How Glaciers Shaped Our State

By Patrick Endres, Rochester Hills Museum

This winter has been unusually mild and lacking our usual snow blanket. Michigan has not always had this problem. Approximately 18,000 years ago Michigan was completely covered by a huge snow blanket. This huge snow blanket was a continental glacier that had advanced all the way from Laurenatian Highlands in Canada.

Scientists believe this glacial advance was due to global climate change. This global climate change caused northern regions to experience longer winters and cooler summers. The cooler temperatures allowed the fallen snow to remain and collect, which then caused the continental glacier to advance over time. During the last glacial advance, the continental glacier reached into Ohio and Indiana. This glacial period ended roughly just 3,500 years ago!

Michigan’s landscape still displays some signs of this glacial period. Two of these features are the Grand Sable Dunes in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the few Drumlin fields that are located in our state. The sand that is on the Grand Sable Dunes is sitting on top of a glacial moraine or hill that was created by the glacier. Michigan’s Drumlin fields were created when a glacier advanced over an older moraine and then retreated. As the glacier retreated, it produced a hill.

To learn about other glacial features in Michigan and in the Rochester area, come to our program, Glaciers in Rochester on February 25 at 1 p.m. Admission is free for museum members; for non-members, admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students (k-12) and seniors (60+).

For more information about any environmental programs call (248) 656-4663 or e-mail

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