Topographic Map Analysis of High Elevation Black Hills Through Valleys Linking Spearfish and Rapid Creek Headwaters Valleys, Lawrence County, South Dakota, USA

  •  Eric Clausen    


The Spearfish-Rapid Creek drainage extends from elevations greater than 7130 feet (2173 meters) roughly in a north direction across the northern Black Hills upland to where it becomes the Spearfish-Whitewood Creek drainage divide at an elevation of approximately 6440 feet (1963 meters) and separates north-oriented Spearfish Creek headwaters from southeast- and east-oriented Rapid Creek headwaters. This study used detailed topographic maps to investigate through valleys (and wind gaps) now crossing the Spearfish-Rapid Creek drainage divide, which is one of the Black Hills’ highest drainage divides. Through valley (or wind gap) floor elevations were determined and ranged from approximately 6150 feet (1875 meters) to approximately 7050 feet (2149 meters) and through valley (and wind gap) depths were also calculated and ranged from approximately 30 feet (9 meters) to about 290 feet (88 meters). Map evidence suggesting these through valleys (and wind gaps) originated as components of diverging and converging complexes of bedrock-walled channels is described and suggests large and prolonged southeast-oriented floods once flowed from or across the Spearfish Creek drainage basin to the Rapid Creek drainage basin. Based on today’s topography there is no upland Black Hills region capable of generating the large and prolonged floods required to erode the observed through valleys (and wind gaps) and their associated diverging and converging channel complexes so the erosion is interpreted to have taken place while the Black Hills were just beginning to emerge as the topographic high they are today. A water source could not be determined from map evidence, but large and prolonged southeast-oriented floods across the region are consistent with a recently proposed hypothesis that massive southeast-oriented (continental ice sheet) ice-marginal melt water floods eroded what are today western South Dakota and North Dakota river drainage basins. 

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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