North-Central Section - 47th Annual Meeting (2-3 May 2013)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:40 AM


THOMPSON, Todd A., Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University, 611 North Walnut Grove, Bloomington, IN 47405-2208, JOHNSTON, John W., Department of Physical and Chemical Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road N, Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6, Canada and LEPPER, Kenneth, Department of Geosciences, North Dakota State University, P.O. Box 6050, Dept. 2745, Fargo, ND 58108-6050,

The Nipissing phase of ancestral Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior was the last pre-modern highstand of the upper Great Lakes. Reconstructions of past lake-level change and glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), as well as activation and abandonment of outlets is dependent on an understanding of the elevation of the lake at each outlet. More than one hundred years of study has established the gross elevation of the Nipissing phase at each outlet, but the mixing of geomorphic and sedimentologic data has produced interpreted outlet elevations varying by least several meters. Vibracore facies, optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon age control, and ground-penetrating radar transects from new and published studies were collected to determine peak Nipissing water-level elevations for the Port Huron (Lake Huron), Chicago (Lake Michigan), and Sault (Lake Superior) outlets. These data and published relative hydrographs were combined to produce one residual hydrograph for the Port Huron outlet from 6,000 to 3,500 calendar years ago that best defines the rise, peak, and rapid fall of the Nipissing phase. Establishing accurate elevations at the only present-day unregulated outlet of the Great Lakes and the only ancient outlet that has played a critical role in draining the upper Great Lakes since the middle Holocene is a critical step to better understand GIA and water-level change geologically and historically. The geologic context may provide the insight required for water managers to make informed decisions to best manage the largest freshwater system in the world.