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Late Quaternary Floodplain Sedimentation along the Pomme de Terre River, Southern Missouri

  • G. Robert Brakenridge (a1)

New cross sections and dates from along the Pomme de Terre River clarify the complex local history of valley development and floodplain sedimentation. The observed history begins with a series of ancient bedrock strath terraces that record past bedrock valley positions at 15.5 to more than 58 m above the modern bedrock floor. Each strath is capped by 1–2 m of channel gravel and sand permeated by red clay. Sometime previous to ca. 140,000 yr B.P., a much lower bedrock valley only about 5–6 m above the modern level was excavated. By 140,000 yr B.P., accumulation of red and gray mottled silty clay had commenced, and had reached to 8.5 m above the modern floodplain before 48,900 ± 900 14C yr B.P. Sometime between ca. 49,000 and 45,000 14C yr B.P., erosion caused abandonment of an oxbow meander, and lowered the bedrock valley to about its present depth. Younger yellowish-red and gray mottled silty clay alluvium then began accumulating. This mid-Wisconsinan fill reached to 2.5 m above the modern floodplain sometime before 31,800 ± 1340 14C yr B.P., at which time another erosional phase was in progress. A late Wisconsinan olive clay accumulated between 27,480 ± 1950 and ca. 23,000 14C yr B.P., followed by approximate stability until 13,550 ± 400 14C yr B.P. After stability, an erosional episode began, but by 10,200 ± 330 14C yr B.P., deposition of a distinctive brown clayey silt was underway. This early Holocene fill reached to about the same level as the mid-Wisconsinan fill by 8100 ± 140 14C yr B.P. Erosion occurred between this date and 7490 ± 170 14C yr B.P., but the former floodplain level was rapidly reattained, and was apparently stable until ca. 5000 14C yr B.P. Finally, erosional unconformities and 17 dates from the brown clayey silt, and from younger grayish-brown silty sand underlying the modern floodplain, record subsequent episodes of floodplain erosion at ca. 5000, 2900, 1500 and 350 14C yr B.P. The timing of Pomme de Terre floodplain sedimentary regimes, characterized by net aggradation, erosion, or stability, may have been controlled by climate. In particular, both periods of stability appear to have been coeval to times of strongly zonal upper atmospheric circulation. Intensified zonal circulation would have resulted in less frequent large floods and an increased dominance by floods of small to moderate size. In contrast, there are no obvious parallels to be drawn between this local alluvial history and sea level or glacial outwash induced baselevel changes.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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