Sedimentary charcoal, diatom and phytolith records of the past 1500 years at Elk Lake, Minnesota, in combination with sediment trap studies and a transect of surface sediment samples, document the mechanisms by which previously deposited charcoal is redeposited and finally buried in this lake. The frequent correspondence of high diatom concentrations and peaks of phytolith and charcoal fragments suggest that currents and turbulence related to lake circulation are responsible for winnowing charcoal and phytoliths from shallow water depositional sites to deeper areas of the lake. High diatom concentrations in the record relate to increased nutrient fluxes also supplied by circulation. Despite the fact that the watershed and area around Elk Lake has not been burned since AD 1922, charcoal continues to reach the profundal zone from littoral source areas in Elk Lake. The variable redeposition of within-lake charcoal requires evaluation before fire-history records can be related to global, regional or even local fire events.