Kame Deltas Provide Evidence for a New Glacial Lake and Suggest Early Glacial Retreat from Central Lower Michigan, USA

Randall J. Schaetzl, Kenneth Lepper, Sara Thomas, Leslie Grove, Emma Trieber, Alison Farmer, Austin Fillmore, Jordan Lee, Bethany Dickerson and Kayleigh Alme

In association with an undergraduate Honors Seminar at Michigan State University, we studied two small kame deltas in north-central Lower Michigan. These recently identified deltas provide clear evidence for a previously unknown proglacial lake (Glacial Lake Roscommon) in this large basin located in an interlobate upland. Our first goal was to document and characterize the geomorphology of these deltas. Because both deltas are tied to ice-contact ridges that mark the former position of the retreating ice margin within the lake, our second goal was to establish the age of one of the deltas, thereby constraining the timing of ice retreat in this part of Michigan, for which little information currently exists. Both deltas are composed of well-sorted fine and medium sands with little gravel, and have broad, nearly flat surfaces and comparatively steep fronts. Samples taken from the upper 1.5 m of the deltas show little spatial variation in texture, aside from a general fining toward their outer margins. Gullies on the outer margins of both deltas probably postdate the formation of the deltas proper; we suggest that they formed by runoff during a permafrost period, subsequent to lake drawdown. We named the ice lobe that once covered this area the Mackinac Lobe, because it had likely advanced into the region across the Mackinac Straits area. Five of six optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages from one of the deltas had minimal scatter and were within +1000 years of one another, with a mean age of 23.1 + 0.4 ka. These ages suggest that the Mackinac Lobe had started to retreat from the region considerably earlier than previously thought, even while ice was near its maximum extent in Illinois and Indiana, and the remainder of Michigan was ice-covered. This early retreat, which appears to coincide with a short-lived warm period indicated from the Greenland ice core, formed an “opening” that was at least occasionally flooded. Thick and deep, fine-textured deposits, which underlie much of the region, probably date to this time. Our work provides the first evidence of this extremely early ice retreat from central Lower Michigan, occurring almost 4000 years before the southern margin of the ice (Saginaw Lobe) had started its retreat from the state.