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A Minnesota Beach Where There is No Water

A Minnesota Beach Where There is No Water

As school children, most of us learned about the last ice age, in the Pleistocene Epoch, during which the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered more than half of North America. Between 13,000 and 8,500 years ago, the ice sheet went through multiple melt phases in which the ice sheet created a giant glacial lake–Lake Agassiz, named for Swiss-American Geologist Louis Agassiz, one of the first to postulate about our past ice ages.

Lake Agassiz was a massive body of fresh water in the middle of North America, larger than all of the Great Lakes combined. As the ice sheet retreated, ice dams held back the meltwater to create glacial Lake Agassiz. As the lake drained, sometimes slowly, other times in sudden, catastrophic outflows, the lake shrank and changed, leaving behind a table-flat landscape with some of the richest farmland in the world, and even sandy beaches from it’s ever-shifting shoreline. To the geologically educated, the signs of Lake Agassiz are everywhere, but even to those like myself, without a geologic eye, there are places where you can see the remains of this monster lake. In late May of 2017, I visited one of those places, outside Fertile, Minnesota. It’s a Minnesota beach where there is no water.

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