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ABSTRACT

Freefight Lake, Canada's deepest salt lake, is a meromictic, hypersaline lake located in the most arid part of the northern Great Plains. The lake has a distinctive basin morphology, with a large expanse of seasonally flooded mud flats and sand flats adjacent to a deep, flat bottomed perennial waterbody. The mixolimnion, dominated by magnesium, sodium and sulphate ions, has an average salinity of 110 ppt and overlies a monimolimnion of 180 ppt total dissolved salts. The entire water column is strongly supersaturated with respect to a variety of calcium and magnesium carbonate minerals; the lower water mass is also saturated or supersaturated with respect to a number of very soluble sodium, magnesium and sodium + magnesium salts.

The modern sedimentary processes operating in Freefight Lake give rise to six main sedimentary facies: (i) colluvium, (ii) mud flats and sand flats, (iii) algal flats, (iv) delta, (v) slope and debris apron, and (vi) deep basin. The colluvium, mud flats and sand flats, and delta facies are dominated by physical processes and consist mainly of detrital siliciclastic sediment. The algal flats, slope and debris apron, and deep basin facies are dominated by endogenic and authigenic sediments derived mainly by physicochemical and biologically mediated carbonate and evaporite mineral precipitation. As one of very few deep water lakes in the world in which soluble evaporite minerals are forming and being preserved, Freefight Lake occupies an important position within the realm of lacustrine sedimentology. Although many of the sedimentological and geochemical processes taking place in the basin today are unusual, the delineation and evaluation of these processes is essential in order to decipher properly the stratigraphic records of Quaternary lake sediments in this large area of North America, as well as lacustrine sequences from other arid and semi-arid regions of the world.