Quaternary evolution of Cedar Creek alluvial fan, montana

J. B. Ritter*, J. R. Miller, Y. Enzel, S. D. Howes, G. Nadon, M. D. Grubb, K. A. Hoover, T. Olsen, S. L. Reneau, D. Sack, C. L. Summa, I. Taylor, K. C.N. Touysinhthiphonexay, E. G. Yodis, N. P. Schneider, D. F. Ritter, S. G. Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Cedar Creek alluvial fan is a textbook example of an alluvial fan because of its fan shape with smooth, concentric contours and excellent symmetry. Similar planimetric shapes have been used to infer uniform fan deposition; however, Cedar Creek alluvial fan is composed of four fan deposits of Quaternary age, Qf1 (oldest) to Qf4 (youngest), indicating that fan deposition was nonuniform in both time and space. Field studies indicate that deposition of Cedar Creek alluvial fan is related to glaciofluvial outwash activity during the Pleistocene and upper-fan entrenchment and lower-fan deposition during the Holocene. Qf1 and Qf2 deposits are sub-horizontally bedded, clast-supported sandy gravels uniformly imbricated upfan. Comparison of soil profiles developed in these deposits to radiogenically-dated chronosequences within the region indicates that Qf1 and Qf2 are correlative with Bull Lake and Pinedale-age deposits, respectively. These relationships are substantiated by physical correlation of Qf1 and Qf2 with Bull Lake and Pinedale moraines, respectively, in the Cedar Creek drainage basin. The sedimentology and timing of Qf1 and Qf2 indicate deposition in high-energy, proglacial, braided streams. Furthermore, the present morphology of Cedar Creek alluvial fan was established largely during aggradation of Qf1 and Qf2 when sediment supply to the fan was sufficient to activate 60% to greater than 90% of the total fan area. During Bull Lake glaciation, the apex of Qf1 deposition formed the apex of Cedar Creek alluvial fan as Qf1 covered more than 90% of the present fan area. During Pinedale glaciation, Qf2 deposition shifted downfan; Qf2 is inset into Qf1 above the intersection point, but below the intersection point it eroded and/or buried Qf1 as it activated as much as 60% of the fan area. Qf3 and Qf4, comprising 21% of the fan area, are inset into Qf2 in the lower fan area. Soil development in Qf3 and Qf4 deposits indicate episodic deposition and entrenchment beginning in early Holocene and continuing to present. A post-glacial decrease in sediment supply to Cedar Creek alluvial fan is indicated by sediment storage within the Cedar Creek drainage basin. Decreased sediment supply to the fan resulted in upper-fan entrenchment of Qf2 and deposition of Qf3 and Qf4 in the lower-fan area.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)287-304
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1993
Externally publishedYes


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