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Facies and ground-penetrating radar characteristics of coarse-grained beach deposits of the uppermost Pleistocene glacial Lake Algonquin, Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

The lithofacies of the uppermost Pleistocene (ca 11 800 to 10 400 14C yr bp), cold-temperate, coarse-grained beach deposits of Lake Algonquin, the precursor of the present Lake Huron of North America, have been studied and interpreted based on analogous features of modern beaches from the same region. Ice foot and ice-cementation develop during winter but, unlike Arctic beaches, ice-related sedimentary features are seldom, if ever, preserved in the Pleistocene and recent deposits of the Great Lakes. Instead, the deposits retain the typical characteristics of wave-dominated, pure gravel and mixed sand and gravel beaches, there including the classical subdivision of infill zone, swash zone/sand run, imbricated zone, coarse flat-clast zone and coastal dunes. These zones form a regular succession on the surface of many modern beaches; however, they seldom occur as quasi-complete vertical successions in older deposits. In the studied uppermost Pleistocene deposits, the various components are separated vertically by erosional contacts (bounding surfaces) readily recognizable on working faces of large sand and gravel pits and mappable in the subsurface by ground-penetrating radar. The lithofacies are sufficiently diagnostic to allow recognition of depositional settings, and the lithofacies architecture allows the deciphering of important geological events, such as: (i) local input of fluvial material onto the shoreface, where it was partially reworked by waves and moved onto the beachface; (ii) occurrence of major storm events; and (iii) repeated rapid transgressions and regressions typical of the glacial-lake precursors of the modern Great Lakes.

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