Wind River-Gros Ventre 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 Wind River and Fish Creek (which is a the Gros Ventre River tributary) along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range. The Gros Ventre River is a northwest and southwest oriented tributary to the Snake River, which flows to the Columbia River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. Fish Creek is a Gros Ventre River tributary formed at the confluence of its south-southwest oriented North Fork and its northwest oriented South Fork. North of Fish Creek are headwaters of the southeast oriented Wind River, which flows along the Wind River Range northeast flank to the Wind River Basin where it turns to flow in a north direction to become the north oriented Bighorn River in the Bighorn Basin. Southeast and northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek, which flows to the Wind River, is located between northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek and the southeast oriented Wind River. South of the South Fork Fish Creek headwaters are northwest and south oriented Green River headwaters with the Green River flowing to the Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. Through valleys link the Warm Spring Creek headwaters valley with the valley of a west and northwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek tributary, north oriented Warm Springs Creek tributary valleys with south oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributary valleys, and the northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek valley with a north oriented Wind River tributary valley, which is also linked by through valleys with the south oriented Green River valley. These through valleys and related barbed tributaries and elbows of capture are interpreted in the context of immense south and southeast oriented melt water floods that once flowed across the region. Floodwaters were derived from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet and flowed from western Canada to and across the region at a time when the regional mountain ranges were emerging. Mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters deeply eroded surrounding basins and valleys and as ice sheet related crustal warping raised the mountain ranges. Headward erosion of deep valleys from different directions into the region beheaded south and southeast oriented flood flow channels. Floodwaters on north and northwest ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow to the much deeper beheading valley and to create north and northwest drainage routes. These flood flow captures and the resulting flow reversal events were greatly aided by Wind River Range uplift that was occurring as floodwaters flowed across the region.

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-Gros Ventre 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-Gros Ventre 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-Gros Ventre River drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: Wind River-Gros Ventre 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-Gros Ventre 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 near the west edge 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 to Riverton in the Wind River Basin. At Riverton the Wind River turns to flow in a northeast and north direction to near Thermopolis in the Bighorn Basin. Once in the Bighorn Basin the Wind River name changes to become the Bighorn River, which flows in a north direction to the northeast corner of figure 1. North of figure 1 the Bighorn River flows in a north and north-northeast direction into Montana where it joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The Snake River flows in a south direction from Grand Teton National Park to the north end of the Wyoming Range and then makes a U-turn at Alpine to flow in a northwest direction as it enters Idaho. West of figure 1 the Snake River eventually reaches the Columbia River, which flows to the Pacific Ocean. The Gros Ventre River originates in the Gros Ventre Range (south and east from Grand Teton National Park) and flows in an east, northwest, and southwest direction to join the Snake River near the south edge of Grand Teton National Park. Fish Creek is a west, northwest, and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River tributary originating near Union Pass, which is located near the northwest end of the Wind River Range. The Green River is a northwest and south oriented river located south of the Fish Creek headwaters and flows to the south edge of figure 1 near Big Piney. South of figure 1 the Green River flows to the Colorado River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Wind River-Gos Ventre River drainage divide area along the continental divide investigated in this essay is located south and west of the Wind River segment and north of Fish Creek.

Western Wyoming drainage routes developed during immense melt water floods from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet that at least initially flowed in a south direction from western Canada across Montana and western Wyoming to the actively eroding Colorado River valley and tributary valleys south of figure 1. At first Montana and Wyoming mountain ranges had not emerged and floodwaters could flow across what are today high mountain barriers. Mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters deeply eroded 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. South oriented flood flow channels eroded headward on both sides of the Salt River Range and then northward into the Grand National Park area along the present day south oriented Snake River alignment and also into Idaho on the present day northwest oriented Snake River alignment. The Gros Ventre River drainage route evolved as a southwest oriented valley, which eroded headward from the actively eroding south oriented Snake River valley to capture south and southeast oriented flood flow channels east of the actively eroding Snake River valley. The northwest oriented Gros Ventre River segment and northwest oriented Fish Creek routes were formed by reversals of flood flow on the northwest ends of beheaded southeast oriented flood flow channels. Headward erosion of a much deeper southwest oriented valley on the southwest oriented Snake River alignment west of figure 1 captured the southeast oriented flood flow on the present day northwest oriented Snake River alignment. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow in a northwest direction. This newly formed northwest oriented drainage route then captured the south oriented flood flow channel on the present day south oriented Snake River alignment. At the same time floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded flood flow channels on the both sides of the Salt River Range reversed flow direction to create the north oriented Greys River and Salt River drainage routes. Ice sheet related crustal warping that was raising the Salt River and Wyoming Ranges and regions further to south greatly aided in these flood flow capture and reversal events.

Further east the deep Green River and tributary valleys eroded headward along south oriented flood flow channels that were crossing the emerging Wind River Range and deeply eroded the region between the emerging Wyoming and Wind River Ranges. East of the emerging Wind River Range a major south oriented flood flow channel eroded headward from south of figure 1 on the alignment of the present day north oriented Wind and Bighorn Rivers. The south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented Wind River-Bighorn River alignment was beheaded in Montana by headward erosion of the much deeper northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley. The Yellowstone River valley was eroding headward from space at the south end of the deep “hole” the melting ice sheet was opening up and which at first being drained in a south direction across eastern Nebraska. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow in a north direction to the much deeper northeast oriented Yellowstone River valley and to create the north oriented Wind-Bighorn River drainage route. Tributary valleys, including he southeast oriented Wind River valley, then eroded headward from the reversed Wind-Bighorn River flood flow channel to capture south and southeast oriented flood flow west of the newly reversed flood flow channel. Headward erosion of the southeast and north oriented Wind River valley and tributary valleys deeply eroded the Wind River Basin and the region between the emerging Wind River Range and the emerging Owl Creek Mountains and also beheaded south oriented flood flow routes crossing the emerging Wind River Range. Subsequently headward erosion of Bighorn River tributary valleys further to the north and of the deep Yellowstone River valley in Montana beheaded and reversed all flood flow routes to the Wind River headwaters area and some of the south oriented flood flow routes to the south oriented Snake River headwaters area (north of figure 1).

Detailed location map for Wind River-Gros Ventre River drainage divide area

Figure 2: Detailed location map Wind River-Gros Ventre 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 Wind River-Gros Ventre River drainage divide area along the continental divide in the Wyoming Wind River Range. Green colored areas are National Forest lands. The east-west continental divide is shown with a dashed line extending from the north edge of figure 2 (west of center) to Union Pass (near center of figure 2) and then to the south edge of figure 2 (east half). Union Peak is located on the continental divide south and east from Union Pass. The Wind River flows from the north edge of figure 2 (just east of the continental divide) in a southeast direction to Dubois and then to the east edge of figure 2 (south of center). East of figure 2 the Wind River flows in a southeast and north direction to become the north oriented Bighorn River, which eventually joins the northeast oriented Yellowstone River with water reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Warm Springs Creek is an east oriented Wind River tributary located north of Union Pass and the South Fork is a north-northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek tributary. East of Union Peak Jakeys Fork flows in a north-northeast and northeast direction to join the Wind River. The north-northeast oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek and Jakeys Fork drainage routes were created by reversal of flood flow on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels. The Green River flows in a north-northwest direction from the south edge of figure 2 (east of center) to Green River Lakes and then to north of Little Sheep Mountain where it turns to flow in a south direction to the south edge of figure 2 (slightly west of center). South of figure 2 the Green River flows to the southeast oriented 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. The Gros Ventre River flows in a northwest direction to the west edge of figure 2 (north half). West of figure 2 the Gros Ventre River turns to flow in a southwest direction to join the south and northwest oriented Snake River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Major tributaries of interest in this essay are the south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek and its northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributary. The South Fork Fish Creek originates south of Union Peak and flows in a northwest direction to join the southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek, which then flows to the northwest oriented Gros Ventre River. Note south oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributaries west of Union Peak. Northwest oriented Gros Ventre River, South Fork Fish Creek, and other drainage routes seen in figure 2 were created by reversals of flood flow reversals on northwest ends of southeast oriented flood flow channels that were beheaded by headward erosion of the much deeper valleys.

North Fork Fish Creek-Sheridan Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: North Fork Fish Creek-Sheridan Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 3 provides a topographic map of North Fork Fish Creek-Sheridan Creek drainage divide area. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 50 meters. The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled dashed line extending from the north center edge of figure 3 to the south center edge of figure 3. The Wind River flows in a south-southeast and southeast direction from the north edge of figure 3 (near highway) to the east edge of figure 3 (near highway). East of figure 3 the Wind River flows in a southeast and north direction to become the north oriented Bighorn River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Sheridan Pass is located on the continental divide near the center of figure 3. Sheridan Creek originates near the continental divide north of Sheridan Pass and flows in a southeast and east-northeast direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River. Warm Springs Creek originates near the continental divide south of Sheridan Pass and flows in a northeast, southeast, and east direction to the east edge of figure 3 (south half). East of figure 3 Warm Springs Creek joins the Wind River. On the west side of the continental divide the North Fork Fish Creek flows in a south-southwest and southwest direction from near the north edge of figure 3 to near the southwest corner of figure 3. South and west of figure 3 Fish Creek joins the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River to flow to the south and northwest oriented Snake River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Squaw Creek is the west-northwest and northwest oriented stream originating near Sheridan Pass and joining southwest oriented Papoose Creek just before Papoose Creek joins south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek. Sheridan Pass is a through valley linking the west and northwest oriented Squaw Creek valley with the southeast oriented Sheridan Creek and WArm Springs Creek valleys. The Sheridan Pass floor elevation is between 2800 meters and 2850 meters. Elevations along the continental divide to the south rise to at least 3000 meters and elevations on Lava Mountain to the north rise to more than 3100 meters. These elevations suggest Sheridan Pass is at least 150 meters deep. Sheridan Pass was probably initially eroded by southeast oriented flood flow although flood flow across the pass may have been reversed with water moving in a south-southeast and west direction after the reversal of flood flow on the Squaw Creek alignment. Headward erosion of the much deeper south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek valley beheaded the initial southeast oriented flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to create the deeper west-northwest and northwest oriented Squaw Creek drainage route. The south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek valley was probably eroding headward from a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented Gros Ventre River alignment (south of figure 3). Headward erosion of a much deeper southwest oriented valley from the south oriented Snake River alignment (west of figure 3) beheaded the southeast oriented flood flow channel and floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow in a northwest direction to the much deeper southwest oriented valley and to create the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River drainage route.

Detailed map of Sheridan Creek-Squaw Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Sheridan Creek-Squaw 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 Sheridan Creek-Squaw Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 40 feet. The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled line extending from the north edge of figure 4 (west of center) to the south edge of figure 4 (west half). Sheridan Pass is located on the continental divide in the northeast corner of section 10. The Sheridan Pass elevation is shown as being 9245 feet. Continental divide elevations in section 16 to the southwest of Sheridan Pass rise to 9808 feet and to the northeast elevations rise to more than 9600 feet. These elevations suggest Sheridan Pass is at least 355 feet deep. Squaw Creek is the west, northwest, and west oriented stream originating near Sheridan Pass and west of figure 4 flows to south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek, which then flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. The south-southeast, east-southeast, and east oriented stream north of Sheridan Pass is Sheridan Creek, which east of figure 4 flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The northeast and east-southeast oriented stream in the southeast quadrant of figure 4 is Warm Springs Creek. East of figure 4 Warm Springs Creek flows to the Wind River. Sheridan Pass is a water-eroded valley crossing the present day continental divide and was probably initially eroded by southeast oriented flood flow moving to the east-southeast oriented Warm Spring Creek valley. Headward erosion of the much deeper south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek valley west of figure 4 beheaded the southeast oriented flood flow channel. Floodwaters on the northwest end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow to the deeper North Fork Fish Creek valley. The reversed flood flow eroded a deeper west and northwest oriented valley on the Squaw Creek alignment, which captured flood flow from the south-southeast oriented Sheridan Creek headwaters alignment, although some of the south-southeast oriented flood flow moved in an east-southeast direction on the present day Sheridan Creek alignment. Probably some flood flow from east of the present day continental divide at that time flowed in a west and northwest direction to North Fork Fish Creek valley and eroded the deeper Squaw Creek valley seen in figure 4. Headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented Wind River valley (east and north of figure 4) and of the northeast oriented Sheridan Creek valley from the actively eroding southeast oriented valley next captured the west oriented flood flow and diverted the floodwaters to the newly eroded Wind River valley and ended flood flow through Sheridan Pass.

Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area

Figure 5: Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 5 illustrates the Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area south and east of figure 3 and there is an overlap area with figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 50 meters. The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled dashed line extending from the northwest quadrant of figure 5 to the south center edge of figure 5 and then looping back north around Lake of the Woods in the southeast quadrant of figure 5. Warm Springs Creek originates near the continental divide in the northwest quadrant of figure 5 and then flows in a northeast and southeast direction to the east center edge of figure 5. East of figure 5 Warm Springs Creek turns in a northeast direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River. Fish Lake Mountain is located near the center of figure 5. Fish Lake Creek originates west of Fish Lake Mountain at Fish Lake and flows in a north direction to join Warm Springs Creek. The north-northwest and northwest oriented stream flowing from the south edge of figure 5 (west half) to the west edge of figure 5 (south of center) is the South Fork Fish Creek, which west of figure 5 joins the south-southwest oriented North Fork Fish Creek to form Fish Creek, which then flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River. The south oriented stream (south of the continental divide) south of Fish Lake and flowing to northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek is Leeds Creek. Leeds Creek has a southeast oriented headwaters route paralleling the continental divide. Leeds Creek joins northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek as a barbed tributary providing evidence of a reversal of flow in the South Fork Fish Creek valley. A north to south oriented through valley or pass links the north oriented Fish Lake Creek valley with the south oriented Leeds Creek valley. The through valley appears to be defined by at least three contour lines on each side suggesting it is approximately 150 meters deep. The through valley was eroded by south oriented flood flow moving to a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek alignment. At that time the Warm Springs Creek valley and the Wind River valley (north of figure 5) did not exist and elevations north of the through valley were at least as high the through valley floor. Headward erosion of the southeast oriented Warm Spring Creek valley beheaded the south oriented flood flow channel and floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow to the deeper Warm Springs Creek valley. This reversal of flood flow created the north oriented Fish Lake Creek drainage route and the Fish Lake Creek-Leeds Creek drainage divide.

Detailed map of Fish Lake Creek-Leeds Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Fish Lake Creek-Leeds 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 Fish Lake Creek-Leeds Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 40 feet. The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled line extending from the west edge of figure 6 (near northwest corner) to the south edge of figure 6 (near southeast corner). Areas north and east of the continental divide drain to Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. South and west of the continental divide streams drain to the Gros Ventre River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Fish Lake is located in section 31 and Fish Lake Creek flows in a north direction from Fish Lake to the north center edge of figure 6. North of figure 6 Fish Lake Creek flows to east-southeast and northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek, which flows to the southeast oriented Wind River. Leeds Creek flows in a southeast direction from the west edge of figure 6 (just south of the continental divide) into section 6 where it turns to flow in a south direction to the south center edge of figure 6. South of figure 6 Leeds Creek flows to the northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek, which flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River. A north to south oriented through valley links the north oriented Fish Lake Creek valley with the south oriented Leeds Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 9360 and 9400 feet. Fish Lake Mountain to the east (in section 5) rises to 10,073 feet. Elevations in section 36 to the west rise to more than 9760 feet and higher elevations are found west of figure 6. These elevations suggest the through valley is at least 360 feet deep. The through valley is a water-eroded valley and was eroded by south oriented flood flow moving to a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented South Fish Creek alignment (south of figure 6). Headward erosion of the deeper east-southeast oriented Warm Springs Creek valley north of figure 6 captured the south oriented flood flow and floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow in a north direction to the deeper Warm Springs Creek valley and to create the north oriented Fish Lake Creek drainage route. Wind River Range uplift, which was occurring as floodwaters flowed across the region, probably greatly aided the flood flow capture and reversal process.

South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area

Figure 7: South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 7 illustrates the South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area south and slightly east of figure 5 and includes an overlap area with figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 7 is 50 meters. Lake of the Woods is located slightly east of the center of figure 7. The east-west continental divide extends in a south direction from the north edge of figure 7 (slightly west of center) to near the center of figure 7 and then in a northeast and east-southeast direction on the north side of Lake of the Woods to the east edge of figure 7 (south of center). The South Fork Fish Creek flows in a northwest direction from the south edge of figure 7 (near southeast corner) to the west edge of figure 7 (near northwest corner).North and west of figure 7 Fish Creek flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. Leeds Creek flows from the north edge of figure 7 (west half) in a south and southwest direction to join the northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek as a barbed tributary (in northwest quadrant of figure 7). The South Fork Warm Springs Creek flows in a west and west-northwest direction from the east center edge of figure 7 to north of Lake of the Woods and then turns to flow in a north and northeast direction to join southeast and northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek (north of figure 7), which flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Salt Creek is the northeast oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek tributary west of Lake of the Woods. A north to south oriented through valley links the north oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek valley with the Fish Creek Park area and the northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek valley and consists of two separate valleys on the east and west sides of Lake of the Woods. On the east side of Lake of the Woods Union Pass links the northwest oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek valley with an unnamed southwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributary valley. West of Lake of the Woods the northeast oriented Salt Creek valley is linked by a through valley with a south oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributary valley. The through valley floor elevations are between 2750 and 2800 meters. Continental divide elevations west of the through valleys rise to more than 2900 meters and to the east of the through valleys elevations rise to more than 3000 meters. These elevations suggest the through valleys are more than 100 meters deep. The through valleys were eroded by south oriented flood flow probably initially moving to a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek alignment. Flood flow on the South Fork Fish Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the southwest oriented Gros Ventre River valley segment (north and west of figure 7) and by crustal warping that was raising the Wind River Range to the southeast. South oriented flood flow on the present day north oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the southeast and northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek valley (north of figure 7), which eroded headward from the actively eroding southeast oriented Wind River valley head.

Detailed map of South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish 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 South Fork Warm Springs Creek-South Fork Fish Creek drainage divide at Union Pass seen in less detail in figure 7 above. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 40 feet. Lake of the Woods is located in the southeast quadrant of section 26 (west half of figure 8). The east-west continental divide is shown with a labeled line extending from the west edge of figure 8 (south half) in a northeast and southeast direction around Lake of the Woods to the east edge of figure 8 (south half). The South Fork Warm Springs Creek flows in a northwest and southwest direction from the east edge of figure 8 (north of center) to near Union Pass (near center of figure 8) and then in a northwest direction to the north edge of figure 8. North of figure 8 the South Fork Warm Springs Creek flows in a north and northeast direction to join southeast and northeast oriented Warm Springs Creek, which then flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Grass Creek is the south and south-southwest oriented tributary joining the South Fork Warm Springs Creek in section 25 (north of Union Pass). The south-southwest and west-southwest oriented stream originating in section 36 (south of Union Pass) and flowing to near the southwest corner of figure 8 is a tributary to northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek, which flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River with water eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean.  Union Pass is a north to south oriented through valley linking the south oriented Grass Creek valley and northwest oriented South Fork Warm Springs Creek valley segment with the south-southwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek tributary valley. The Union Pass elevation is shown as being 9210 feet. Continental divide elevations slightly east of figure 8 rise to 10,494 feet. Elevations north of Lake of the Woods rise to 9332 feet. West of figure 8 another north to south oriented through valley has a floor elevation of 9097 feet and further west and north continental divide elevations rise to 9674 feet. These elevations suggest Union Pass is at least 450 feet deep and the through valley west of figure 8 is more than 550 feet deep. These elevations also suggest the Lake of the Woods area is a broad north to south oriented through valley with Union Pass and the unnamed pass to west of figure 8 being deeper channels eroded into the floor of the broader through valley. These channels could be considered diverging and converging flood flow channels such as are found in anastomosing channel complexes.

South Fork Fish Creek-Jakeys Fork drainage divide area

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

Figure 9 illustrates the South Fork Fish Creek-Jakeys Fork drainage divide area east and somewhat south 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 line extending from the northwest corner of figure 9 around Lake of the Woods (in northwest quadrant of figure 9) and then in southeast and south direction to Three Waters Mountain (in southeast quadrant of figure 9) before turning in a northeast direction to Shale Mountain where it turns in south direction to the south edge of figure 9 (east half). The South Fork Fish Creek originates north and west of Three Waters Mountain and flows in a northwest direction to Fish Creek Park and then in a northwest direction to the west edge of figure 9 (north half). West and north of figure 9 Fish Creek flows to the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River with water eventually reaching the Columbia River and then 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 eventually join the Colorado River with water ultimately reaching the Pacific Ocean. Roaring Fork is the west oriented Green River tributary near the south edge of figure 9. Jakeys Fork originates east of Three Waters Mountain and flows in a north direction through Simpson Lake before turning in a north-northeast and east-northeast direction to flow to the east edge of figure 9 (near northeast corner). North and east of figure 9 Jakeys Fork flows to the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and then the Gulf of Mexico. Three Water Mountain is located on a triple drainage divide with water flowing in three different directions to the Mississippi, Columbia, and Colorado River drainage basins. A close look at the drainage divides between these three different drainage basins reveals through valleys or passes linking valleys in one drainage basin with valleys in the adjacent drainage basins. For example, Granite Lake is located just west of the continental divide and north of Three Waters Mountain. A northwest South Fork Fish Creek tributary drains Granite Lake. Yet, Granite Lake is also linked by a northwest to southeast oriented through valley with the north oriented Jakeys Fork valley. South of the Jakeys Fork headwaters is a through valley linking the north oriented Jakeys Fork valley with a southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley segment. While not seen in figure 9 that southwest oriented Roaring Fork valley segment is linked by a through valley with a southwest oriented tributary to the north-northwest oriented Green River headwaters valley (south of figure 9). And further south the north-northwest Green River headwaters valley is linked by a through valley with a south oriented tributary valley draining to the south oriented Green River. In other words the through valley can be traced from the northwest oriented Gos Ventre River valley in a southeast direction across the Jakeys Fork headwaters valley to south oriented Green River tributary valleys south of figure 9. The through valley was formed as a southeast and south oriented flood flow channel, but was beheaded and reversed in segments to create the north-northwest oriented Green River headwaters valley, the north oriented Jakeys Fork headwaters valley, and the northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek and Gros Ventre River valleys. Southeast and south-southeast oriented flood flow on the present day north-northwest and northwest Green River alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the much deeper south oriented Green River valley west of figure 9. South oriented flood flow on the Jakeys Fork alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the much deeper southeast oriented Wind River valley and its northeast oriented Jakeys Fork tributary valley. Southeast oriented flood flow on the present day northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the much deeper southwest oriented Gros Ventre River valley (west of figure 9).

Detailed map of South Fork Fish Creek-Jakeys Fork drainage divide area

Figure 10: Detailed map of South Fork Fish Creek-Jakeys 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 South Fork Fish Creek-Jakeys 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 is shown with the labeled red line extending from the north edge of figure 10 (slightly west of center) to Three Waters Mountain at the south edge of figure 10 (west of center). Jakeys Fork is the north-northeast oriented stream flowing through Simpson Lake east of the continental divide and north of figure 10 turns to flow in a northeast direction to join the southeast oriented Wind River with water eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The South Fork Fish Creek originates in a small lake near the north edge of the northwest quadrant of section 34 (west of Three Waters Mountain) and flows in a northwest direction into section 28 and then to the west edge of figure 10 (south half). West of figure 10 the South Fork Fish Creek flows in a northwest direction to eventually join the northwest and southwest oriented Gros Ventre River with water ultimately reaching the Pacific Ocean. Granite Lake is just west of the corner of sections 23, 24, 25, and 26 (north of Three Waters Mountain) and is drained by a northwest oriented outlet stream flowing to the west edge of figure 10 (north half) and which west of figure 10 joins northwest oriented South Fork Fish Creek. East of Granite Lake there is a northwest to southeast oriented through valley linking the northwest oriented Granite Lake outlet stream valley with the north-northeast oriented Jakeys Fork valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 10,480 and 10,520 feet. Three Waters Mountain in section 26 rises to 11,507 feet. Elevations along the continental divide near the north edge of figure 10 rise to more than 10,640 feet. These elevations suggest the Granite Lake-Jakeys Fork through valley is approximately 1000 feet deep. Another somewhat shallower through valley is located in the northwest quadrant of section 26 and links the northwest oriented Granite Lake outlet stream valley with the Marion Lake basin. These through valleys are water-eroded valleys and were eroded by southeast oriented flood flow moving to the present day north oriented Jakeys Fork valley. The southeast oriented flood flow was beheaded and reversed by headward erosion of the southwest oriented Gros Ventre River valley segment west of the figure 10. Wind River Range uplift probably greatly aided in the flood flow reversal process. The Wind River Range uplift occurred as floodwaters were flowing across the region and was probably related to the presence of the immense ice sheet further to the north and east on the North American continent surface.

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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