Coastal geology and recent origins for Sand Point, Lake Superior

Timothy G. Fisher, David E. Krantz, Mario R. Castaneda, Walter L. Loope, Harry M. Jol, Ronald Goble, Melinda C. Higley, Samantha DeWald, Paul R. Hanson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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, influenced by transport of sediment into adjacent South Bay. Shallow seismic reflections suggest slump blocks along the leading edge of the platform. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and shallow seismic reflections to the northwest of the platform reveal large sand waves within a deep (12 m) channel produced by currents flowing episodically to the northeast into Lake Superior. Ground-penetrating radar profiles 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.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCoastline and Dune Evolution along the Great Lakes
EditorsTimothy Fisher, Edward Hansen
PublisherGeological Society of America
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780813725086
ISBN (Print)9780813725086
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014

Publication series

NameSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
ISSN (Print)0072-1077


  • ISGS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Coastal geology and recent origins for Sand Point, Lake Superior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this