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Application of Paleoflood Survey Techniques for the Black Hills of South Dakota

Project Period: 2008-2010
Cooperators: South Dakota Department of Transportation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, West Dakota Water Development District, City of Rapid City
Project Chief: Dan Driscoll

Executive Summary

Flood-frequency analyses for the Black Hills area have large uncertainties because of several complicating factors, including (1) effects of high outliers in systematic peak-flow records, such as particularly large peak discharges caused by the extraordinary 1972 storm near Rapid City; (2) geologic influences; and (3) potential influences of topography on precipitation patterns. Methods relying on analysis of systematic data are insufficient (numbers of sites and available periods of record) to address these complications. A reconnaissance-level paleoflood study for the Black Hills area was implemented in March of 2006, as a cooperative effort between the Office of Research of the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The overall conclusion of this reconnaissance-level study was that improved understanding of flood frequencies for the Black Hills region would result from implementation of future studies using established paleoflood techniques. The results of the reconnaissance-level study are presented in O'Connor and Driscoll (2007).

As a follow-up to the earlier reconnaissance-level study, USGS and SDDOT initiated a subsequent cooperative program to apply paleoflood survey techniques in selected drainages in the Black Hills area. The drainages include Elk Creek, Boxelder Creek, Rapid Creek, and Spring Creek. Several additional agencies have joined as cooperators, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, West Dakota Water Development District, and the City of Rapid City. Final results are available in Harden and others, 2011 (SIR 2011-5131). A lay-reader summary (Driscoll and others, 2012 pdf icon) also was published in cooperation with the SDDOT.

Objectives

The primary purpose of this project is to obtain improved relations between magnitudes and frequencies for especially large peak-flow events for the selected drainages through application of paleoflood techniques.

Publications

Carter, J.M., and Driscoll, D.G., 2011, Perspectives obtained from examination of flood accounts for the Black Hills of western South Dakota [abs] in 2011 Western South Dakota Hydrology Conference, 9th, Rapid City, S. Dak., April 28, 2011, Program and abstracts pdf icon.

Driscoll, D.G., Huft, D.L., and O'Connor, J.E., 2012, Extreme floods in the Black Hills area: New insights from recent research: Pierre, S. Dak., South Dakota Department of Transportation, 4 p. Online version pdf icon.

Driscoll, D.G., and O'Connor, J.E., 2008, Results of a reconnaissance-level paleoflood study for the Black Hills area, South Dakota [abs] in 2008 Western South Dakota Hydrology Conference, 6th, Rapid City, S. Dak., April 17, 2008, Program and abstracts pdf icon.

Driscoll, D.G., O'Connor, J.E., and Harden, Tessa, 2011, Regional perspectives from paleoflood investigations for primary drainages in the east-central Black Hills of South Dakota [abs] in 2011 Western South Dakota Hydrology Conference, 9th, Rapid City, S. Dak., April 28, 2011, Program and abstracts pdf icon.

Driscoll, D.G., O'Connor, J.E., Harden, Tessa, and Stamm, John, 2010, A paleoflood investigation for regional improvement of peak-flow frequency estimates for the Black Hills of western South Dakota [abs]: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 42, no. 13, p. 15.

Driscoll, D.G., O'Connor, J.E., Harden, Tessa, Bunkers, M.J., Sando, S.K., and Carter, J.M., 2011, Investigations of low-probability flood recurrence for the Black Hills of western South Dakota [abs] in 2011 Western South Dakota Hydrology Conference, 9th, Rapid City, S. Dak., April 28, 2011, Program and abstracts pdf icon.

Harden, Tessa, O'Connor, J.E., and Driscoll, D.G., 2011, Flood-frequency analyses from paleoflood investigations for primary drainages in the east-central Black Hills of South Dakota [abs] in 2011 Western South Dakota Hydrology Conference, 9th, Rapid City, S. Dak., April 28, 2011, Program and abstracts pdf icon.

Harden, Tessa, O'Connor, Jim, and Driscoll, D.G, 2010, Improving flood-frequency estimates for the Black Hills, South Dakota, using slackwater flood-deposits in caves and alcoves [abs]: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 52, no. 5, p. 226.

Harden, Tessa, O'Connor, Jim, and Driscoll, Dan, 2010, Paleoflood history of Rapid Creek in the foothills of the Black Hills, South Dakota [abs]: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 42, no. 13, p. 15.

Harden, T.M., O’Connor, J.E., Driscoll, D.G., and Stamm, J.F., 2011, Flood-frequency analyses from paleoflood investigations for Spring, Rapid, Boxelder, and Elk Creeks, Black Hills, western South Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5131, 136 p.

report cover


O'Connor, J.E., and Driscoll, D.G., 2007, Applicability of paleoflood surveys to the Black Hills of western South Dakota: South Dakota Department of Transportation Final Report SD2005-12F, 45 p., online only. Executive summary.



Photo of technical panel
The project's "Technical Panel" visiting a paleoflood site along Boxelder Creek. The lower alcove contains "flood slackwater deposits" from about 10 relatively large floods. The upper alcove (accessible by ladder) contains deposits for a single extremely large flood.
Photo of slackwater deposits
Several stratified sequences of "flood slackwater deposits" are located in the lower alcove that is shown in the photo to the left. The slackwater deposits consist of fine-grained sands and silts that are deposited in low-velocity environments and are used to interpret chronologies of large paleofloods.


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