Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
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Lake Michigan Coastal Dune Home
Introduction to Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
Features and Types of Dunes
Wind, Sand and Coastal Dunes
Climate, Dune, Lake and Seasonal Factors
Methods, Results and Research Students
References and Links to More Information


Introduction - When did the Lake Michigan coastal dunes form?

The landforms along the Lake Michigan coast today have ages ranging from just a couple of months to thousands of years. Dunes started forming when the ice sheet retreated because the glacier left sediments behind and there were strong winds to move them around. The landscape changed as the level of the lake rose and fell, climate and ecosystems varied, and human activities took place along the coast. Dunes grew, eroded, became stabilized, were reactivated and were overridden by other dunes.

Foredune, dune ridge and large parabolic dune in Hoffmaster State Park.
Contrasting ages: the foredune in the front of the photo is less than ten years old; the large parabolic dune in the back of the photo is more than a thousand years old.
(Hoffmaster State Park in July 2002.)

At present, coastal dunes exist at many locations along the east and north shores of Lake Michigan. Researchers such as Ed Hansen (Hope College) and Alan Arbogast (Michigan State University) use a variety of techniques to reconstruct dune history, including looking at the patterns of the landforms and dating buried soils and dune sands.  

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Last updated 03/23/10.