Topographic Map Analysis of Mountain Passes Crossing the Continental Divide Between Colorado River Headwaters and North and South Platte River Headwaters to Test a New Geomorphology Paradigm, Colorado, USA

  •  Eric Clausen    


Detailed topographic maps are used to identify and briefly describe named (and a few unnamed) mountain passes crossing high elevation east-west continental divide segments encircling south- and southwest-oriented Colorado River headwaters and linking the Colorado River drainage basin (draining to the Pacific Ocean) with the North and South Platte River drainage basins (draining to the Platte, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers and Gulf of Mexico). Previous researchers following commonly accepted geomorphology paradigm rules have not explained how most, if any of these mountain passes originated. A recently proposed geomorphology paradigm requires all Missouri River drainage basin valleys to have eroded headward across massive south- and southeast-oriented floods, which implies south- and southeast-oriented floods flowed from what are today north-oriented North Platte River headwaters across the continental divide, the present-day south- and southwest-oriented Colorado River headwaters valley, and then across what is now the continental divide a second time to reach east- and southeast-oriented South Platte River headwaters. Paradigms are rules determining how a scientific discipline governs its research and by themselves are neither correct nor incorrect and are judged on their ability to explain observed evidence. From the new paradigm perspective, a stream eroded each of the passes into a rising mountain range until the uplift rate outpaced the erosion rate and forced a flow reversal in what would have been the upstream valley. The passes and the valleys leading in both directions from the continental divide are best explained if diverging and converging south- and southeast-oriented flood flow channels crossed rising mountain ranges. While explaining observed drainage patterns and erosional landforms such an interpretation requires a fundamentally different regional middle and late Cenozoic glacial and geologic history than what previous investigators using the accepted paradigm perspective have described.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1916-9779
  • ISSN(Online): 1916-9787
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: semiannual

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