What Are Kettle Lakes?
Learn all about the geographical mystery behind kettle lakes.
On our constantly changing earth, there are phenomena which occur so slowly that millions of years must pass before their result can be truly appreciated. One of these phenomena is the advancement and retreat of glaciers.
In this article, I will be discussing one of the most dramatic traces left behind by the presence of these glaciers - beautiful crenelated lakes called kettle lakes. In this picture, you can see a classic example of a kettle lake located in Southern Ontario within the Oak Ridges Moraine. At this point on Highway 9 just west of Newmarket there is a bulge in the moraine that must have contained a large block of ice. When the ice melted the roof material collapsed and this large pond was left. It is hard to imagine this pond being sustained by water run off forever and I expect one day it will simply dry up.
Picture by Peter Broster
Have you ever visited a kettle lake?
Kettle Lakes: Definition
Discover what a kettle lake is and how it forms
In laymen's terms, a kettle lake is a water-filled pothole left in the ground by a receding glacier that formed millions of years ago.
When a glacier recedes, ice breaks off the front of it in a process called "calving." This sediment-rich ice block remains stationary, allowing meltwater from the glacier to gradually deposit sand, clay, grit and rocks around and on top of it.
Years later, after the deposited sediment has solidified, the ice block melts, causing the sediment layer to cave in and form a large hole in the ground. These holes are usually no more than two kilometres in diameter, but some famous kettle lakes such as Puslinch Lake in Ontario, Canada are over 400 acres wide.
It is important to note that these holes can only be classified as kettle lakes if they are continually supplied with water from an overground or underground river. Otherwise, they are called kettle ponds if the water comes from precipitation or the groundwater table, or kettle bogs if decaying organic plant matter causes the water to become acidic.
Famous Kettle Lakes in North America
Journey from Walden Pond to Puslinch Lake to Wonder Lake
Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts
Walden Pond is one of the world's most famous kettle lakes. It is 61 acres and 2.7 km in diameter, and was home to writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. It is a popular state reservation often frequented by swimmers and holiday makers.
Puslinch Lake in Ontario, Canada
Puslinch Lake is the second largest kettle lake in all of North America. It is mostly fed by underwater springs, lake outflows, and surface runoff, and has only a maximum depth of 5.5 meters. It is a popular spot for fishermen, swimmers, sailors and water skiiers.
Wonder Lake, Dinali
Wonder Lake is a famous kettle lake located in Dinali National Park in Alaska. On a good day, you can get a wonderful view of both Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range from the lake.
Physical Geography Books Sold Through Amazon
These books are well researched tomes ideal for a Geography student or anyone who wants to learn more about the Physical Geography of our unique planet. Kettle lakes are just one product of Glacial scenery, it is a fascinating subject and brings with it world that except for the high mountain ranges of the Alps or Rockies, largely disappeared.
Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America's Kettle Lakes and Ponds - The best book about kettle lakes in America.
A fascinating book written by professor Robert M. Thorson about his journey around 19 different kettle lakes in America. Each kettle lake the author visits has a story to tell, and the author does a marvellous job of translating their stories into a language we can understand. He covers topics as wide as the beauty and cultural significance of the lakes, to how we can strive to preserve them. If you are interested, his blog can also be found above in the 'Links' section of this page.
Kettle lakes are often very short lived. If they are not constantly supplied with water, they tend to fill in with sediment or vegetation. This is exactly what happens and eventually they will all pass away until the next ice age.
How to make your own Kettle Lake
For the younger reader there may be some scepticism as to whether kettle lakes really exist. After all I cannot think of anywhere in the world you can go and see a lump of ice frozen in boulder clay, the forerunner of a kettle lake. So maybe its time to make one for yourself and prove it for yourself. Here is how you do it.....
- Ice cube
- Tin baking pan
- Mix together 3/4 cup of sand and 1/4 of a cup of water. Using a small tin baking pan, cover an ice cube with the mixture. Put the pan into the freezer and allow it to freeze overnight. The conditions in the freezer are similar to how things might have been during the last Ice Age.
- The next day, allow the now frozen mixture to defrost at normal room temperature. Observe with your children how the ice cube leaves a depression in the surrounding sand. This depression is equivalent to a real-life kettle lake.
- By Nick Bonzey from Corvallis, OR (Kettle Lakes) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Interesting Links to Websites about Kettle Lakes - Learn even more about this incredible geographical phenomenon.
- Wikipedia: Kettle (Landform)
The official Wikipeda website for kettle lakes, holes and bogs. It provides you with basic scientific information about kettle lakes, as well as information about famous kettle lakes in North America.
- Kettle Lakes in Michigan
A simplified explanation of how kettle lakes are formed, coupled with some beautiful photos of kettle lakes in Michigan.
- A Freshwater Journey from Maine to Montana
A blog written by professor Robert M. Thorson about his journey to 19 different kettle lakes across North America.
Kettle Lakes in Winter on YouTube - See six different kettle lakes during the winter months.
See a set of gorgeous photos of six different kettle lakes during the winter months in Canada. On average these lakes are not large and they rarely have any stream that flows into them. They quickly silt up and disappear. Southern Ontario is a particularly fertile ground for these features and if you have an opportunity to visit, follow the routes to the Oak Ridges Moraine and they pop up in the most bizarre of places. That is the beauty of a kettle lake, they make little sense geographically.
So there you have the complete description of what a kettle lake.is. Now its time to find one of your own. There are only two confirmed in England and six in Scotland. However there are many in Canada, USA, Siberia, Greenland search of Wikipedia will tell you if there are any near you. They are often in strange places and are usually very shallow. Needless to say they are associated with other glaciated features such as sands, gravels, boulder clay, drumlins and moraines. Good luck in your hunt