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Description of the Elk Point Quadrangle

Description of the Elk Point Quadrangle

Note - The text below represents a small portion of the document, the formatting is different from that of the original folio, and it is product of scanning and translation to text.

United States Geological Survey
Survey 1898
Written 1908
Engraved and Printed by the USGS

George W. Stose, Editor of Geologic Maps

S. J. Kubel, Chief Engraver

By J. E. Todd.


Location and Area of the Quadrangle.

The Elk Point quadrangle includes the quarter of a square degree which lies between meridians 96 30 and 97 west longitude and parallels 42 30 and 43 north latitude. It measures approximately 34 miles from north to south and 25 miles from east to west, and its area is about 878 square miles. It lies in the Missouri Valley, on the western slope of the Mississippi basin, mainly in Union and Clay counties, S. Dak., but including also portions of Dixon and Dakota counties, Nebr., and Plymouth and Sioux counties, Iowa.


Eastern South Dakota forms part of the Great Plains, lying in the broad, indefinite zone in which these plains merge into the prairies of the Mississippi Valley. It lies within the area of glaciation, and most of its surface features show the characteristics of a drift-covered region. The country is not level, but presents long, rolling slopes rising 300 to 800 feet above the broad valleys. The principal elements of relief are massive ridges, or mesas, due to preglacial erosion, many of which are crowned or skirted by long ranges of low hills due to morainal accumulations left by the ice along lines making pauses of glacial advance and retreat. Further diversity of topography has been produce by the excavation of the valleys, especially that of the Missouri, which has cut a trench several hundred feet deep, for the most part with steeply sloping sides. Between the moraines there are rolling plains of till and very level plains due to the filling of glacial lakes. The upper James River valley presents a notable example of this lake-bed topography.



The surface within this quadrangle presents three principal kinds of topography. The flat valley lands lying along Missouri, Big Sioux, and Vermilion rivers comprise about 200 square miles. In this area there are a few shallow depressions which mark the location of former channels of the Missouri and Other streams. These depressions hold water a part 6f the year and they are in places bordered by ridges 10 to 15 feet high. The northwestern part of the quadrangle includes about 200 square miles of undulating country characteristic of glaciated regions. It lies mainly in the old Vermilion Valley, being bounded on the east by Brule Creek and on the south and west by the Missouri Valley. Throughout this area the surface rises gradually northward, except in the steep banks along Vermilion River and its principal tributaries, where there are many steep ascents of 50 to 80 feet from the valley to the adjoining high-land. On its south side this area is separated from the Missouri Valley by bluffs 80 to 100 feet high.

The remaining 400 square miles, lying, in the{-northeastern and southwestern portions of the quadrangle, present a deeply eroded surface characteristic of heavily loess-covered regions, such as are common in southwestern Iowa and eastern Nebraska. The only level lands in these districts are the narrow alluvial flats bordering the larger streams. Few of these flats exceed one-half mile in width, and above them the intervening did rise from 150 to 200 feet. There are many long slopes of 10 to 15, and others having a gradient of 20 to 30 are not uncommon, especially along the high' divides near the largest streams. The summits of the highest areas are in general rounded, with gentle slopes.


The range of altitude within the quadrangle is moderate. The lowest point, in Missouri River near the southeast corner of the quadrangle, is about 1090 feet above sea level, and the highest point, near the western boundary, in sec. 8, Daily Township, reaches an elevation of 1640 feet. Much of sec. 8 of Clark Township, just south of Daily, is more than 1600 feet above the sea. From these higher points there is a more or less regular decline in the altitude of the summits toward Missouri River, where the bluffs on the Nebraska side average 1400 feet above sea level. On the Iowa side of the Big Sioux, north of Joy Creek, there are summits that rise to an altitude of 1520 feet, but the average is about 1400 feet and the elevations decline toward the north. In the South Dakota portion of the upland the general altitude is about 1400 feet, but near the northern boundary, in Big Springs Township, it rises to 1480 feet, and a height of 1500 feet is reached about a mile east of Brule Creek on the south line of sec. 28, Emmet Township.


The largest watercourse in the Elk Point quadrangle is Missouri River, which passes diagonally across it. The stream exhibits many of its characteristic features in this region. Under normal conditions it is from 600 to 1500 feet wide and from 6 to 20 feet deep. It has a fall of about 6 inches to the mile and pursues a meandering course through a flood plain which ranges from 5 to 10 miles in width. The bottom lands are mainly underlain by fine sand, which is readily undermined by rapid currents, a condition which greatly facilitates shifting of the stream bed. The tendency of the stream to cut into the right band is well illustrated in this district. Many changes take place in the course of the stream. Oxbows form and often lengthen rapidly. As they work downstream that portion of the bend which meets the resistance of the firmer Cretaceous rocks is retarded, resulting in the peculiar forms occurring between Vermillion and Elk Point.

As this oxbow form develops and the upper side becomes elongated, its broad, shallow channel becomes more or less choked by sedimentation, while the lower, retarded part of the bend, being narrow, is deeply scored. Under these conditions the river exhibits a tendency in times of flood to break across the narrow neck of land, thus cutting off the upper part of the loop. A change of this kind took place at Vermillion in 1881, and another at some earlier time near Elk Point. In 1901 the large bend now forming Lake Goodenough was cut off.

Very little of the surface of the Elk Point quadrangle is drained directly into Missouri River. On the Nebraska side a small area lying north and west of Newcastle is so drained, and there is a similar area 2 to 5 miles wide on the South Dakota side. This combined drainage area includes about 180 square miles. The remainder of the quadrangle is drained by the Missouri's three largest tributaries in the district, Big Sioux and Vermillion rivers and Aowa Creek.

Big Sioux River, with its main tributary, Brule Creek, drains about 375 square miles in the northeastern portion of the quadrangle. It enters at the northeast corner, flows south westward to the flood plain of Missouri River and, following the outer margin of that plain with a southeasterly course, finally leaves the quadrangle near its southeast corner. Its flood plain is about 2 miles wide and the stream flows through this plain in a meandering course, for the most part in a channel about 20 feet below its surface. The Big Sioux is a sluggish stream, having a fall of about 2 feet to the mile, and is about 50 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet deep. Many of its meanders are wide, but few of them reach the sides of the valley. The only points at which the river cuts the bluffs on the west are near the northeast corner of the quadrangle and at two places opposite Chatsworth. It flows near the base of its eastern bluffs a short distance north of Chatsworth, near Akron, at the mouth of Rock Creek, and above and below the mouth of Broken Kettle Creek.

Brule Creek, the main tributary of the Big Sioux, enters the quadrangle in the highlands, near the northeast corner of Emmet Township. It flows southwestward for about 7 miles and then turns southeastward, meandering in and out of the hilly country in a remarkable way, but for much of the distance following the eastern edge of the flat glaciated area. It joins the Big Sioux near Richland. The principal smaller tributaries of the Big Sioux are Union Creek from the west, and West- field, Joy, Rock, ad Broken Kettle creeks from the east.

Aowa Creek drains most of the southwestern portion of the quadrangle. It rises in two branches in southern Hooker and northern Daily townships and flows northeastward to Newcastle and then southeastward, entering Missouri River below Ponca, Nebr. Its principal tributary is South Creek, which enters the quadrangle near Martinsburg and flows northeastward to Ponca, where it joins the main stream. Daily Branch, a tributary of South Creek, drains the southwest corner of the quadrangle. Silver Creek, an affluent of Aowa Creek, rises near Silver Ridge and flows northeastward, draining a small area between South and Aowa creeks.

Vermilion River enters the quadrangle at the northwest corner, flows east for about 3 miles and then south in a meandering course, and joins Missouri River 3 miles south of Vermilion. Its bottom lands range in width from 1 to 2 miles, becoming slightly wider toward the north. In places they are more or less marshy. About 2 miles north of Vermilion the stream reaches the flood plain of Missouri River and it follows the eastern margin of this plain closely to Vermilion, where it enters an old channel of the Missouri, through which it flows to the main stream. Clay Creek is the principal tributary of the Vermilion from the west, and a small stream, locally known as Baptist Creek, enters from the northeast. Vermilion River drains about 140 square miles of the quadrangle. It is very sluggish, having a fall of less than 1 foot to the mile, and the amount of water which it carries varies considerably at different seasons of the year.

Elk Point Folio

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