USGS Visual Identifier

Streamflow Losses in the Black Hills of Western South Dakota

By Jon E. Hortness and Daniel G. Driscoll

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4116

Prepared in cooperation with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
and the West Dakota Water Development District


Losses occur in numerous streams that cross outcrops of various sedimentary rocks that are exposed around the periphery of the Black Hills of South Dakota. These streamflow losses are recognized as an important source of local recharge to regional bedrock aquifers. Most streams lose all of their flow up to some threshold rate. Streamflow is maintained through a loss zone when the threshold is exceeded. Streamflow records for 86 measurement sites are used to determine bedrock loss thresholds for 24 area streams, which have individual loss thresholds that range from negligible (no loss) to as much as 50 cubic feet per second. In addition, insights are provided regarding springflow that occurs in the immediate vicinity of selected loss zones.

Most losses occur to outcrops of the Madison Limestone and Minnelusa Formation. Losses to the Deadwood Formation probably are minimal. Losses to the Minnekahta Limestone generally are small; however, they are difficult to quantify because of potential losses to extensive alluvial deposits that commonly are located near Minnekahta outcrops.

Loss thresholds for each stream are shown to be relatively constant, without measurable effects from streamflow rates or duration of flow through the loss zones. Calculated losses for measurements made during high-flow conditions generally have larger variability than calculated losses for low-flow conditions; however, consistent relations between losses and streamflow have not been identified. Some of this variability results from the inability to account for tributary inflows and changes in storage. Calculated losses are shown to decrease, in some cases, during periods of extended flow through loss zones. Decreased "net" losses, however, generally can be attributed to springflow (ground-water discharge) within a loss zone, which may occur during prolonged periods of wet climatic conditions.

Losses to unsaturated alluvial deposits located adjacent to the stream channels are found to have significant effects on determination of bedrock losses. Large losses occur in filling initial storage in unsaturated alluvial deposits downstream from loss zones, when bedrock loss thresholds are first exceeded. Losses to alluvial deposits in the range of tens of cubic feet per second and alluvial storage capacities in the range of hundreds of acre-feet are documented.

Significant changes in loss thresholds for Grace Coolidge Creek, Spring Creek, and Whitewood Creek are documented. Introduction of large quantities of fine-grained sediments into these stream channels may have affected loss thresholds for various periods of time.





Purpose and scope

Description of study area

Previous investigations


Measurement sites

Water-balance equations

Factors affecting loss calculations

Tributary inflow


Changes in storage

Changes in channel storage

Changes in alluvial storage

Measurement accuracy

Analysis of streamflow losses

Beaver Creek and tributaries

Beaver Creek

Reaves Gulch

Highland Creek

Lame Johnny Creek and tributaries

South Fork Lame Johnny Creek (including Flynn Creek)

North Fork Lame Johnny Creek

French Creek

Battle Creek and tributaries

Battle Creek

Grace Coolidge Creek and tributaries

Grace Coolidge Creek

Bear Gulch

Spokane Creek

Spring Creek

Rapid Creek and Victoria Creek

Rapid Creek

Victoria Creek

Boxelder Creek

Elk Creek and Little Elk Creek

Elk Creek

Little Elk Creek

Redwater River tributaries

Bear Gulch

Beaver Creek

Spearfish Creek and tributaries

Iron Creek (tributary)

Spearfish Creek (main stem)

Higgins Gulch (tributary)

False Bottom Creek

Whitewood Creek

Bear Butte Creek

Summary of losses

Factors affecting loss rates

South Fork Lame Johnny Creek (including Flynn Creek)

French Creek

Battle Creek

Grace Coolidge Creek

Spring Creek

Rapid Creek

Boxelder Creek and Elk Creek

Summary of factors

Summary and conclusions

Selected references

Supplemental information

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Last modified: Wednesday, December 07 2016, 01:18:10 PM
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