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 Wind River-Green River drainage divide area landform origins along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range, 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 Wind River-Green River drainage divide area landform evidence along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

Wind River-Green River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Wind River-Green 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 Wind River-Green River drainage divide area along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range and illustrates a region in western Wyoming. The Idaho-Wyoming state line is located just west of figure 1. Grand Teton National Park is located near the northwest corner of figure 1 and Togwotee Pass is located east of Grand Teton National Park. The Wind River originates near Togwotee Pass and flows in a southeast direction between the Wind River Range and the Owl Creek Mountains to Riverton in the Wind River Basin. At Riverton the Wind River turns to flow in a northeast and north direction across the Owl Creek Mountains east end (north of Boysen Reservoir) to Thermopolis in the Bighorn Basin. Once in the Bighorn Basin the Wind River name changes to become the Bighorn River, which then flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 1 (near northeast corner). North of figure 1 the Bighorn River flows into Montana and joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Union Pass is located near the Wind River Range northwest end. The Green River originates south of Union Pass and flows in a northwest direction before turning to flow in a south direction to the south edge of figure 1 (near Big Piney). South of figure 1 the Green River joins the Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. The New Fork River originates near the south oriented Green River and flows in a southeast direction to near Pinedale and Boulder before turning to flow in a southwest direction to join the south oriented Green River near Big Piney. Southwest and south oriented New Fork River headwaters and tributaries originate in the Wind River Range and flow to the southeast oriented New Fork River. The Snake River flows in a south direction from Grand Teton National Park to the Wyoming Range north end where the Snake River turns to flow in a west direction to Alpine and the west edge of figure 1 (south of center). West of figure 1 the Snake River turns to flow in a northwest direction with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. The Gros Ventre River originates near the Green River U-turn and flows in an east, northwest, and west direction to join the Snake River near the south end of Grand Teton Nation National Park. The Wind River-Green River drainage divide area along the east-west continental divide investigated in this essay is north of the northwest oriented Green River headwaters and south of the southeast oriented Wind River and is located along and/or near the Wind River Range crest.

Drainage routes in western Wyoming developed during immense melt water floods from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet. Floodwaters were flowing from western Canada to and across Wyoming at a time when regional mountain ranges were just beginning to emerge. At first floodwaters could flow across the emerging mountain ranges and as the mountain ranges emerged floodwaters were systematically channeled into valleys between the emerging mountain ranges and in some cases reversed to create north oriented drainage routes. Mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters deeply eroded the surrounding basins and valleys and as ice sheet related crustal warping raised the mountain ranges. Ice sheet related crustal warping combined with deep glacial erosion also created a deep “hole” in which the ice sheet was located. The south oriented Green River valley and tributary valleys eroded headward between the emerging Wind River Range and the emerging Wyoming Range as a complex of diverging and converging flood flow channels with the south oriented floodwaters coming from north of the emerging Wind River Range. The northwest oriented Green River headwaters alignment was originated as a diverging southeast oriented flood flow channel that continued in a south direction to the New Fork River alignment and then converged with the south oriented flood flow channel on the Green River alignment. The southeast and southwest oriented New Fork River alignment also originated as a diverging and converging flood flow channel in this giant south oriented anastomosing channel complex. Headward erosion of the more direct south oriented Green River valley first beheaded the diverging southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day New Fork River alignment and later beheaded the southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented Green River alignment. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the second beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow to the much deeper south oriented Green River valley and to create the northwest oriented Green River headwaters route.

Floodwaters to the actively eroding south oriented Green River valley and tributary valleys were beheaded by headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented Wind River valley and its various tributary valleys. Headward erosion of the Wind River valley was probably aided by crustal warping that was raising the Wind River Range. The southeast oriented Wind River valley eroded headward from what had originated as a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Wind-Bighorn River alignment. This south oriented flood flow channel had continued in a south direction in the region east of the Wind River Range southeast end across the present day Great Divide Basin to what at that time were actively eroding Colorado River tributary valleys. The south oriented flood flow channel on the Wind-Bighorn River alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the much deeper northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley. The deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley was eroding headward across Montana from space at the south end of the deep “hole” the melting ice sheet was opening up. At least initially that newly opened up space was drained in a south direction across eastern Nebraska. When the deep northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley beheaded the south-oriented flood flow channel on the Wind-Bighorn River alignment floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow in a north direction to the much deeper Yellowstone River valley. Tributary valleys then began to erode headward from the newly formed north oriented Wind-Bighorn River drainage route to capture south oriented flood flow still moving west of the newly reversed flood flow channel. The southeast oriented Wind River valley was able to capture large volumes of south and southeast oriented flood flow before headward erosion of other Wind-Bighorn River tributary valleys and headward erosion of the deep Yellowstone River (north of figure 1) beheaded all south oriented flood flow routes to the actively eroding southeast oriented Wind River valley and its actively eroding tributary valleys.

Detailed location map for Wind River-Green River drainage divide area

Figure 2: Detailed location map Wind River-Green River 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 Wind River-Green River drainage divide area along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range. Green colored areas are National Forest lands and the brown colored area is Wind River Indian Reservation land. The east-west continental divide is shown with dashed line extending from the north edge of figure 2 (west of center) to the south edge of figure 2 (east half) and is located along the Wind River Range crest. The dashed line extending from the southwest corner of figure 9 to the continental divide is located along the Snake River-Green River drainage divide. The Green River originates west of continental divide and north of Fremont Peak (on continental divide near the south edge of figure 2) and flows in a northwest direction to the center of figure 2 (and north of Little Sheep Mountain) before turning to flow in a south and south-southwest direction to the south edge of figure 2 (west half). South of figure 2 the Green River flows to the Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. Roaring Fork is a west oriented tributary joining the Green River north of Little Sheep Mountain. Several southwest oriented tributaries originate near the continental divide and flow to the northwest oriented Green River headwaters as barbed tributaries. These barbed tributaries provide evidence of multiple south oriented flood flow channels that once flowed to a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented Green River alignment. West of Fremont Peak and south of the Green River headwaters are headwaters of south oriented Pine Creek and its south oriented tributary Fremont Creek. South of figure 2 Pine Creek joins the New Fork River, which then flows to the Green River. The New Fork River originates in the south center area of figure 2 and flows in a southwest direction through New Fork Lake toward the south oriented Green River before turning to flow in a south direction to the south edge of figure 2. South of figure 2 the New Fork River flows in a southeast and then southwest direction before joining the south oriented Green River. The Wind River flows in a southeast direction from the north edge of figure 2 (slightly east of center) to the east center edge of figure 2. East of figure 2 the Wind River turns to flow in a north direction and to become the north oriented Bighorn River, which then flows in a north direction into Montana where it joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Northeast and north oriented Wind River tributaries of interest in this essay (from south to north) include Dinwoody Creek, Torrey Creek, and Jakeys Fork. The Gros Ventre River flows in a northwest direction to the northwest corner of figure 2 and west of figure 2 flows to the Snake River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. The Hoback River flows in a northwest direction to the west edge of figure 2 (slightly south of center) and west of figure 2 joins the Snake River. The northwest oriented Gros Ventre River and Hoback River alignments originated as southeast oriented flood flow channels diverging from a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day south oriented Snake River alignment and then converging with the south oriented flood flow channel on the present day south oriented Green River alignment.

Green River-Pine Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of Green River-Pine Creek drainage divide area. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 50 meters. The east-west continental divide is the labeled forest boundary line extending in a south-southeast direction from the north edge of figure 3 (east half) to the east edge of figure 3 (south half) Areas east and north of the continental divide drain to the Wind River and areas west of the continental divide drain to the Green River. Green River Pass is labeled and is located near the center of figure 3. Trail Creek originates at Green River Pass and flows in a north direction to join the north-northwest oriented Green River near Trail Creek Park (south of the north center edge of figure 3). The Green River originates east of Green River Pass (near the words “Cube Rock Pass”) and flows in a north-northwest direction to the north edge of figure 3 (slightly west of center). North of figure 3 the Green River flows in a northwest direction before turning to flow in a south direction west of figure 3. South of Green River Pass are headwaters of south oriented Pine Creek. South of figure 3 Pine Creek flows to the southeast and southwest oriented New Fork River, which eventually joins the south oriented Green River. Green River Pass is a north to south oriented through valley linking the north and northwest oriented Trail Creek-Green River valley with the south oriented Pine Creek-New Fork River valley. The Green River Pass floor elevation is between 3150 and 3200 meters. Glover Peak to the west rises to 3678 meters and the peaks to the east rise much higher suggesting Green River Pass is as much as 478 meters deep. Green River Pass is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by a south oriented flood flow channel that diverged from the south oriented flood flow channel on the present day south oriented Green River alignment west of figure 3. The north and northwest oriented Green River headwaters route and north oriented Green River tributary routes were created when headward erosion of a much deeper south oriented valley on the present day south oriented Green River alignment beheaded the southeast and south oriented flood flow moving to Green River Pass and the actively eroding south oriented Pine Creek valley. Another north to south oriented through valley or pass can be seen between Sky Pilot Peak and Bow Mountain and links the north-northwest oriented Green River headwaters valley with south oriented Pine Creek tributary valleys. These two parallel through valleys originated as diverging and converging flood flow channels, which eroded deep valleys into the rising Wind River Range. Wind River Range uplift as floodwaters flowed across it contributed to the reversal of flood flow north of Green River Pass.

Detailed map of Green River-Pine Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Green River-Pine 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 Green River-Pine Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 40 feet. Green River Pass is located in section 30 (west half of figure 4). Trail Creek originates at Green River Pass and flows in a north direction to the north edge of figure 4 (west of center). North of figure 4 Trail Creek joins the north-northwest oriented Green River. Pine Creek also originates at Green River Pass and flows in a south direction to Summit Lake and then to the south edge of figure 4 (west half). South of figure 4 Pine Creek flows to the New Fork River, which then flows to the Green River. The Green River Pass floor elevation is shown as being 10,362 feet. Glover Peak to the northwest reaches 12,068 feet in elevation. Mount Oeneis to the east rises to 12,232 feet. These elevations suggest Green River Pass could be as much as 1700 feet deep. Cube Rock Pass is located in the northwest quadrant of section 28 and links Dale Lake with Peak Lake. The Green River originates at Dale Lake and then flows in a north-northwest direction to the north center edge of figure 4. North of figure 4 the Green River flows in a northwest direction before turning to flow in a south direction west of figure 4. The north-northwest oriented stream flowing from Peak Lake to Stonehammer Lake is a Green River tributary and is flowing in a segment of a north-northwest to south-southeast oriented through valley continuing south of Peak Lake across Shannon Pass. The Shannon Pass floor elevation is between 11,120 and 11,160 feet. Bow Mountain to the east rises to 13,020 feet suggesting Shannon Pass could be as much as 1100 feet deep. South of Shannon Pass are headwaters of two different south oriented tributaries to south oriented Pine Creek providing more evidence of what were once diverging and converging south oriented flood flow channels. The deep Green River Pass and Shannon Pass through valleys were eroded as south oriented flood flow crossed the rising Wind River Range. The reversal of flood flow north of the present day passes occurred when headward erosion of the much deeper south oriented Green River valley west of figure 4 beheaded the southeast and south oriented flood flow channel supplying floodwaters to the Green River Pass and Shannon Pass flood flow channels. Floodwaters on the north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to create the north oriented drainage routes. Wind River Range uplift as floodwaters flowed across it contributed to the flood flow reversal.

Grasshopper Creek-Pixley Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Grasshopper Creek-Pixley Creek drainage divide area north of figure 3 and there is an overlap area with figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 50 meters. The boundary line extending from the north edge of figure 5 (east of center) to the south edge of figure 5 (east of center) follows the Wind River Range crest and is the east-west continental divide. Dinwoody Creek originates at Dinwoody Glacier (on east side of continental divide near south edge of figure 5) and flows in a northeast and north-northeast direction to the east edge of figure 5 (north half). East of figure 5 Dinwoody Creek flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. North of Dinwoody Glacier is Grasshopper Glacier and Grasshopper Creek originates at the north end of Grasshopper Glacier (south of Yukon Peak and east of the continental divide). Grasshopper Creek flows in an east-northeast direction to join north and northeast oriented Dinwoody Creek near the east edge of figure 5 (north half). West of the continental divide the Green River flows in a north-northwest, northwest, and north-northwest direction from the south center edge of figure 5 to the northwest corner of figure 5. Several south oriented streams join the north-northwest oriented Green River as barbed tributaries and include southwest oriented Tourist and Pixley Creeks and southwest and south oriented Elbow Creek. These south oriented barbed tributaries are relics of south oriented flood flow channels that once converged with a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north-northwest oriented Green River alignment. Pixley Creek for example originates at Baker Lake (south of Yukon Peak and west of the Grasshopper Creek headwaters). A close look at the continental divide reveals a through valley or pass linking the east-northeast oriented Grasshopper Creek headwaters valley with the southwest oriented Pixley Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 3500 and 3550 meters. Elevations north and south of the through valley rise to more than 3850 meters suggesting the through valley or pass is approximately 300 meters deep. The pass or through valley is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by southwest oriented flood flow moving to what at that time was a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Green River alignment. The southwest oriented flood flow channel was beheaded by headward erosion of the much deeper southeast oriented Wind River valley (north and east of figure 5). Floodwaters on the northeast end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the east-northeast and northeast oriented Dinwoody Creek and Grasshopper Creek drainage routes. Wind River Range uplift, which was occurring as floodwaters flowed across the region, greatly aided in the flood flow capture and reversal events.

Detailed map of Grasshopper Creek-Pixley Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Grasshopper Creek-Pixley Creek 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 Grasshopper Creek-Pixley Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 40 feet. The labeled boundary line extending from near the north center edge of figure 6 to near the south center edge of figure 6 follows the east-west continental divide. Grasshopper Glacier is located east of continental divide in the south half of figure 6. Grasshopper Creek originates north of Grasshopper Glacier and flows in an east-northeast direction to the east edge of figure 6 (north of center). East of figure 6 Grasshopper Creek joins north and northeast oriented Dinwoody Creek to flow to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Baker Laker is located west of the Grasshopper Creek headwaters and south of Yukon Peak. Pixley Creek flows from Baker Laker in a southwest direction to the south edge of figure 6 (near southwest corner) and south and west of figure 6 joins the north-northwest oriented Green River as a barbed tributary. A deep through valley or pass in the northeast quadrant of section 22 links the Grasshopper Creek valley with the Pixley Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 11,760 and 11,800 feet. Yukon Peak to the north rises to 12,825 feet. In the southeast quadrant of section 22 the continental divides rise to 12,705 feet and south of figure 6 the continental divide elevations rise to 13,450 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley or pass is almost 1000 feet deep if not deeper. The entire region seen in figure 6 has been glaciated and remnants of those glaciers still exist today. The glaciers formed in pre-existing valleys and deepened and otherwise modified those flood-eroded valleys. However, the glaciers probably did not erode new valleys such as the through valley linking the Grasshopper Creek and Pixley Creek valleys. The through valley is most likely a water-eroded valley and was probably eroded by southwest oriented flood flow moving to a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Green River alignment. The southwest oriented flood flow channel was beheaded by headward of the much deeper southeast oriented Wind River valley and its northeast oriented Dinwoody Creek valley. Floodwaters on the east-northeast end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the east-northeast Grasshopper Creek drainage route. The flood flow reversal took place as ice sheet related crustal warping was raising the Wind River Range and Wind River Range uplift probably greatly aided in the flood flow capture and reversal process. Glaciation in the Wind River Range itself did not occur until after all flood flow across the region had ended and until after the Wind River Range had emerged as a high mountain range.

West Torrey Creek-East Torrey Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 7 illustrates the West Torrey Creek-East Torrey 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 7 is 50 meters. Three Waters Mountain is located in the northwest quadrant of figure 7. The east-west continental divide extends from the north edge of figure 7 (west half) to Three Waters Mountain and then in an east and south direction (along the orange line) to the south edge of figure 7 (slightly west of center). The northwest oriented stream flowing to the northwest corner of figure 7 flows to the Gros Ventre River with water then flowing to the Snake and Columbia Rivers and the Pacific Ocean. Areas south of Three Waters Mountain and west of the continental divide drain to the Green River with water then flowing to the Colorado River and Pacific Ocean. Native Lake is located south of Three Waters Mountain and Roaring Fork flows in a west-northwest direction from Native Lake. West of figure 7 Roaring Fork joins the northwest oriented Green River near the point where the Green River turns to flow in a south direction. South of Native Lake is Clear Lake and Clear Creek flows in a southwest direction from Clear Lake to join the north-northwest oriented Green River (west of figure 7) as a barbed tributary. A trail extends in a south direction from Native Lake and makes use of a through valley or pass linking the Native Lake basin with the southwest oriented Clear Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 3350 and 3400 meters. Elevations to the west rise to more than 3600 meters and elevations to the east rise much higher suggesting the through valley is at least 200 meters deep. East of the continental divide water flows to the Wind River and eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. East Torrey Creek is the northeast and north oriented stream originating near Spider Mountain and flowing north of Goat Flat and west of Arrow Mountain to the north edge of figure 7 (east half). West Torrey Creek flows in a north direction to Ross Lake and then in a northeast direction to join East Torrey Creek north of figure 7. North of figure 7 Torrey Creek flows in a northeast and northwest direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River. Dinwoody Creek flows in a north and northeast direction across the southeast corner of figure 7. A north to south oriented through valley between Goat Flat and Arrow Mountain links the north oriented East Torrey Creek valley with a southeast oriented valley draining to the north and northeast oriented Dinwoody Creek valley as a barbed tributary. The floor elevation of this through valley is between 3300 and 3350 meters. Elevations on either side rise to more than 3565 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 200 meters deep. A deep north to south oriented through valley links the Ross Lake basin with northeast oriented East Torrey Creek valley and has a floor elevation of between 3250 and 3300 meters. Elevations on either side (Spider Peak and Torrey Peak) rise to more than 3700 meters suggesting the through valley is at least 400 meters deep. These north to south oriented through valleys on both sides of the present day continental divide provide evidence of former south oriented flood flow routes as flood flow crossed the region. A south oriented flood flow channel that was subsequently captured by headward erosion of deeper valleys eroded each of the described through valleys. North oriented drainage routes were formed when floodwaters on  north ends of beheaded flood flow routes reversed flow direction. The flood flow reversals and flood capture events were aided by Wind River Range uplift that occurred as floodwaters crossed the region.

Detailed map of West Torrey Creek-East Torrey Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of West Torrey Creek-East Torrey 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 West Torrey Creek-East Torrey Creek drainage divide seen in less detail in figure 7. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 40 feet. The east-west continental divide crosses the southwest corner of figure 8. West Torrey Creek originates near the west edge of the northwest quadrant of figure 8 and flows in a southeast direction to Mile Long Lake. East of Mile Long Lake West Torrey Creek turns to flow in a north direction to Upper Ross Lake (straddling the north center edge of figure 8). North of figure 8 West Torrey Creek flows in a north and northeast direction to join East Torrey Creek and to form northeast and northwest oriented Torrey Creek, which flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. East Torrey Creek originates in section 25 near the south center edge of figure 8 (and south of Spider Mountain) and flows in a northeast direction to Bomber Lake. East Torrey Creek then flows in an east and north direction from Bomber Lake to the northeast corner of figure 8. North of figure 8 East Torrey Creek joins West Torrey Creek to form northeast and northwest oriented Torrey Creek. A through valley in section 24 links the north oriented West Torrey Creek valley and the southeast oriented West Torrey Creek valley with the east and north oriented East Torrey Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 10,680 and 10,720 feet. Torrey Peak to the northeast reaches an elevation of 12,181 feet and Spider Mountain to the southwest reaches an elevation of 12,068 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley is as much as 1300 feet deep. The West Torrey Creek elbow of capture was probably formed by a southeast oriented flood flow channel that originally converged with a south oriented flood flow channel that originally continued south of figure 8 across Goat Flat to the Dinwoody Creek valley. South oriented flood flow channels in this region were beheaded and reversed in sequence from east to west and from south to north, whether it was by headward erosion of the southeast oriented Wind River valley or by headward erosion of the northeast oriented Torrey Creek valley (both of which are north of figure 8). Headward erosion of the deeper east oriented East Torrey Creek valley from a newly reversed flood flow channel on the present day north oriented East Torrey Creek alignment captured the south oriented flood flow channel west of Bomber Lake. South oriented floodwaters on the present day north oriented West Torrey Creek alignment then made a U-turn in sections 24 and 19 to flow in a north direction on the newly reversed East Torrey Creek alignment. Headward erosion of the northeast oriented West Torrey Creek valley (from the northeast oriented Torrey Creek valley) north of figure 8 next beheaded and reversed flood flow on the present day north oriented West Torrey Creek alignment. The reversed flood flow captured the southeast oriented flood flow on the present day southeast oriented West Torrey Creek alignment and created the West Torrey CReek elbow of capture and the West Torrey Creek-East Torrey Creek drainage divide. After flood flow across the region had ended and after the Wind River Range had emerged as a high mountain range glaciers filled valleys seen in figure 8. The glaciers deepened and otherwise altered the flood-eroded valleys, although the glaciers probably did not carve new valleys.

Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork drainage divide area

Figure 9: Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 9 illustrates the Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork drainage divide area west and somewhat north of figure 7 and there is an overlap area with figure 7. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 50 meters. The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled dashed line extending from the north edge of figure 9 (slightly west of center) to the south edge of figure 9 (east half). Areas east of the continental divide drain to the Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. A dashed line along Pinon Ridge extends from the west edge of figure 9 (near center) to the continental divide (north of Three Waters Mountain) and indicates the drainage divide between the Gros Ventre River drainage basin to the north and the Green River drainage basin to the south. The Gros Ventre River flows to the Snake River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. The Green River flows to the Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Green River flows in a northwest direction across the southwest corner of figure 9 and west of figure 9 turns to flow in a south direction to the Colorado River. Native Lake is located north of the south center edge of figure 9 and south of Three Waters Mountain. Roaring Fork flows in a west, southwest, west-northwest, west, and west-southwest direction from east of the Native Lake area to join the Green River near the west edge of figure 9. East of Three Waters Mountain is Square Top Mountain and between Square Top Mountain and Three Waters Mountain are headwaters of north and north-northeast oriented Jakeys Fork. North of figure 9 Jakeys Fork turns to flow in a northeast direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River. A north to south oriented through valley links the north oriented Jakeys Fork headwaters valley with the southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley segment near Native Lake. The through valley floor elevation is between 3300 and 3350 meters. Three Waters Mountain to the west reaches an elevation of 3559 meters and Shale Mountain to the east reaches an elevation of more than 3750 meters. These elevations suggest the through valley is more than 200 meters deep. South of Native Lake is the through valley linking Native Lake with southwest oriented Clear Creek, which flows to the north-northwest oriented Green River as a barbed tributary (see figure 7 and the figure 7 discussion). The Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork through valley was eroded by a south oriented flood flow channel moving floodwaters to a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north-northwest oriented Green River alignment south of figure 9. The west-southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley probably originated as an east-southeast oriented flood flow channel converging with this south oriented Jakeys Fork-Clear Creek-Green River flood flow channel. Headward erosion of the much deeper south oriented Green River valley west of figure 9 beheaded a southeast oriented flood flow channel supplying floodwaters to the south oriented Green River-Pine Creek flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the north-northwest and northwest oriented Green River headwaters drainage route, which captured the southwest oriented Clear Creek flood flow channel and which beheaded and reversed the east-southeast oriented flood flow channel on the Roaring Fork alignment. South oriented flood flow to the newly reversed Roaring Fork valley was next beheaded by headward erosion of the southeast oriented Wind River valley and its northeast oriented Jakeys Fork tributary valley (north of figure 9) to create the north oriented Jakeys Fork drainage route seen in figure 9. Wind River Range uplift, which occurred as floodwaters flowed across the region, probably greatly aided in the flood flow capture and reversal events. After flood flow had ended and after the Wind River Range had emerged as a high mountain range glaciers deepened and otherwise modified many of the valleys seen in figure 9, but probably did not erode new valleys.

Detailed map Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork drainage divide area

Figure 10: Detailed map of Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork 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 Jakeys Fork-Roaring Fork drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 9. The map contour interval for figure 10 is 40 feet. The east-west continental divide extends from the north edge of figure 10 (west half) in a south-southeast direction along the crest of Three Waters Mountain and then turns in an east and east-northeast direction to the top of Shale Mountain before turning in a south direction to the south edge of figure 10 (east half). Jakeys Fork originates in the northeast corner of section 12 and flows in a north direction to Sandra Lake and then in a north and north-northeast direction to the north center edge of figure 10. North of figure 10 Jakeys Fork flows in a north and then northeast direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Roaring Fork is the major stream south and west of the continental divide and originates in section 16 in the southeast quadrant of figure 10. East of the Roaring Fork headwaters is a through valley across the continental divide and on the other side of the through valley is the southeast oriented West Torrey Creek headwaters valley seen in figures 7 and 8. From section 16 Roaring Fork flows in a west, west-northwest, southwest, and west-northwest direction to the east edge of figure 10 (south half) and east of figure 10 joins the northwest and south oriented Green River with water eventually reaching the Colorado River and Pacific Ocean. Native Lake is located south of the southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley segment and is linked south of figure 10 by a through valley with the southwest oriented Clear Creek valley, which drains to the north-northwest oriented Green River valley as a barbed tributary. A north to south oriented through valley in the northeast quadrant of section 12 links the north oriented Jackeys Fork valley with southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley segment. The through valley or pass floor elevation is between 10,960 and 11,000 feet. Three Waters Mountain in section 1 to the northwest rises to 11,675 feet and Shale Mountain to the east rises to 12,262 feet. These elevations suggest the through valley or pass is at least 675 feet deep. Study of the continental divide in section 7 reveals the through valley is much broader than the narrow channel seen in northeast quadrant of section 12 and is more than one mile in width, although the depth varies from place to place. The through valley was eroded by south oriented flood flow prior to headward erosion of the much deeper southeast oriented Wind River valley and its northeast oriented Jakeys Fork tributary valley, which beheaded the south oriented flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Jakeys Fork headwaters drainage route. After flood flow across the region had ended and after the Wind River Range had emerged as a high mountain range glaciation deepened and otherwise modified many of these valleys. However, the glaciation probably did not change valley orientations or erode new valleys.

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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