Post-Glacial Fluvial Response and Landform Development in the Upper Muskegon River Valley in North-Central Lower Michigan, U.S.A.


Alan F. Arbogast, J.R. Bookout, Brad R. Schrotenboer, A. Lansdale, G.L. Rust, and V.A. Bato


          This study focuses on the upper part of the Muskegon River system in north-central Lower Michigan and is the first to reconstruct the post-glacial history of fluvial landform development in the core of North America’s Great Lakes region. Results indicate that the upper Muskegon River valley contains four alluvial terraces and numerous paleomeanders.  Radiocarbon dating of peats within these old channels provides a good chronology for stream behavior and landform development.  The T-4 terrace is a paired Pleistocene outwash/lacustrine surface that probably formed about 12,500 years ago.  The T-3 terrace is a fill-strath surface that was cut between about 12,000 and perhaps 9,500 years ago.  The geometry of macromeanders on this surface suggests that stream discharge was ~ 8 times greater than during the Holocene.

The Pleistocene/Holocene transition is marked by a major period of downcutting that likely began as the climate warmed/dried and sediment yield diminished.  This period of downcutting potentially lasted through the drier middle Holocene, creating a 6-m-high escarpment in the valley.  The Muskegon River then began to aggrade when the climate became wetter.  Subsequently the river again incised, creating the paired T-2 terrace, about 3400 years ago when the climate became still wetter.  T-2 paleomeanders indicate that stream discharge at this time was consistent with the modern river.  In the past 2500 years, the stream has constructed a poorly defined complex of T-1 terraces.  These surfaces likely formed due to complex response associated with more variable climate.  This study demonstrates that the upper Muskegon River has a similar post-glacial history as streams on deglacial and periglacial landscapes elsewhere in the world.