North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the Laramie Mountains, USA

Authors

 

Abstract:

This essay uses topographic map evidence to interpret landform origins in the North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Laramie Mountains. The North Platte River flows in a north, north-northeast, northeast, east, south, and southeast direction around the northwest end of the southeast and south oriented Laramie Mountains. Bates Creek is a northwest oriented North Platte River tributary flowing along the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains. Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek are streams originating on the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains and flow in north and north-northeast directions from near the Bates Creek headwaters area through deep valleys across the Laramie Mountains to reach the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains. Muddy Creek is a north-northeast oriented stream west of Box Elder and Deer Creeks flowing from the Laramie Mountains to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains and is linked by through valleys with southwest oriented Bates Creek tributaries. Barbed tributaries, through valleys or wind gaps, water gaps, and valley orientations are interpreted in the context of immense melt water floods from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet. Floodwaters flowed from western Canada to and across Wyoming at a time when the Laramie Mountains were emerging. At first floodwaters flowed in south directions across the emerging Laramie Mountains. The deep southeast oriented North Platte River valley eroded headward on the east and northeast side of the emerging Laramie Mountains while flood flow eroded south and southeast oriented flood flow channels west of the emerging mountains. Headward erosion of the deep northeast oriented Laramie River valley and tributary valleys from the deep southeast oriented North Platte River valley first captured southeast oriented flood flow moving along the southwest side of the emerging Laramie Mountains. Headward erosion of the much deeper southeast oriented North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains then beheaded south oriented flood flow channels in sequence from east to west. Floodwaters on north ends of beheaded flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow to the much deeper southeast oriented North Platte River valley and to create north and north-northeast drainage routes, which captured the southeast oriented flood flow moving along the southwest of the Laramie Mountains to the Laramie River and tributary valleys. Headward erosion of the much deeper North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains eventually beheaded and reversed flood flow channels west of the Laramie Mountains to create the north, north-northeast, and northeast oriented North Platte River drainage route west of the Laramie Mountains and also to create the northwest oriented Bates Creek drainage route on the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains. Flood flow captures and reversals were probably greatly aided by ice sheet related crustal warping that was raising the Laramie Mountains and the entire region as floodwaters flowed across the area.

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 North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area landform origins in the Wyoming Laramie Mountains. Map interpretation methods can be used to unravel many geomorphic events leading up to formation of present-day drainage routes and development of other landform features. While each detailed topographic map feature provides detailed evidence to be explained, the solution must be consistent with explanations for adjacent area map evidence as well as solutions to big picture map evidence puzzles. I invite readers to improve upon my solutions and/or to propose alternate solutions that better explain evidence and are also consistent with adjacent map area and big-picture evidence. Readers may do so either by making comments here or by writing and publishing their own essays and then by leaving a link to those essays in a comment here.

This essay is also exploring a new geomorphology paradigm in which erosional landforms are interpreted as evidence left by immense glacial melt water floods. Implied in that interpretation is the immense floods were derived from a thick North American ice sheet that created a deep “hole” in the North American continent and also melted fast. The previously unexplored paradigm being tested in this and other Missouri River drainage basin landform origins research project essays is a thick North American ice sheet, comparable in thickness to the Antarctic ice sheet, occupied the North American region usually recognized to have been glaciated, and through its weight and erosive actions created a deep North American “hole”. The southwestern rim of that deep “hole” is today preserved in the high Rocky Mountains. The ice sheet through its weight and deep erosion (and perhaps deposition along major south-oriented melt water flow routes) caused significant crustal warping and tectonic change, through its action of melting fast produced immense floods that flowed across the continent, and through its action of melting fast systematically opened up space in the ice sheet created “hole” so headward erosion of newly developed north-oriented drainage systems captured immense south-oriented melt water floods and diverted immense melt water floods north into space the ice sheet had once occupied.

If this previously unexplored paradigm is correct the geographic region explored by this essay should contain evidence of immense floods that were captured by headward erosion of new valley systems so as to cause the floods to flow in a different direction. Ability of this previously unexplored paradigm to explain North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area landform evidence in the Wyoming Laramie Mountains will be regarded as evidence supporting the “thick ice sheet that melted fast” paradigm.

North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area location map

Figure 1: North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area location map (select and click on maps to enlarge). National Geographic Society map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 1 provides a location map for the North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Laramie Mountains and illustrates a region in east-central Wyoming. The Laramie Mountains extend in a southeast and south direction from near the center of figure 1 to the south edge of figure 1 (east of center). The North Platte River flows in a northwest and northeast direction from the south edge of figure 1 (west half) to the south end of Seminoe Reservoir and then in a north direction to Pathfinder Dam. From Pathfinder Dam the North Platte River flows in a north-northeast and northeast direction to the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains (near Casper) and then in an east, south, and southeast direction to the east edge of figure 1 (south half). Shirley Basin is a labeled community south of Casper and on the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains. The unlabeled northwest oriented North Platte River tributary originating north of Shirley Basin is Bates Creek, which joins the north-northeast oriented North Platte River just south of the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. Box Elder Creek in a north-northeast oriented tributary to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River originating east of the Bates Creek headwaters. Box Elder Creek flows across the Laramie Mountains in a deep valley. The unlabeled north and north-northeast stream crossing the Laramie Mountains in a deep valley just west of Box Elder Creek is Deer Creek, which joins the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River near Glenrock. The unlabeled northeast and north-northeast North Platte River tributary west of Deer Creek is Muddy Creek. The unlabeled south and west oriented stream flowing from near Shirley Basin to join the west and northwest oriented Medicine Bow River is the Little Medicine Bow River. The North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area investigated in this essay is located south and east of the North Platte River, north and west of Bates Creek, and west of Box Elder Creek and includes the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains.

Drainage routes at the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains developed during immense melt water floods from the western margin of a thick North American ice sheet at a time when the Laramie Mountains (and other Wyoming mountain ranges) were just beginning to emerge. Floodwaters flowed from western Canada to and across Wyoming. The Laramie Mountains and other Wyoming mountain ranges emerged as floodwaters deeply eroded surrounding valleys, basins, and other regions and as ice sheet related crustal warping raised the mountain ranges. At first floodwaters could easily flow across the emerging mountain ranges, although as the mountains emerged floodwaters were channeled into deep valleys or forced to flow around the emerging mountain ranges. The north oriented North Platte River west of the emerging Laramie Mountains originated as south oriented flood flow channels and the north-northeast Box Elder Creek and north and north-northeast oriented Deer Creek drainage routes originated as south oriented flood flow channels. Flood flow on the Deer Creek and the Box Elder Creek alignments flowed to a south oriented flood flow channel on the present day Little Medicine Bow River alignment, which then flowed to a southeast oriented flood flow channel on the present day northwest, west, and northwest oriented Medicine Bow River alignment. Southeast and east oriented flood flow on the present day northwest and west oriented Medicine Bow River alignment flowed to east and northeast oriented valleys being eroded across the emerging Laramie Mountains by the Laramie River and its tributaries. These east and northeast oriented valleys were being eroded headward from the much deeper southeast oriented North Platte River valley, which was eroding headward in the region east of the Laramie Mountains. Headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains beheaded south oriented flood flow channels in sequence from east to west. First to be beheaded in this essay’s study region was the south oriented flood flow channel on the Box Elder Creek alignment. Floodwaters on the north end of the beheaded flood flow channel reversed flow direction to flow to the much deeper east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River valley. The reversed flood flow captured south and southeast oriented flood flow still moving on the Deer Creek and Bates Creek alignments. Next headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow on the Deer Creek alignment, with the reversed flood flow capturing southeast oriented flood flow still moving on the Bates Creek alignment. Headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow channels west of the Laramie Mountains to create the north, north-northeast, and northeast oriented North Platte River drainage route, which beheaded and reversed the southeast oriented flood flow channel on the Bates Creek alignment to create the northwest oriented Bates Creek drainage route and to end flood flow to and across the North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area.

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

Figure 2: Detailed location map North Platte River-Bates Creek 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 North Platte River-Bates Creek drainage divide area in the Wyoming Laramie Mountains. Green colored areas are National Forest lands, which in figure 2 are located in the Laramie Mountains. The Laramie Mountains extend in a northwest direction from the southeast corner of figure 2 to the Casper Mountain area (south of Casper). The North Platte River flows in a north-northeast and northeast direction from the southwest corner of figure 2 to the city of Casper and then in an east direction to the east edge of figure 2 (north half-near northeast corner). East of figure 2 the North Platte River flows in a south and southeast direction along the east side of the Laramie Mountains. Bates Creek Reservoir is located near the south edge of figure 2 (east of center) and is on the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains. Bates Creek flows in a northwest direction from Bates Creek Reservoir to join the north-northeast oriented North Platte River (in east center area of figure 2). Big Red Creek is a southwest oriented Bates Creek tributary originating near Casper Mountain (south of Casper). Bates Creek is flowing along the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains. Box Elder Creek originates near the southeast corner of figure 2 and flows in a southwest direction before making a “V” turn to flow in a north-northeast direction to the east edge of figure 2. East of figure 2 Box Elder Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to join the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. West of the Box Elder Creek headwaters Deer Creek flows in a south-southwest and southwest direction to the region east of Bates Creek Reservoir and then turns to flow in a north and north-northeast direction to join the North Platte River near Glenrock. Muddy Mountain is located near the center of figure 2. Muddy Creek originates south of Muddy Mountain and flows in a northeast and north-northeast direction to join the North Platte River near the north to south oriented county line. Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek originate in the Laramie Mountains and flow in south and southwest directions to the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains before turning to flow in north and north-northeast directions across the Laramie Mountains in deep valleys to reach the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. Note how Deer Creek and Box Elder Creek are located east of the Bates Creek headwaters (east of Bates Creek Reservoir). Headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains beheaded and reversed south oriented flood flow channels on the Box Elder and Deer Creek alignments while floodwaters were still moving in a southeast direction on the Bates Creek alignment. Floodwaters on north ends of the beheaded Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek flood flow channels reversed flow direction to flow to the much deeper east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River valley and captured southeast oriented flood flow moving on the Bates Creek alignment. Significant southeast oriented flood flow on the Bates Creek alignment moved to the newly beheaded and reversed Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek flood flow channels. This pattern of flood flow movements was repeated as other south oriented flood flow channels were beheaded and reversed to create north oriented North Platte River tributary drainage routes.

North Platte River-Little Red Creek drainage divide area

Figure 3: North Platte River-Little Red 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 Platte River-Little Red Creek drainage divide area. The map contour interval for figure 3 is 20 meters. Bessemer Mountain near the west edge of figure 3 (north of center) is the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains, which extend in an east and southeast direction across the region seen in figure 3. Casper Mountain is the west to east oriented mountain located in the northeast quadrant of figure 3. The North Platte River flows in a northeast, north, and northeast direction from the west center edge to the north edge of figure 3 (west half). North of figure 3 the North Platte River turns to flow in an east direction along the north side of the Laramie Mountains. Bessemer Narrows is the deep north oriented North Platte River valley or water gap between Bessemer Mountain to the west and Coal Mountain to the east. Bessemer Mountain and Coal Mountain appear to be hogback ridges formed by dipping beds of resistant strata. The deep Bessemer Narrows water gap was eroded by south oriented flood flow prior to headward erosion of the deep east oriented North Platte River valley, which beheaded and reversed 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 drainage route in the Bessemer Narrows water gap, which captured south oriented flood flow from west of Bessemer Mountain. Bates Creek flows in a northwest and west direction from the south edge of figure 3 (west of center) to the west edge of figure 3 (south half). West of figure 3 Bates Creek turns in a northwest direction to join the north-northeast oriented North Platte River. Little Red Creek originates near the center of figure 3 and flows in a south and southwest direction to join west and northwest oriented Bates Creek. Big Red Creek is a west, south, and southwest oriented Bates Creek tributary located east and south of Little Red Creek. A north to south oriented through valley links the south oriented Little Red Creek valley segment with the south oriented Big Red Creek valley segment. Jackson Canyon is a deep northwest oriented valley between Coal Mountain and Casper Mountain draining from near the Little Red Creek headwaters area to the North Platte River valley near the northeast corner of figure 3. The Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek drainage divide elevation at its lowest point is 1986 meters. Coal Mountain to the southwest rises to more than 2140 meters and Casper Mountain to the northeast rises to 2440 meters. These elevations suggest the Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek through valley is at least 150 meters deep. The through valley orientation is probably controlled by the regional geologic structures, although the through valley is also a water-eroded valley. The through valley was eroded by southeast oriented flood flow diverging from the south oriented flood flow channel on the present day north oriented North Platte River alignment and then turning to flow in a south direction on the Little Red Creek alignment with diverging flood flow channels then continuing in a southwest direction on the present day Little Red Creek alignment and in a south direction to the present day south oriented Big Red Creek alignment. Flood flow movements in this region were more complex than described here, but this brief sketch may help future researchers in deciphering additional flood flow movements.

Detailed map of Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek drainage divide area

Figure 4: Detailed map of Jackson Canyon-Little Red 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 Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 4 is 20 feet. Casper Mountain is the large mountain located in the northeast quadrant of figure 4 and extending westward near the north edge of figure 4. Coal Mountain is the large hogback ridge located in the west center region of figure 4. Jackson Canyon is the deep valley located between Coal Mountain and Casper Mountain and drains in a northwest direction to the northwest corner of figure 4 (the northeast oriented North Platte River is located north and west of figure 4). Little Red Creek flows in a southwest and south direction from the east edge of figure 4 (south of center) to the west edge of figure 4 (east half) and south of figure 4 flows in a south and southwest direction to join west and northwest oriented Bates Creek, which then joins the north and northeast oriented North Platte River. A through valley in the southwest quadrant of section 22 links the northwest oriented Jackson Canyon valley with the south oriented Little Red Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is 6515 feet. Coal Mountain at its highest point exceeds 7020 feet in elevation. Casper Mountain elevations rise to more than 8000 feet. These elevations suggest the Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek through valley is at least 500 feet deep. The through valley was eroded by southeast and south oriented flood flow diverging from a south oriented flood flow channel west of figure 4 (on the present day north oriented North Platte River alignment) and converging with a southeast oriented flood flow channel south of figure 4 (on the present day northwest oriented Bates Creek alignment). The North Platte River elevation today near the northwest corner of figure 4 is less than 5200 feet, which means the North Platte River valley is today at least 1300 feet lower than it was at the time floodwaters flowed in a southeast direction from Jackson Canyon to the south oriented Little Red Creek valley. Probably deep flood flow erosion was responsible for much of this elevation difference, although some of the elevation difference may have been produced by ice sheet related crustal warping that raised the Laramie Mountains as floodwaters flowed across the region.

Otter Creek-Corral Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 5 illustrates the Otter Creek-Corral Creek drainage divide area south and west of figure 3 and there is an overlap area with figure 3. The map contour interval for figure 5 is 20 meters. The Laramie Mountains extend across figure 5 except in the southwest corner. Bates Creek flows in a north-northwest and west direction from the south edge of figure 5 (west half) to the west center edge of figure 5. West of figure 5 Bates Creek flows in a west and northwest direction to join the northeast, east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River, which flows around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. Little Red Creek flows in a south and southwest direction from the northwest quadrant of figure 5 to the west center edge of figure 5 and joins Bates Creek west of figure 5. Big Red Creek is a west, southwest, south, and southwest oriented stream east and south of Little Red Creek and joins Bates Creek near the west center edge of figure 5. A north to south oriented through valley links the south oriented Little Red Creek valley segment with the south oriented Big Red Creek valley segment. Corral Creek is a west-southwest, north-northwest, and west-northwest oriented stream in the southwest quadrant of figure 5 and joins Bates Creek near the west center edge of figure 5. Rocky Gap is located east and north of the Corral Creek headwaters. Smith Creek originates south of Rocky Gap and flows in a northeast direction to the east center edge of figure 5. Otter Creek flows in a northeast and east direction from near Rocky Gap to the east center edge of figure 5 to join north-northeast oriented Smith Creek, which then flows in a north-northeast direction to join other north oriented streams to form north-northeast oriented Muddy Creek, which then flows to the east oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains. Through valleys at and near Rocky Gap link the northeast oriented Smith Creek and northeast oriented Otter Creek valley segments with the southwest oriented Corral Creek headwaters valley and also with southwest oriented Bates Creek tributary valleys south of figure 5. The through valleys were eroded by floodwaters diverging from south and southeast oriented flood flow channels on the present day northwest oriented Corral Creek and Bates Creek alignments to flow in a northeast and north direction across the emerging Laramie Mountains to the much deeper east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River valley, which at that time was actively eroding headward around the northwest end of the emerging Laramie Mountains. The Rocky Gap elevation is about 200 meters higher than the Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek through valley floor elevation. For a time southeast south oriented flood flow from the Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek valley flowed in a south direction to the Big Red Creek alignment and then in southeast and northeast direction on the present day southwest and northwest oriented Corral Creek alignment. However, erosion of a deep south (?) oriented valley on the present day north oriented North Platte River alignment (west of figure 5) beheaded and reversed southeast oriented flood flow on the present day northwest oriented Bates Creek alignment to form a northwest and west oriented flood flow route. Southeast and south oriented floodwaters on the Jackson Canyon-Little Red Creek alignment then turned to flow in a southwest direction to join the west oriented Bates Creek drainage route while the southeast and northeast oriented flood flow on the present day Corral Creek alignment was beheaded and reversed to create the southwest and northwest oriented Corral Creek drainage route. Ice sheet related crustal warping that was raising the Laramie Mountains as floodwaters flowed across them probably greatly aided in the flood flow reversal process.

Detailed map of Otter Creek-Corral Creek drainage divide area

Figure 6: Detailed map of Otter Creek-Corral 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 Otter Creek-Corral Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 6 is 20 feet. Corral Creek flows from near the north center edge of figure 6 into section 26 and then turns to flow in a southwest direction to the west edge of figure 6 (near southwest corner). West of figure 6 Corral Creek turns to flow in a north-northwest and west-northwest direction to join northwest, west, and northwest oriented Bates Creek, which then joins the northeast oriented North Platte River before the North Platte River flows around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. Smith Creek flows in a north-northeast, east, and northeast direction from the south edge of figure 6 (slightly east of center) to the east center edge of figure 6. East of figure 6 Smith Creek turns to flow in a north-northeast direction and joins other north oriented streams to form north-northeast oriented Muddy Creek, which flows to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River on the north side of the Laramie Mountains. Otter Creek is a northeast and east-northeast oriented stream in the northeast quadrant of figure 6 and east of figure 6 joins Smith Creek. A northeast to southwest oriented through valley in section 24 links the northeast oriented Otter Creek valley with the valley of southwest oriented Corral Creek tributary. Rocky Gap is located in the east half of section 26 and links a southwest oriented Corral Creek tributary valley with a southeast oriented Smith Creek tributary valley. The Rocky Gap floor elevation is 7211 feet. Elevations in section 19 to the northeast rise to 8077 feet. Elevations immediately to the southwest in section 26 rise to more than 7720 feet suggesting the Rocky Gap through valley (or wind gap) depth is at least 500 feet. Diverging and converging south oriented flood flow routes moving across the emerging Laramie Mountains probably initiated the Rocky Gap and the Otter Creek-Corral Creek through valleys. Headward erosion of the deep east, south, and southeast North Platte River valley north of the Laramie Mountains beheaded and reversed those south oriented flood flow routes to create the north oriented Muddy Creek drainage route and its north oriented Smith Creek and Otter Creek tributary drainage routes. For a time these reversed flood flow channels captured at least some of the south and southeast oriented flood flow moving on the present day northwest oriented Bates Creek alignment south and west of figure 6). Some of that captured flood flow moved in a southeast and northeast direction on the present day southwest and northwest Corral Creek alignment to flow to the newly formed northeast oriented Otter Creek and Smith Creek drainage routes. A deeper valley was eroded through Rocky Gap to the Smith Creek drainage route, which beheaded the northeast oriented flood flow channel to the northeast oriented Otter Creek drainage route. A major reversal of flood flow on the Bates Creek alignment and/or crustal warping that was raising the Laramie Mountains resulted in a reversal of flood flow on the Corral Creek alignment to create the southwest and northwest oriented Corral Creek drainage route seen today.

West Fork Deer Creek-Kerfoot Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 7 illustrates the West Fork Deer Creek-Kerfoot Creek drainage divide area south and west of figure 5 and includes an overlap area with figure 5. The map contour interval for figure 7 is 20 meters. Bates Creek flows in a northwest, southwest, and northwest direction from the south edge of figure 7 (west half) to the west edge of figure 7 (near southwest corner). West of figure 7 Bates Creek flows in a northwest, west, and northwest direction to join the northeast oriented North Platte River, which then flows around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. Kerfoot Creek is a south and southwest oriented Bates Creek tributary in the southwest quadrant of figure 7 and joins Bates Creek near the elbow of capture where Bates Creek turns to flow in a southwest direction. Sheep Creek is a northwest oriented stream flowing to the west center edge of figure 7 and west of figure 7 Sheep Creek flows to southwest and northwest oriented Corral Creek, which then flows to west and northwest oriented Bates Creek. The Deer Creek Range is located primarily in the southeast quadrant of figure 7 and is located in the much larger Laramie Mountains area. Deer Creek flows in a deep valley or water gap across the Deer Creek Range in a north-northeast and north direction from the south edge of figure 7 (near southeast corner) to the east edge of figure 7 (north of center) and east and north of figure 7 flows to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains. North of the Deer Creek Range is Deer Creek Park, which is drained by the east-northeast oriented West Fork Deer Creek, which flows to the east edge of figure 7 (near northeast corner).Deer Creek Park may be a structural basin, although large volumes of northeast oriented flood flow also eroded it. Southwest to northeast oriented through valleys link the east-northeast oriented West Fork Deer Creek valley with the southwest oriented Kerfoot Creek valley and with the northwest oriented Sheep Creek valley. The Kerfoot Creek-West Fork Deer Creek through valley has a floor elevation of between 2280 and 2300 meters. Elevations in the Deer Creek Range to the southeast rise to 2671 meters. Elevations on Muddy Mountain (north of figure 7-see figure 5) rise to 2526 meters suggesting the through valley may be as much as 226 meters deep. The through valley appears to be just one of many southwest to northeast oriented through valleys crossing the Laramie Mountains in the region between the Deer Creek Range to the southeast and Muddy Mountain to the northwest. These through valleys may have been initiated as southwest oriented flood flow channels, although after headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented North Platte River valley beheaded and reversed flood flow on the Deer Creek alignment floodwaters in the region between Muddy Mountain and the Deer Creek range were reversed to flow in a northeast direction to the much deeper east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River valley. Flood flow moving between Muddy Mountain and the Deer Creek Range came from west of the Laramie Mountains and probably flowed in southeast direction on the present day northwest oriented Bates Creek alignment. A reversal of flood flow on the Bates Creek alignment ended northeast oriented flood flow between Muddy Mountain and the Deer Creek Range and headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains ended south oriented flood flow on the present day north oriented North Platte River alignment.

Detailed map of West Fork Deer Creek-Kerfoot Creek drainage divide area

Figure 8: Detailed map of West Fork Deer Creek-Kerfoot 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 Fork Deer Creek-Kerfoot Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 7. The map contour interval for figure 8 is 20 feet. The West Fork Deer Creek originates in section 6 and flows in an east-northeast direction to the east edge of figure 8 (north half) and east of figure 8 flows to north and north-northeast oriented Deer Creek, which then flows to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. Smith Creek flows in a north-northeast, east, and north-northeast direction from the northeast corner of section 2 to the north center edge of figure 8. North of figure 8 Smith Creek flows in a northeast and north-northeast direction to join north-northeast oriented Muddy Creek, which then flows to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. Kerfoot Creek originates in the southeast corner of section 1 and flows in a south-southwest direction to the south edge of figure 8 (west half). South of figure 8 Kerfoot Creek flows to southwest, northwest, west, and northwest oriented Bates Creek, which flows to the northeast oriented North Platte River, which then flows in an east, south, and southeast direction around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. Sheep Creek originates in the southwest corner of section 1 and flows in a southwest direction across the southeast corner of section 2 and then across section 11 to the west edge of figure 8 (near southwest corner). West of figure 8 Sheep Creek turns to flow in a northwest direction to join southwest and northwest oriented Corral Creek, which then joins west and northwest oriented Bates Creek. A southwest to northeast oriented through valley in the east half of section 1 links the south-southwest oriented Kerfoot Creek valley with the east-northeast oriented West Fork Deer Creek valley. The through valley floor elevation is between 7480 and 7500 feet. A south-southwest to north-northeast oriented through valley in section 2 just to the west links the south-southwest oriented Sheep Creek headwaters valley with the north-northeast oriented Smith Creek headwaters valley. This second through valley also has a floor elevation of between 7480 and 7500 feet. Elevations in section 9 to the east (in the Deer Creek Range) rise to 8076 feet and further east (east of figure 8) elevations rise to more than 8500 feet. North of figure 8 in the Rocky Gap area elevations rise to 8091 feet while further north in the Muddy Mountain area elevations rise to more 8300 feet. The through valleys are deep channels eroded into the floor of what was once a broad southwest to northeast oriented 500-foot or more deep flood flow channel crossing the Laramie Mountains. The flood flow channel or present day through valley was probably initiated by southwest oriented flood flow moving to deeper south oriented flood flow routes west of the emerging Laramie Mountains. However, headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented North Platte River valley beheaded and reversed the flood flow channel to create a northeast oriented flood flow channel, which obtained its floodwaters from south oriented flood flow channels west of the emerging Laramie Mountains. Uplift of the Laramie Mountains as floodwaters were flowing across the region and/or a reversal of flood flow on the Bates Creek alignment ended northeast oriented flood flow across the region.

Bates Creek-Deer Creek drainage divide area

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

Figure 9 illustrates the Bates Creek-Deer Creek drainage divide area west and south of figure 7 and there is an overlap area with figure 7. The map contour interval for figure 9 is 20 meters. Box Elder Creek flows in a north-northeast direction across the southeast corner of figure 9. East and north of figure 9 Box Elder Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to join the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains. Deer Creek originates west of the east center edge of figure 9 and flows in a south, southwest, and west direction to near the county line and the south edge of figure 9 where it makes an abrupt turn to flow in a north, north-northeast, and north direction across the east end of the Deer Creek Range in deep Upper Deer Creek Canyon to the north edge of figure 9 (east half). North of figure 9 Deer Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to join the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. Horse Creek originates north of the south oriented Deer Creek headwaters and flows in a southwest direction to join north oriented Deer Creek as a barbed tributary. Soldier Creek is a south and east oriented barbed Deer Creek tributary originating in the Deer Creek Range to the west of Upper Deer Creek Canyon. Bates Creek Reservoir is located near the southwest corner of figure 9. Bates Creek flows in a west-northwest direction from the south edge of figure 9 (west of center) to Bates Creek Reservoir and then in a north, west, north, and southwest direction to the west edge of figure 9 (south half). West of figure 9 Bates Creek turns to flow in a northwest, west, and northwest direction to join the northeast oriented North Platte River, which then flows in an east, south, and southeast direction around the northwest end of the Laramie Mountains. The East Fork Bates Creek originates north of the south center edge of figure 9 and flows in a west-northwest direction to join Bates Creek just north of Bates Creek Reservoir. Upper Deer Creek Canyon is almost 500 meters deep and is a deep water gap eroded across the east end of the Deer Creek Range. Lower Deer Creek Canyon is north of figure 9 and is another deep water gap eroded across a high mountain ridge. Upper Deer Creek Canyon was probably initiated by south oriented flood flow moving to the south oriented Little Medicine Bow River valley south of figure 9. Headward erosion of the deep southeast oriented North Platte River valley north of the Laramie Mountains beheaded and reversed the flood flow channel to create a north oriented flood flow channel. The north oriented flood flow channel captured southeast oriented flood flow moving along the southwest margin of the emerging Laramie Mountains on the present day northwest oriented Bates Creek alignment. A reversal of flood on the Bates Creek alignment (probably aided by crustal warping that was raising the Laramie Mountains) ended the southeast oriented flood flow and created the northwest oriented Bates Creek drainage route.

Closer look at the Horse Creek-Deer Creek drainage divide area

Figure 10: Closer look at the Horse Creek-Deer Creek drainage divide area. United States Geological Survey map digitally presented using National Geographic Society TOPO software.

Figure 10 provides a topographic map providing a closer look at the Horse Creek-Deer Creek drainage divide area seen in less detail in figure 9. The map contour interval for figure 10 is 20 meters. Box Elder Creek flows in a north-northeast direction from the south edge of figure 10 (east half) to the east center edge of figure 10. East and north of figure 10 Box Elder Creek flows in a north-northeast direction to join the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River north of the Laramie Mountains. The Box Elder Creek canyon seen near the southeast corner of figure 10 is approximately 400 meters deep. North and east of figure 10 Box Elder Creek flows across another mountain ridge in another north oriented canyon. Buck Creek is a southeast oriented Box Elder Creek tributary near the northeast corner of figure 10. Deer Creek flows in a north-northeast and north direction from the west edge of figure 10 (near southwest corner) to the north edge of figure 10 (west half). Upper Deer Creek Canyon in the northwest quadrant of figure 10 is almost 500 meters deep. Horse Creek originates in the north center region of figure 10 and flows in a southwest direction to join north oriented Deer Creek as a barbed tributary. Perhaps just as interesting the south oriented stream originating in the south center region of figure 10 and flowing to the south center edge of figure 10 is Deer Creek, which south of figure 10 flows in a south, southwest, and west direction before turning to flow in a north and north-northeast direction to reenter figure 10 and then to flow through Upper Deer Creek Canyon on its way to the east, south, and southeast oriented North Platte River. A north to south oriented through valley links the south oriented Deer Creek headwaters valley with the much deeper southwest oriented Horse Creek valley. The through valley is approximately 100 meters deep, although the through valley floor is today almost 300 meters higher than the Horse Creek valley floor to the north. A northeast to southwest oriented through valley links a northeast oriented Buck Creek headwaters valley with the southwest oriented Horse Creek valley. This second through valley is almost 200 meters deep. Valleys in the region seen in figure 10 were initiated by diverging and converging south oriented flood flow channels flowing across what were at that time the emerging Laramie Mountains. Headward erosion of a deeper southwest oriented flood flow channel on the Horse Creek alignment beheaded a south oriented flood flow channel on the Deer Creek headwaters valley alignment. Headward erosion of the deeper southeast oriented Buck Creek valley beheaded southwest oriented flood flow to the southwest oriented Horse Creek alignment. Headward erosion of the deep North Platte River valley north of figure 10 beheaded and reversed flood flow channels on the present day north oriented Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek alignments to create the north oriented Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek drainage routes seen today. These north oriented drainage routes captured southeast oriented flood flow moving along the southwest side of the emerging Laramie Mountains and continued to erode deeper and deeper north oriented valleys. Reversal of flood flow on the southwest side of the Laramie Mountains ended north oriented flood flow across the Laramie Mountains in the deep Box Elder Creek and Deer Creek 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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