A Study of Cheyenne Bottoms


A Study of Cheyenne Bottoms

Field Geomorphology
Fall 2009
Jue Jiang and Sarah Pick


Table of Contents
Introduction Geomorphic Conditions Origin of Basin
Geologic History Area’s Drainage References


Cheyenne Bottoms is located approximately 21 kilometers north east of Great Bend, roughly 58 kilometers north of Hudson, and about 17 kilometers south east of Hoisington (Mapquest, 2009). It is located in Township 18 south, Ranges 12 and 13 west, and Townships 17, 18, and 19 south, Ranges 11, 12, 13, and 14 west (Andereck, 2004). Cheyenne Bottoms is a wetland, located in the northeastern portion of Barton County, Kansas. The Cheyenne Bottoms basin covers an area of about 170 km2 (Salley, 2004). It provides a critical habitat for millions of shorebirds during their annual migrations.

Image from KGS.

During the past 100,000 years, the basin experienced alterated wet and dry conditions till the end of the Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, when a "distinct drying trend developed" (Aber, 2009). The current climate of the area around Cheyenne Bottoms is classified as sub-humid continental (Pfaff, 2006) and “is marked by extremes of precipitation and temperature” (Latta, 2001). Great Bend has a normal annual precipitation of 62 cm and Hudson’s normal annual precipitation is 63 cm (Latta, 2001).

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Geomorphic Conditions

The area, an elliptical-shaped basin, is, for the most part, flat and featureless. The basin’s north, west, and south sides are composed of Cretaceous rocks that rise to an elevation of roughly 30 meters. The north east side is composed of sand dunes rising approximately 30 meters. Alluvial deposits 9 to 12 meters high form the east and south-east boundaries (Bayne).

The source for the sand creating the sand dunes on the north-east side of the basin not certain. One theory is that after the Upper Smoky Hills River was captured, and the amount of flowing water in the channels was not enough. This caused the channel to dry up and sand dunes were able to “Mobilize Sediment” east of the channel. Another theory claims that the dunes eroded the basin during a hypsithermal event. A contradiction to this theory is that the particles of sediment making up the basin are more fine than that of the sand dunes. The age for these dunes is not known (Salley, 2004).

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Origin of the Basin

The true origin of the basin is not known. However, there are three theories as to how the basin was created.

1) The basin was formed by an impact from a meteorite. This theory is not widely accepted because no evidence of a meteorite impact has been discovered.

2) Salt is a substance that can easily be dissolved. All that had to have happened in order for salt dissolution to take place is for water to work its way into the salt layer and the salt will dissolve, and the land will subsidize. This is the most accepted theory.

3) Sometime between the early Late Cretaceous and late Pliocene time period, tilting and erosion of the area occurred causing a depression.

Geologic History

The area was consisted of isolated hills in the early Paleozoic time, and it was alternately eroded and elevated through Paleozoic time. An anticlinal structure along a northwest-southeast axis, called the Ellis Arch, occured before the Mississippian Period, and then an erosion followed. Another elevation called the Central Kansas Uplift occurred either in the late Mississippian period or the early Pennsylvanian period, and then the Mississippian strata was eroded away from this area. The area was eroded and submerged for most of the time after the Mississippian Period until the early Permian period when the continental "red beds" were deposited. Then the area stayed above sea level throughout the Triassic, Jurassic, and early Cretaceous period, when several hundreds of Permian "red beds" were eroded. The Cheyenne Sandstone was deposited when the sea advanced to the area during the early Cretaceous period, and Dakota Formation was deposited during the regression. The area was submerged again at the beginning of the late Cretaceous period, and it has been staying above sea level since the end of the Cretaceous Period.

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Area’s Drainage

Water drains into the basin primarily from two intermittent streams, Blood Creek on the northwest and Deception Creek on the north, and the water leaves the basin through the creeks and the alluvial deposits on the southeast side of Cheyenne Bottoms (Bayne, 1977). If one were to map the drainage system of Cheyenne Bottoms, they would notice a system of braided streams that flow in a deltaic-like pattern (Salley, 2004). Anthropogenic activities have been changing the drainage of the area as an attempt to make the land more suitable for agriculture. “The most notable changes” that disrupt natural drainage are “the construction of railroads, construction of roads, fencing of private property, ditches built to drain wetland areas for cropland, and construction of dikes and levees” (Salley, 2004).

Image from Aber,2009.

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Aber, J. 2009. “Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas”. http://academic.emporia.edu/aberjame/wetland/chey_bot/cheyenne.htm.

Andereck, Z. 2004. “Geomorphology of Cheyenne Bottoms”. http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/student/andereck1/bottoms.htm.

Bayne, C. 1977. “Geology and Structure of Cheyenne Bottoms Barton County, Kansas”. Kansas Geological Survey. Bulletin 211, Part 2, p.1-12.

Latta, B.F. 2001. “Geology and Ground-water Resources of Barton and Stafford Counties, Kansas”. http://www.kgs.ku.edu/General/Geology/Barton/index.html.

Mapquest.com. 2009. “MapQuest Maps Driving Directions”. http://www.mapquest.com.

Pfaff, L. 2006. “Late Quaternary Ostracodes as Indicators of Salinity Conditions and Paleohydrology in a Mid-continent Wetland, Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas”. Emporia State University Thesis.

Salley, S. 2004. “The Geomorphology and Geologic History of Cheyenne Bottoms Central Kansas”. http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/student/salley2/index.htm.

Report completed for GO 546 : Field Geomorphology
© J. Jiang and S. Pick (Nov, 2009)

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