College of Arts & Sciences Missouri River Institute

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Paleochannel Research

Welcome to the Big Muddy Mapping Project.  This is an on-going project which began in 2001.

The maps each detail the positions and approximate size of channel fills, bars, and splays deposited over the course of the Holocene by the Missouri River that now make up the channel-belt part of valley bottom that flanks the modern river.  The channel fills mapped also define past courses of the Missouri River proper.  The maps also include the distribution of fine-grained floodbasin deposits  locally flanking the channel belt that received sediment and built during large over-bank food events, as well as minor channels, alluvial fans,  and other features which commonly cross the floodplain.  In some locations, position of older Pleistocene and early Holocene channel belts buried beneath the floodbasin muds are defined.

The maps are constructed by assessing potential map units from air photographs, then field testing these map units with hand-augured boreholes collected directly in the field.  These maps are constructed with three long-term goals in mind:

  1. Reconstructing the geologic history of the Missouri River.
  2. Teaching the next generation of geologic mappers.
  3. Providing others who are interested in the Missouri River with a resource that defines the distributions of floodplain materials and units for purposes of planning, management, and curiosity.

We hope that you enjoy viewing these maps as much as we enjoyed making them.   

The maps are published through the University of South Dakota Missouri River Institute. An Interactive Map for downloading the publications is available. 

The project is an educational and research effort to map the floodplain of the Missouri River through a series of quadrangle maps prepared individually by undergraduate and graduate students under the mentorship of Professor John Holbrook (Texas Christian University).  Mapping is funded by the USGS EDMAP Program (2001 - Present) and the National Science Foundation (Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program grant, years 2008 - 2010).