Causal links that connect Holocene high stands of Lake Superior with dune building, stream damming and diversion and reservoir impoundment and infilling are inferred from a multidisciplinary investigation of a small watershed along the SE shore of Lake Superior. Radiocarbon ages of wood fragments from in-place stumps and soil O horizons, recovered from the bottom of 300-ha Grand Sable Lake, suggest that the near-shore inland lake was formed during multiple episodes of late Holocene dune damming of ancestral Sable Creek. Forest drownings at ~3000, 1530, and 300 cal. years BP are highly correlated with local soil burial events that occurred during high stands of Lake Superior. During these and earlier events, Sable Creek was diverted onto eastward-graded late Pleistocene meltwater terraces. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) reveals the early Holocene valley of Sable Creek (now filled) and its constituent sedimentary structures. Near-planar paleosols, identified with GPR, suggest two repeating modes of landscape evolution mediated by levels of Lake Superior. High lake stands drove stream damming, reservoir impoundment, and eolian infilling of impoundments. Falling Lake Superior levels brought decreased sand supply to dune dams and lowered stream base level. These latter factors promoted stream piracy, breaching of dune dams, and aerial exposure and forestation of infilled lakebeds. The bathymetry of Grand Sable Lake suggests that its shoreline configuration and depth varied in response to events of dune damming and subsequent dam breaching. The interrelated late Holocene events apparent in this study area suggest that variations in lake level have imposed complex hydrologic and geomorphic signatures on upper Great Lakes coasts.
Additional publication details
A Holocene history of dune-mediated landscape change along the southeastern shore of Lake Superior