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SANDS OF TIME

A VISUAL DOCUMENTATION OF LAKE MICHIGAN’S CONSTANTLY CHANGING WATER LEVELS, AND ITS EFFECT ON THE LAKESHORE.

Right now, the Lake Michigan shoreline is experiencing erosion similar to that of the mid-1980’s and late-1990’s.  At that time those dwelling on the lakeshore hastened to build the seawalls and jetties which would fortify their properties and homes from the obliterating effect of the waves advancing out of the rising water.

Eventually, as the water receded, the sand returned to build up the shoreline and bury the wooden structures that were erected there. Now, as Lake Michigan moves through its rhythms once again, the water is advancing and the sands retreating, exposing the old, decaying seawalls.  Here you can peruse a photo-journal of this changing shoreline scenery, featuring the old seawalls and jetties as aged reminders of the cycles which are characteristic of our natural world.

(Click the chart to see it larger)

WHAT IS HAPPENING

With the increase in water levels there is drastic beach erosion, much like what we experienced in the mid 80’s and again in the mid to late 90’s. During these times home owners built seawalls and jetties to keep their homes from being washed out. After the water levels began to recede, these seawalls and jetties were buried under beach sand, but are now being revealed again because of the erosion, and I’m documenting this event through fine art.

The water levels are predicted to continue this increase till 2016-17, and when the water recedes again, beach sand will bury the seawalls, and people will forget they exist, until the water begins to rise again in another 10-15 years.

(Image at right is from 2013)

2013: 576.02′

January 2013 Lake Michigan was at a record low.
This was the summer just before one of the hardest winters in decades.

 

BELOW SLIDER: 
BEACH IN 2013 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN LATE 2014 (RIGHT)

2014

THE WINTER OF 2013/14 = A RECORD REBOUND IN LAKE MICHIGAN’S WATER LEVELS

 

JAN 2013: 576.02′
NOV 2014: 579.20′
INCREASE OF OVER 3′ OF WATER LEVEL

 

The winter of 2013/14 brought with it very severe weather, 93% ice coverage, and prolonged days of very cold temperatures. These conditions kept water in Lake Michigan from evaporating, contributing to the drastic rebound of the lake’s levels.

 

BELOW SLIDER:
BEACH IN LATE 2013 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN EARLY 2014 (RIGHT)

2015

WATER LEVELS CONTINUE TO RISE, AND BEACHES CONTINUE TO DISAPPEAR

 

JAN 2013: 576.02′
NOV 2014: 579.20′
JULY 2015: 579.82′
INCREASE OF ALMOST 4′ OF WATER LEVEL

 

The following winter produced similar weather patterns, and continued the rising water levels due to ice coverage and prolonged cold spells.

 

BELOW SLIDER:
BEACH IN LATE 2015 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN EARLY 2016 (RIGHT)
It’s impossible to get into the same positions to get the same image, due to erosion and water.

2016

MORE OF THE SAME

 

JAN 2013: 576.02′
APRIL 2016: 579.92′
INCREASE OF ALMOST 4′ OF WATER LEVEL

 

Because this past winter was an El Niño year, the lake’s ice coverage was less than 30%, which should have allowed a considerable amount of water to evaporate over the winter, but the opposite seems to have happened. As of this writing Lake Michigan’s water level is higher today than it was in December of 2015.

 

BELOW SLIDER:
BEACH IN AUG 2014 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN AUG 2016 (RIGHT)

2017

SIGNS OF CHANGE 

 

APRIL 2016: 579.95′
APRIL 2017: 579.79′
DECREASE IN WATER LEVEL OF JUST COUPLE INCHES, BUT THE SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IS THAT THE WATER LEVELS DID NOT INCREASE AS IT HAS THE PAST 3 YEARS.

 

BELOW SLIDER:
BEACH IN 2016 (LEFT) SAME BEACH SECTION IN APRIL 2017 (RIGHT)

2017: SIGNS OF CHANGE:

 

Following four years of rising water levels, Lake Michigan is now down by a few inches, but what might be more significant is the fact that the level has not increased. I was at the shoreline the other day ad the seawalls and jetties are slowly, once again, disappearing under the sand.

The slider below illustrates the difference that water movement and a year’s time can make in terms of sand distribution in Lake Michigan.

WATER LEVELS
April Comparisons:

1986: 581.46′
All time high and people began to panic and installing seawalls and jetties

2013: 576.61′
All time low and people began to panic wondering where all the water went

2014: 577.26’
This is after the lake had 93% ice coverage, the water began to rise, and jetties first became exposed

 

2015: 579.00′
After another harsh winter and 88% ice coverage, the water continued to rise

2016: 579.95′
The el nino winner in 2015 allowed water to evaporate during winter but the water level continued to rise.

2017: 579.79’
Another mild winter and this is the first time in several years that the water level did not rise

The difference between 2016 and 2017 is less than two inches, and yet the effect on the shoreline is significant. Is the sand coming back in from the lake, or coming down as dunes collapse?

Where is the sand coming from? Is the decline in water level a trend that will continue to effect our beaches? Will the jetties, and maybe more significantly the seawalls, continue to be buried? Time will tell, so stay tuned.

COMPARISON SHOTS

Below are before / after images

FOLLOW ALONG / UPDATES

SEAWALL BLOG

4.2017 SANDS OF TIME

I was very surprised to see so much beach coming back, and this set of jetties almost covered with sand. There's a seawall completely buried and the rocks are also almost buried. The difference in water level is less than a foot from last year at this time, but what a...

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8.14.2016 – Beach Update

Went out yesterday to try and photograph the same spots as I did in past years. Here's one before / after I think will help people visualize what's happening. Before = 8/2014 After = 8/2016 Where there was sand, is now water. I went out to my chest to get this after...

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SEAWALL – 3.19.2016

Now that it's spring, and the ice is gone, I'm picking up where I left things off late last year before snow and ice moved in. I went to the beach expecting to see more beach and a receding lake, but I was very surprised to see just the opposite. I haven't kept up...

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SEAWALLS 10.24

I decided to visit a part of the beach I haven’t seen much this year, but I do plan on making it back more as time permits. I like this set of jetties because of the uniqueness, and all the large rocks. They are difficult to get to, but worth it if the conditions are...

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BRUISED BUT NOT BEATEN

This jetty took a beating over the past winter, and throughout this past year. It's interesting to watch the changes of not only the beaches, but also the seawalls and jetties. Many times in the Spring I'll notice significant changes, with a plank missing here and...

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LAKE LEVEL UPDATE: 9.30

LAKE LEVEL: 579.63' Seems the lake has begun receding for now, which is a good sign for those living on the shoreline. Last year the water level didn't peak until November, so perhaps this is a sign that the water will begin receding next year, and our beaches will...

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LAKE LEVEL UPDATE // 9.17

SEAWALL UPDATE: 9.17.2015 CURRENT WATER LEVEL: 579.70' LAST MONTH WATER LEVEL: 579.81' This is the last blog post before ArtPrize, which runs from 9.23 - 10.11. Click here to find my exhibit. I'll post pics of the exhibit after ArtPrize is over, but I'd love to see...

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CONTACT

Need something different than what I have on my site?
Contact me: 616-560-3834 tony@tonyreidsma.photography

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