A large mass of grasses and other vegetation has been swept into a western Michigan lake, creating what one professor calls a ‘bizarre’ floating island.
The unusual floater was first spotted by boaters as sailed through Muskegon Lake ahead of the annual Parade of Power rally on Saturday.
The phenomenon itself is not particularly rare, but this chunk of vegetation is surprisingly large. The exact size of the floating island is unclear.
Norton Shores photographer Joe Gee shot video of the floating vegetation Thursday in Muskegon Lake using an aerial drone. His footage shows a pontoon boat circling the island and looking small by comparison.
An island made of grasses and vegetation appeared in Muskegon Lake in Michigan after an expert said the shoreline broke off
‘I’ve lived my whole life in the Muskegon area, and I’ve never seen anything like it,’ Gee told the Detroit Free Press.
The floating vegetation is almost certainly the result of record-high water levels and resulting shoreline erosion, said Alan D. Steinman, director of the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University.
Water levels for the Great Lakes and smaller nearby lakes have been on the rise throughout this year.
Lake Michigan, which feeds into Muskegon Lake, in January recorded water levels that were 17 inches higher than they were in January 2019.
On June 18, the United States Army Corps of Engineers reported that Lake Michigan’s water levels were at 582.17 feet.
Alan D. Steinman said the island was ‘almost certainly result of record-high water levels and resulting shoreline erosion’
The ‘bizarre’ chuck of land was first spotted by boaters sailing through Muskegon Lake on Thursday ahead of the annual Parade of Power rally on Saturday
‘Since January 2013, Lake Michigan went from record lows to record highs,’ Deanna Apps, physical scientist for the Army Corps Detroit District, told Ludington Daily News.
‘The lake has changed five-and-a-half to six feet in seven years. There have been consistent wet patterns, especially in the last couple years.’
In December 2019, Muskegon Lake’s water levels were so high that they caused flooding in people’s home in West Michigan, Fox 17 reports.
Steinman admitted he was perplexed after seeing Gee’s video because the plants appear not to typical shoreline vegetation, such as reeds. He said that’s ‘really strange.’
‘We have had (floating islands) in the past, but they tend to be much smaller, cattails that break off from a coastal wetland,’ he said. ‘This one is bizarre.’
Water levels of the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, have been steadily rising and breaking records over the last year.
Steinman: ‘We have had (floating islands) in the past, but they tend to be much smaller, cattails that break off from a coastal wetland. This one is bizarre’
While riverbank or shoreline erosion typically occurs in a crumbling fashion, he said high water can undermine a patch of plants and ‘at some point it cleaves off, sort of like a glacier.’
Also, Steinman said the floating island doesn’t look like any piece of Muskegon Lake shoreline he’s seen before, ‘and I know the vegetation along this shoreline,’ he said.
Steinman said it’s a remote possibility the vegetation floated into Muskegon Lake from somewhere else along Michigan’s shoreline, or even from across adjacent Lake Michigan, which interacts with the smaller lake’s waters.
‘I’m bewildered, to tell the truth,’ he said. ‘I’d like to find it and get out on it, or close to it, to figure out the vegetation.
I’m on Muskegon Lake, and I’m looking out my window, hoping it will float by.’