Mapping ancient glacier activity in the Manistee National Forest

ELK TWP. — Geologist Dr. Kevin Kincare, PhD, of Manistee, examines hillsides, lakes, gravel pits and other terrain in the Manistee National Forest, and can specify how glacial activity shaped the area. The Elk Township Hall was filled with area residents on Aug. 15, listening intently to his research finds.

Kincare, a United States Geological Survey research geologist for the Manitsee National Forest, maps the glacial history of the land. His expertise is erosion, sedimentation, unconsolidated deposits and stratigraphy.

His presentation at the Elk Township Hall was titled “Glaciers: Their recent history and how they shaped our lands and lakes.”

“I am currently mapping the glacial geology of the Manistee National Forest and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as well as ongoing work in the St. Joseph River basin in Michigan and Indiana. I also am a member of the Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition, which includes all eight states with Great Lakes coastlines,” he said.

Annie Chase, chair for the Elk Township Historical Society, said the historical society asked Kincare to give a presentation for their annual program offered to the public.

“Each year we invite a guest speaker to our Elk Township Historical Society program to present on an interesting topic,” she said. “Dr. Kincare was introduced to some of our township officials during a Watershed Council meeting, and we thought it would be wonderful to have him speak on the glacial history of this area.”

During the presentation, Kincare explained all the lakes in the area he is mapping were formed by glaciers.

“When I am out mapping I can tell where changes were made in the land and where glaciers formed a lake or impacted a river,” he said. “It is incredible to study the lakes here. Every single one of them was formed by an iceberg. When this process happened, the icebergs, some of which were 1,200 feet at their thickest, got buried by out-wash and sat on the ground for a long time, pushing the earth’s crust. When the icebergs melted, they formed lakes in the depressions they created.”

He said murky, clay-bottomed lakes had clay out-wash burying the glacier, and when it melted, the clay settled to the bottom, and lakes with sandy bottoms had sand covering the glacier.

“Because of all the glacier activity, our soils in Michigan are so young and rich with nutrients. When I have examined the geology in some of the southern states, the soil is very worn out and filled with iron-oxide, giving it a rusty color. Michigan soils are really good,” he said.

He presented a map of Udell Hills, northwest of Elk Township, and explained how they were formed by glacier activity.

“The hills show activity of being filled with water in the low spot, and boulders, which were around the edge, rolled into the hole. As the glacier melted, the water wanted to get out, and I believe it drained in the area which now is south of M-55,” he said.

Concluding the program, Kincare talked about groundwater studies.

“There are some different ways to study groundwater,” he said. “If you are near a lakeside, and dig a hole until you get to water, if the water level in the hole is higher than the lake, it is feeding the lake. If the water level is lower than the lake, the lake is feeding the groundwater.”

He explained groundwater flows downhill, but will flow uphill where there is artesian pressure.

“Because groundwater flows downward, when people are building a home on a piece of land, wells should be put on higher ground and the septic should go on the lower ground,” he said.

He talked about aquifers, which are water bearing rocks transmitting water to wells or springs.

“In the Cadillac area there are five aquifers flowing to the Manistee River,” he said.

When Kincare finished his presentation, he answered several questions from audience members and heard some of their observations about glacial formations in the area.

Lou Fitz, Elk Township supervisor, said the presentation was a wealth of information.

“I appreciate the time and effort Dr. Kincare took to inform our citizens about the glacial formations in this region,” he said.