Abstract

Long Point spit, on the north shore of Lake Erie, is >40 km long and presently building into water that is >40 m deep. Annual sediment supply to the spit is estimated to be 1.0 × 106 m3∙a−1 and is derived from the erosion of cohesive bluffs along more than 90 km of shoreline to the west. The shoreline of the distal bayside consists of narrow barriers that connect the ends of dune ridges and enclose interdune ponds and swales. Unlike most barrier spits, the distal end shows little evidence of the formation of dune recurves, and the shoreline of the bayside, rather than fronting a protected bay, is exposed to waves generated by northeast winds blowing over a fetch >100 km. Results of wave refraction analysis indicate that because of the great depth of water at the tip, there is almost no refraction of the dominant westerly and southwesterly waves around the distal end, thus inhibiting the formation of recurves. Net sediment transport on the distal bayside is towards the distal end of the spit. The result is the development of a narrow spit platform extending the spit directly into the deepest part of Lake Erie. All sediment reaching the distal end along the exposed south shore is transported onto this platform and none reaches the distal bayside.The negative sediment budget on the distal bayside results in transgression of the shoreline through truncation of the dune ridges, and overwash and breaching of the small barriers. Historical aerial photographs show that most of the overwash and breaching occurs during periods of long-term high lake levels, with the barriers being rebuilt landward of their former position during the following periods of lower lake levels. Progradation of the south shore at the distal end is thus partly counterbalanced by the transgression of the bayside.

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