Field Geomorph

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Surface Geomorphology

Drainage Interpretation

Discussion / Conclusions



Reconstruction of Paleo-Drainage Channels

Current Drainage
Water flows over the land in sheet flow drainage. By mapping the drainage and the channel network, a trend can be seen of braided streams flowing in a deltaic like pattern toward the wildlife area. Small features can be identified by variations in the vegetation and surficial features. These past channels tell the recent history of Cheyenne Bottoms.

This reconstruction of the paleo-drainage patterns of Cheyenne Bottoms is based off color aerial photography taken during the growing season 2003. Small features and channels are visible through variable vegetation and surficial features. Photo taken as part of the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) and has 2-meter resolution.

The surface reconstruction of the Cheyenne Bottoms drainage. The current channels of Blood Creek and Deception Creek are shown in dark blue. Note the previous drainage patterns of Blood Creek. This drainage shows characteristics of a inland delta.

Human Modifications
Under previous management practices the Bottoms has undergone change in the drainage patterns. Most of the basin's drainage was changed in attempt to cultivate agriculture. There were drainage canals built in many places to help move ponded water away newly ambitious crop land. Also there were roads built along the sections lines and the ditches associated with the roads moved water artificially. Even construction of fences altered the flow of the natural drainage.

A remnant damn exists where management practices tried to control the surface flow with channels leading away from the Nature Conservancy. Photo date 9/04, S. W. Salley

Historic Maps
Another way to visualize the past drainage patterns is to look at the historical map record. Since the physiography of Cheyenne Bottoms as well as the geologic origin has been puzzling for many years, a cartographic record of the basin is preserved in the scientific literature. Over the last hundred years the Bottoms has changed. The most notable changes historically are:

  • Construction of rail roads
  • Construction of roads along section lines
  • Fencing of private property
  • Ditches built to drain wetland areas for cropland.
  • Construction starts in 1949 for dikes, levees, and hunting blinds
  • Completion of the water diversion canals in 1957

Historic 1896 map of Cheyenne Bottoms area. Blood Creek first enters the basin further south of the current course and flows into the Nature Conservancy marsh. Map taken from Haworth (1897).
This 1949 physiographic map of Cheyenne Bottoms area shows features similar to the 1896 Map. Blood Creek enters the basin similar to the current course and flows into the Nature Conservancy marsh. Map taken from Schoewe (1949).
Used in the Kansas Geological Survey's Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Barton County to show physiographic divisions, this map shows Blood and Deception Creek entering the basin as intermittent streams with no specific drainage into ponds. Map modified from Fent (1950).
This map accompanied a scientific report analyzing the algae species known to the Bottoms. It shows the dikes and canals which were constructed in the Early 1950's. Map modified from McFarland, et al. (1964).
A recent map showing the drainage of Blood Creek along its present course. Map taken from Zimmerman (1990).


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This web presentation is for the fulfillment of Field Geomorphology
as outlined in the Emporia State University's Earth Science Curriculum. 

Please direct questions to the author

S.W. Salley (2004). All rights reserved. All illustrations and ideas presented in this paper are intellectual
      property of the author. Permission must be obtained from author to use any content of this report.