Pennypack Creek Drainage Basin Erosion History: Bucks, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties, PA, USA

Eric Clausen


Topographic map evidence is used to interpret Pennypack Creek drainage basin erosion history in and north of the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). Southwest and west-southwest oriented through valleys crossing the south oriented Pennypack Creek drainage basin, barbed Pennypack Creek tributaries, and significant valley direction changes are used to determine that the Pennypack Creek valley eroded headward across massive southwest oriented floods. Initially floodwaters flowed on a low gradient topographic surface at least as high, if not higher, than the highest Pennypack Creek drainage basin elevations today. Shallow low gradient diverging and converging flow channels were eroded into the underlying bedrock surface predominantly along fault lines and other zones of easier to erode materials. Headward erosion of the much deeper Pennypack Creek valley across this anastomosing channel complex captured southwest oriented floodwaters and flow on northeast ends of beheaded channels was reversed so as to move toward the newly eroded and deeper Pennypack Creek valley. These reversed flow channels captured southwest oriented floodwaters still moving north of the actively eroding Pennypack Creek valley head. This captured water then moved in a northeast direction and eroded deep northeast oriented valleys headward from the newly eroded Pennypack Creek valley. These valleys today account for northeast and east oriented Pennypack Creek valley segments and northeast oriented (barbed) tributaries flowing to south oriented Pennypack Creek. The floodwater source cannot be determined from Pennypack Creek drainage basin evidence, but was from the northeast. Melting of a continental ice sheet could produce floods of sufficient volume and duration to overwhelm whatever drainage system previously existed and to erode new drainage basins in a manner similar to how the Pennypack Creek drainage basin was eroded.

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Journal of Geography and Geology   ISSN 1916-9779 (Print)   ISSN 1916-9787 (Online)  Email:

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