Bighorn Basin - Physiography and topography
The Bighorn Basin as defined for this memorandum (Figure 3-2) covers an area of approximately 12,500 square miles, measuring approximately 140 miles east-west and approximately 100 miles north-south to the Montana state line – and continues northward about 22 miles into Montana. The basin is bordered on the northeast by the Pryor Mountains, on the east by the Bighorn Mountains, on the south by the Owl Creek and Bridger mountains, and on the northwest by the Beartooth Mountains. To the west, the structural basin is covered by the volcanic Absaroka Range and extends westward onto the Yellowstone Plateau. The basin is open northward into Montana.
The topography of the basin interior is characterized by rolling plains broken by broad river valleys, narrow terraces, and badlands. Elevations in the plains range from 4,000 to 5,600 feet above sea level. The lowest elevation within the Bighorn Basin is approximately 3,500 feet, where the Bighorn River crosses the Wyoming/Montana state line. The bounding mountain ranges rise steeply on the eastern, western, and northwestern sides of the basin and more gradually on the southern side. Elevations in the mountains commonly exceed 10,000 feet, reaching a maximum of 13,175 feet at Cloud Peak in the Bighorn Mountains. Total topographic relief in the Bighorn Basin is approximately 9,700 feet.
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