Postglacial sedimentary record and history of West Hawk Lake crater, Manitoba

James T. Teller, Zhirong Yang, Matthew Boyd, William M. Buhay, Kyle McMillan, Hedy J. Kling, Alice M. Telka

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West Hawk Lake (WHL) is located within the glacial Lake Agassiz basin, 140 km east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The small lake lies in a deep, steep-sided, meteorite impact crater, which has been partly filled by 60 m of sediment that today forms a flat floor in the central part of the basin below 111 m of water. Four cores, 5-11 m in length, were collected using a Kullenberg piston gravity corer. All sediment is clay, contains no unconformities, and has low organic content in all but the upper meter. Sample analyses include bulk and clay mineralogy, major and minor elements, TOC, stable isotopes of C, N, and O, pollen, charcoal, diatoms, and floral and faunal macrofossils. The sequence is divided into four units based mainly on thickness and style of lamination, diatoms, and pollen. AMS radiocarbon dates do not provide a clear indication of age in the postglacial sequence; possible explanations include contamination by older organic inwash and downward movement of younger organic acids. A chronological framework was established using only selected AMS dates on plant macrofossils, combined with correlations to dated events outside the basin and paleotopographic reconstructions of Lake Agassiz. The 822 1-cm-thick varves in the lower 8 m of the cored WHL sequence were deposited just prior to 10,000 cal years BP (∼8,900 14C years BP), during the glacial Lake Agassiz phase of the lake. The disappearance of dolomite near the top of the varved sequence reflects the reduced influence of Lake Agassiz and the carbonate bedrock and glacial sediment in its catchment. The lowermost varves are barren of organisms, indicating cold and turbid glacial lake waters, but the presence of benthic and planktonic algae in the upper 520 varves indicates warming; this lake phase coincides with a change in clay mineralogy, δ18O and δ13C in cellulose, and in some other parameters. This change may have resulted from a major drawdown in Lake Agassiz when its overflow switched from northwest to east after formation of the Upper Campbell beach of that lake 9,300-9,400 14C years ago. The end of thick varve deposition at ∼10,000 cal years BP is related to the opening of a lower eastern outlet of Lake Agassiz and an accompanying drop in West Hawk Lake level. WHL became independent from Lake Agassiz at this time, sedimentation rates dropped, and only ∼2.5 m of sediment was deposited in the next 10,000 years. During the first two centuries of post-Lake Agassiz history, there were anomalies in the diatom assemblage, stable O and C isotopes, magnetic susceptibility, and other parameters, reflecting an unstable watershed. Modern oligotrophic conditions were soon established; charcoal abundance increased in response to the reduced distance to the shoreline and to warmer conditions. Regional warming after ∼9,500 cal years BP is indicated by pollen and diatoms as well as C and O isotope values. Relatively dry conditions are suggested by a rise in pine and decrease in spruce and other vegetation types between 9,500 and 5,000 cal years BP (∼8,500-4,400 14C years BP), plus a decrease in δ13Ccell values. After this, there was a shift to slightly cooler and wetter conditions. A large increase in organic content and change in elemental concentration in the past several thousand years probably reflects a decline in supply of mineral detritus to the basin and possibly an increase in productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-688
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JTT received generous support for this research through a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. The Manitoba Climate Change Action Fund made many analyses possible through a grant to JTT.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Holocene lake history
  • Lake Agassiz
  • Manitoba
  • Meteorite crater

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • WHL


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