Numerous Lake Superior watersheds have legacy mining issues. In Grand Traverse Bay, the magnitude of stamp sand wastes from copper mining initiated a perturbation that has played out for over a century.  From 23 million metric tonnes of tailings sluiced onto shorelines near Gay, Michigan, stamp sands are spreading across rivers, beaches, and parks.  Reworked stamp sands have moved 7.4-8.1 km (4.6-5 miles) south from Gay as black beach sands, extending to the northern sea wall of the Traverse River.  The stamp sands are now working their way around and over the sea wall, moving along stretches of previously undisturbed white beach coastline.  Drifting underwater stamp sand bars were detected moving towards Buffalo Reef.   The reef is approximately 9 km2 in area and is a productive spawning area for whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush).  Tribal estimates suggest that much of the Keweenaw Bay catch of lake trout comes from Buffalo Reef.  It appears that stamp sands are encroaching upon the reef and threatening the spawning grounds.

Grand Traverse Bay bathymetry


During the summer of 2012, Michigan Tech and the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center - Environmental Laboratory (ERDC-EL Vicksburg) used a combination of LiDAR-constructed maps and ship-based studies to survey Buffalo Reef in Grand (Big) Traverse Bay, Lake Superior. We moved along transects to evaluate encroachment of underwater stamp sands onto Buffalo Reef. The videos verify the presence of stamp sands in cobble fields suggested by previous remote sensing studies, e.g. LiDAR and the Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) bottom substrate classification in Kerfoot et al. 2012. High Definition (HD) video cameras and side-looking sonar revealed stamp sand accumulating west of Buffalo Reef and falling into the "trough" east of Buffalo Reef. 

This page has two sections: Videos which are a series of video clips acquired by underwater HD cameras and slides and papers from talks given at an October 2012 meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers at Michigan Tech. There are also large maps (click them) associated with each of the videos, that indicate site locations relative to Buffalo Reef.



Buffalo Reef Station G001

Station G001
Station G001 (Stamp sand) west of Buffalo Reef, highlighted with red text and black circle. Click the map to enlarge.


Buffalo Reef station GTB002

Station GTB002
Station GTB002 (natural sand), south of Traverse River Seawall, is highlighted in red text and black circle. Click the map for enlargement.


Buffalo Reef station G004

Station G004
Location of station G004 (mixture of stamp sand and natural sand), cobble field north of Buffalo Reef, highlighted with red text and black circle. 


Buffalo Reef station G005

Station G005
Station G005
Station G005 (boulder field), on top of Buffalo Reef, highlighted in red text with black circle.


Buffalo Reef station A13

Station GA13
Station GA13
Location of Station GA13 (stamp sands inside cobble field N of Buffalo Reef), highlighted in red text with black circle. 


Buffalo Reef station G014

Station G014
Station G014 (stamp sand dropping into "trough" NE of Buffalo Reef), highlighted in red text with black circle.

Presentation slides:

Substrate types at different sampling stations
The results of 2012 collected sediments at the study site

Presentations and publications:

Links to two powerpoint presentations (Oct 2012 MTU meeting) and published paper. The Buffalo Reef survey (pdfgives additional information about the 2012 summer field survey and its results. The second presentation talks about the historical discharges and movement of stamp sands, remote sensing studies of migrating sands, and the biological and ecological effects of stamp sands on Grand Traverse Bay and Buffalo Reef (pdf). There is a copy (pdf) of the L&O paper (Kerfoot et al. 2012), that discusses findings from the joint efforts.