Abstract

Field measurements from 1985 to 1990 and sequential aerial photography since 1945 show that overwash plays an extremely important role in the dynamics of Long Point, a large barrier spit on the north shore of Lake Erie. Overwash occurs primarily in the transgressive proximal and central zones of the spit, which together account for some 65% of the total shoreline length of 41 km. During periods of high lake level, over 50% of the shoreline in these zones may be overwashed. Washover morphology ranges from continuous washover terraces in areas of low foredunes to isolated washovers with narrow throats and distinct fans where breaching has occurred through high dunes. Individual overwash events commonly produce deposits on the fan surface 0.25–0.75 m or more in thickness. Washover-fan sediments are dominated by nearly horizontal planar bedding, with deposits near the fan margins often having foreset bedding, reflecting deposition in standing water of the bay or of interdune ponds.The frequency of overwash occurrence is strongly influenced by long-term lake-level fluctuations, which produce a distinct cycle of overwash activity. During the high-water phase more than 40% of the shoreline may consist of active washover fans or inlet breaches. Even storms with a return frequency of 1–2 per year can lead to significant overwash activity, and the washovers are generally reactivated several times in a 2 or 3 year period around the peak water level. During the low-water phase wider beaches offer protection against even extreme storm events, resulting in washover healing and restoration of a continuous foredune.

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