A common break was recognized in four Lake Superior strandplain sequences using geomorphic and sedimentologic characteristics. Strandplains were divided into lakeward and landward sets of beach ridges using aerial photographs and topographic surveys to identify similar surficial features and core data to identify similar subsurface features. Cross-strandplain, elevation trend changes from a lowering towards the lake in the landward set of beach ridges to a rise or reduction of slope towards the lake in the lakeward set of beach ridges indicates that the break is associated with an outlet change for Lake Superior. Correlation of this break between study sites and age model results for the strandplain sequences suggest that the outlet change occurred sometime after about 2,400 calendar years ago (after the Algoma phase). Age model results from one site (Grand Traverse Bay) suggest an alternate age closer to about 1,200 calendar years ago but age models need to be investigated further. The landward part of the strandplain was deposited when water levels were common in all three upper Great Lakes basins (Superior, Huron, and Michigan) and drained through the Port Huron/Sarnia outlet. The lakeward part was deposited after the Sault outlet started to help regulate water levels in the Lake Superior basin. The landward beach ridges are commonly better defined and continuous across the embayments, more numerous, larger in relief, wider, have greater vegetation density, and intervening swales contain more standing water and peat than the lakeward set. Changes in drainage patterns, foreshore sediment thickness and grain size help in identifying the break between sets in the strandplain sequences. Investigation of these breaks may help identify possible gaps in the record or missing ridges in strandplain sequences that may not be apparent when viewing age distributions and may justify the need for multiple age and glacial isostatic adjustment models.
Johnston, John W.; Thompson, Todd A.; Wilcox, Douglas A.; and Baedke, Steve J., "Geomorphic and Sedimentologic Evidence for the Separation of Lake Superior from Lake Michigan and Huron" (2007). Environmental Science and Ecology Faculty Publications. 49.