Crumbling Dunes

Crumbling Dunes

Warm for a late December morning -almost 46 degrees - and very calm along the beaches of southern Lake Michigan, make my annual first day of vacation hike to the lake very comfortable. Usually I photograph the ice build up on the lighthouses of the area, but this year it was too warm for such things.

Lake Michigan built the dunes along the shore over the past few thousand years, and now as part of the natural process, she is reclaiming part of them. Wave action hits the dunes and undercuts them, causing small sand slides. When these happen frequently enough, the side of the dune falls to the beach, bringing with it whatever is growing on top. Entire mature trees can be found uprooted laying on the beach. In this area, there were dozens of trees littering the beach.

Beach Erratics

In addition to trees and plants, I've seen parts of old buildings exposed and laying on the beach after this type of erosion, kind of an opening of a time capsule. Some of the logs exposed look almost petrified, taking on the minerals of the sand that surrounded them for hundreds or thousands of years.

This particular dune was hiding a 5 or 6 foot long boulder. While not up on the dune, this was most likely pushed to this spot by the glaciers that created the Great Lakes. It was then buried by the blowing sands under the dune. Recent erosion exposed it - just another glacial erratic in the midwest.

Reclaiming the Dunes

The beach has narrowed quite a bit, to the point where the waves constantly hit the dunes, and visitors will certainly get their feet wet when it's windy. There's not much if anything people can do to stop the erosion, we'll just have to realize that nature changes and we need to adapt to those changes.

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