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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5223

Prepared in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Collection, Processing, and Interpretation of Ground-Penetrating Radar Data to Determine Sediment Thickness at Selected Locations in Deep Creek Lake, Garrett County, Maryland, 2007

By William S.L. Banks and Carole D. Johnson

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The U.S. Geological Survey collected geophysical data in Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland, between September 17 through October 4, 2007 to assist the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to better manage resources of the Lake. The objectives of the geophysical surveys were to provide estimates of sediment thickness in shallow areas around the Lake and to test the usefulness of three geophysical methods in this setting. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR), continuous seismic-reflection profiling (CSP), and continuous resistivity profiling (CRP) were attempted. Nearly 90 miles of GPR radar data and over 70 miles of CSP data were collected throughout the study area. During field deployment and testing, CRP was determined not to be practical and was not used on a large scale. Sediment accumulation generally could be observed in the radar profiles in the shallow coves. In some seismic profiles, a thin layer of sediment could be observed at the water bottom. The radar profiles appeared to be better than the seismic profiles for the determination of sediment thickness. Although only selected data profiles were processed, all data were archived for future interpretation.

This investigation focused on selected regions of the study area, particularly in the coves where sediment accumulations were presumed to be thickest. GPR was the most useful tool for interpreting sediment thickness, especially in these shallow coves. The radar profiles were interpreted for two surfaces of interest—the water bottom, which was defined as the “2007 horizon,” and the interface between Lake sediments and the original Lake bottom, which was defined as the “1925 horizon”—corresponding to the year the Lake was impounded. The ground-penetrating radar data were interpreted on the basis of characteristics of the reflectors. The sediments that had accumulated in the impounded Lake were characterized by laminated, parallel reflections, whereas the subsurface below the original Lake bottom was characterized by more discontinuous and chaotic reflections, often with diffractions indicating cobbles or boulders. The reflectors were picked manually along the water bottom and along the interface between the Lake sediments and the pre-Lake sediments. A simple graphic approach was used to convert traveltimes to depth through water and depth through saturated sediments using velocities of the soundwaves through the water and the saturated sediments. Nineteen cross sections were processed and interpreted in 9 coves around Deep Creek Lake, and the difference between the 2007 horizon and the 1925 horizon was examined. In most areas, GPR data indicate a layer of sediment between 1 and 7 feet thick. When multiple cross sections from a single cove were compared, the cross sections indicated that sediment thickness decreased toward the center of the Lake.

First posted December 2011

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
MD-DE-DC Water Science Center
5522 Research Park Drive
Baltimore, MD, 21228
Phone: 443-498-5500

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Suggested citation:

Banks, W.S.L., and Johnson, C.D., 2011, Collection, processing, and interpretation of ground-penetrating radar data to determine sediment thickness at selected locations in Deep Creek Lake, Garrett County, Maryland, 2007: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5223, 36 p.




Description of Study Area


Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Continuous Seismic-Reflection Profiling

Processing Geophysical Data

Interpretation of Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) Profiles for Sediment Thickness

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix A

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