Source: Wikipedia, December 2014
Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1998
The Mighty Teays
by Ferne Baldwin
John Muir said in "Sierra Fragments" (1872) "Glaciers make the deepest mark of
any eroding agent, and write their histories in inerasable lines." During the
Pleistocene Epoch glacial ice moved into Indiana at least three times and
perhaps many times. At the maximum, five-sixths of the state was glaciated. In
these ancient times before the Ohio River or the Great Lakes came into being,
the great Teays River system drained much of what is now the east- central
United States. The Teays entered what is now Indiana in southern Adams County
and flowed across northern Jay county into Blackford County and then through
Grant and Wabash counties.
The origins of this system were in western North Carolina and it flowed northward across Virginia and West Virginia, turned westward to Scioto County, Ohio, then generally northward across Ohio. Some scholars argue that it continued to flow into what is now Lake Erie but the majority opinion is that it turned westward into Indiana, continued into Illinois, turning sharply southward in west Illinois to what was then the Gulf of Mexico near the southern tip of Illinois.
The river varied from one to two miles wide and up to 500 feet deep. What is called the "deep stage" was more than 300 feet below the upland in Wabash County. About two million years ago as the glaciers of the Pleistocene Ice Age came across Indiana they filled the Teays with the great load of accumulated sand, gravel and rocks pushed before them. Much of the character of the landscape of Northern Indiana today arises from this glacial activity.
About 13000 years ago the development of the Great Lakes was underway but it was not until about 11,000 years ago that these lakes had reached something near their current contours. Some other lakes developed in Ohio and Indiana if there was not easy exit for the meltwater as the glaciers melted. The largest of these, Lake Tight, named in honor of the work of W.G. Tight, is estimated to have covered an area of nearly 7,000 sq. miles in southern Ohio and part of West Virginia and Kentucky. From an examination of the sediments accumulated scientists have concluded that it existed for at least 6,500 years.
North of the Wabash River many well known lakes were formed by gradual meltdown of ice blocks. Bass Lake is an example of what is called a pit lake. Others are called kettle lakes and include Lake Wawasee and Lake James. The former Beaver Lake (now completely dry) occupied 28,500 acres in 1834. Human activities reduced it to 10,000 acres by 1917. Other glacial lakes have disappeared due to agricultural activity and residential development.
The buried Teays Valley enters the southeastern corner of Wabash county and about 18 miles of its course lies within the county. The "deep stage' is narrow, gorge-like within the broad, old age valley. If the bedrock formations were exposed, the steep walls along the "deep stage" would provide explanations of the sudden drops in the bedrock surface reported by well drillers.
The buried Teays valley is not a buried flowing river or what we might call an underground river. The valleys of preglacial and interglacial sluiceways generally contain thick extensive beds of gravel and sand. These deposits which lie buried under younger drift are excellent ground water reservoirs. Those that are found at the base of the drift in the "deep stage" Teays valley and its tributaries are of crucial importance to Wabash County and northern Indiana. For North Manchester, the buried Eel Valley is the most important tributary. Gravel and sand are abundant throughout the Packerton moraine area, and few wells have to be dug to bedrock for water.
The first wells for the city of Wabash were several flowing wells south or Treaty Creek. More recent must be pumped. They tap an aquifer in coarse gravel within a comparatively small, southward trending tributary of the Teays. The city of Peru in Miami county obtains its water supply from wells completed in gravel in the "deep stage" of the Teays valley. There are no doubt many other cities depending on Teays valley deposits for a secure city water supply.
Present day surface evidence of the Teays system is limited. In southern Ohio, which was not covered by glaciers, there are great deposits of what is called Minford clay, that accumulated in lakes created when the Teays was dammed by an early glacier. This clay deposit varies from 80 - 260 feet thick in parts of Madison county. Mapping of the bedrock surface beneath the glacial drive is now being done. The maps depict the configuration of the bedrock surface as if all overlying unconsolidated sediment had been removed and will show the course of preglacial valleys.
Where the glacial sluiceway cross buried valleys, they widen abruptly. The most obvious example for us occurs at the "prairie" west of Wabash, where the Wabash Valley crosses the buried Teays Valley. Above the "prairie" the Wabash River flows in a rock-walled valley from half a mile to l mile in width. At the point where the present Wabash Valley crosses the buried Teays Valley, it abruptly becomes a broad open valley from two and a half to three miles wide. Bedrock is exposed along the north side of the valley.
Modern satellite images show the old Teays as light-colored, broad valleys in areas of Ohio that were never covered by glaciers. The limits of the Wisconsinan glacier in Indiana and Ohio are readily visible. Mapping the Teays in areas which experienced deep glacier deposits is more difficult but it will be completed and we will have a much better understanding of this great river system.