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U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Map 2930

Visualizing the Geology of Lake Trout Spawning Sites: Northern Lake Michigan

By Peter Dartnell, Peter Barnes, James V. Gardner, and Kristen Lee

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Geologists and biologists are working together to understand the links between lake floor geology (composition and shape) and the distribution of lake trout throughout their life cycle. Lake floor geology is one of the main factors determining where lake trout spawn, feed, and hide. In support of ongoing research to study Lake Michigan trout habitats, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mapped the morphology of principle lake trout spawning sites. Using the Army Corps of Engineer's SHOALS airborne lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) system we mapped six regions in Northern Lake Michigan in order to identify ideal spawning regions composed of shallow, clean, gravel/cobble substrate, adjacent to deeper water.

Lidar mapping systems, which use laser pulses to measure water depths from an airplane, are now available to map the nearshore lake morphology at meter-scale detail. Maps generated from the bathymetric data are used to define regions with smooth homogeneous substrate, regions with higher relief, and mixed regions with both smooth and rough relief. This morphologic information combined with sediment samples and direct bottom observations enable geologists to map areas with rougher relief composed of rock outcrop, boulders, and cobbles, as well as smooth regions covered with sand or mud. This information helps biologists, fishery managers, and ecologists visualize the lake floor in significant detail which promotes better fishery management, species protection, and habitat identification.

These maps present the maps and discuss the geology of the six lake trout spawning sites mapped by the lidar system. Where the mapping approached land, aerial photography of the land is combined with the bathymetric data to help visualize the scale of the offshore features. Map and perspective views of Boulder Reef, Hog Island Reef, and Little Traverse Bay are shown on sheet 1, whereas map and perspective views of Trout and High Island Shoal, Gull Island Reef, and Dahlia Shoal are shown on sheet 2. Additional information, bathymetric data, imagery, and metadata are available online at

Download sheet 1 of this report as a 47x38-inch PDF document (SIM2930_sheet_1.pdf; 14 MB)

Download sheet 2 of this report as a 44x37-inch PDF document (SIM2930_sheet_2.pdf; 11.6 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Pete Dartnell

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Date created: September 30, 2004
Date last modified: June 30, 2006 (mfd)