Coastal geology and recent origins for Sand Point, Lake Superior

GSA Special Papers
By: , and 



Sand Point is a small cuspate foreland located along the southeastern shore of Lake Superior within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, Michigan. Park managers’ concerns for the integrity of historic buildings at the northern periphery of the point during the rising lake levels in the mid-1980s greatly elevated the priority of research into the geomorphic history and age of Sand Point. To pursue this priority, we recovered sediment cores from four ponds on Sand Point, assessed subsurface stratigraphy onshore and offshore using geophysical techniques, and interpreted the chronology of events using radiocarbon and luminescence dating. Sand Point formed at the southwest edge of a subaqueous platform whose base is probably constructed of glacial diamicton and outwash. During the post-glacial Nipissing Transgression, the base was mantled with sand derived from erosion of adjacent sandstone cliffs. An aerial photograph time sequence, 1939–present, shows that the periphery of the platform has evolved considerably during historical time, infl uenced by transport of sediment into adjacent South Bay. Shallow seismic refl ections suggest slump blocks along the leading edge of the platform. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and shallow seismic refl ections to the northwest of the platform reveal large sand waves within a deep (12 m) channel produced by currents fl owing episodically to the northeast into Lake Superior. Ground-penetrating radar profi les show transport and deposition of sand across the upper surface of the platform. Basal radiocarbon dates from ponds between subaerial beach ridges range in age from 540 to 910 cal yr B.P., suggesting that Sand Point became emergent during the last ~1000 years, upon the separation of Lake Superior from Lakes Huron and Michigan. However, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages from the beach ridges were two to three times as old as the radiocarbon ages, implying that emergence of Sand Point may have begun earlier, ~2000 years ago. The age discrepancy appears to be the result of incomplete bleaching of the quartz grains and an exceptionally low paleodose rate for the OSL samples. Given the available data, the younger ages from the radiocarbon analyses are preferred, but further work is necessary to test the two age models.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Coastal geology and recent origins for Sand Point, Lake Superior
Series title GSA Special Papers
DOI 10.1130/2014.2508(06)
Volume 508
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher The Geological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 26 p.
First page 85
Last page 110
Country United States
State Michigan
Other Geospatial Lake Superior, Sand Point
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