The Wrong Way Glacier in the Sixmile Creek Valley, Tompkins County, NY

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The Sixmile Creek Valley, between Van Natta’s and the 30’ dams, have some post-Valley Heads features that are difficult to explain. Two ridges that nearly cross the valley and are convex downstream look very much like moraines deposited by a glacier that was flowing downstream, but this is seemingly impossible because ice flow during the last glaciation moved southward and up the Sixmile Creek Valley. A second enigmatic feature is exposures of sand and gravel that form isolated patches along the edge of the valley. These features were either ignored or misinterpreted in earlier publications but following the recognition of northward subglacial drainage after the Valley Heads period they were reconsidered, re-investigated, and reinterpreted. The interpretation presented here identifies the sand and gravel patches as remnants of deposits in subglacial R channels. This phase evolved into a tunnel valley in which the interglacial gorge was largely re-excavated, and which now forms the walls of the valley in most of the study area. The ridges formed after this excavation because they lie on the bedrock floor of the gorge and are identified as moraines because of their shape, their parallel flanks and the composition of till within them. Field relationships show that the northward subglacial drainage began shortly after the Brooktondale readvance, during the early part of the Mackinaw Phase. The duration of this phase was much less than 1000yrs long, indicating that all these events must have all occurred within the span of a few hundred years. The moraines require that ice in the Sixmile valley had separated from that in the Cayuga trough but ideas as to how and why this occurred are extremely speculative. Nevertheless, this lack of understanding does not negate the conclusion that the ridges are moraines formed from ice moving down the Sixmile Creek Valley.

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Sixmile Creek Valley; Glacial moraines; deglaciation history


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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International



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