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Elk Lake is located in the forested region of north-central Minnesota at the headwaters of the Mississippi River and occupies one of countless basins left behind as the last great Pleistocene ice sheet retreated northward into Canada. In this respect it resembles many other moderately deep, dimictic, hard-water lakes in the north-central United States, the sediments of which contain a history of postglacial and Holocene climatic and environmental change. Elk Lake is different, however, because the Holocene sediments in the deeper part of the lake form an uninterrupted sequence of annual laminations or varves. The varves are a chronometer for...

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