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"... mud holes and river crossings ... "

Despite what you might think, there are consequences of submerging the starter, alternator, serpentine belt pulleys, and rear axle.

The "delayed start" symptom sounds like you got mud into the starter and the solenoid plunger is binding and sticking. The starter motor needs to be removed, disassembled, cleaned, and re-installed. If this is a high-mileage vehicle and you don't have the service history, you might as well just replace the starter.

The most likely source for the whining sound can be either one of the serpentine belt pulleys or the alternator, but there are other potential sources as well.

If the breather for the rear axle was dirty or stuck open (common on a higher-mileage vehicle) you may have drawn water into the axle housing. I'd pull a sample out of the axle and see if there is any trace of oil/water emulsion.
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