Okay, all you North Dakota geography wizards, here is your question for the day: What is the deepest natural lake in the state? I can just about hear your wheels spinning, and it is not Devils Lake. Even with the high water levels, the Devils Lake contour map on the North Dakota Game and Fish’s website shows the maximum depth to be 53.1 feet with the lake level at 1447 feet above sea level.
Although I have seen no official designation, Lake George is widely regarded as the deepest natural lake in the state. It is located about 8 miles northwest of Streeter, or about 8 miles south of the Crystal Springs exit on Interstate 94. The locals call it Salt Lake.
A recent scientific study conducted on the lake found the lake is at least 158 feet deep. Jaime Toney, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University is conducting a portion of her dissertation on Lake George with the cooperation of the NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. The lake has no major inlet or outlet, and the lake is deep enough that the bottom never mixes with the upper portion. As a result, there are thousands of years of accumulated sediment at the bottom which represents a chronological record of life in and around Lake George. Those sediments may provide valuable information on past climates, and that is exactly the topic of Jamie Toney’s research.
Toney extracted a sediment core from the lake bottom that dates back over 8,000 years. She is analyzing the sediment for a group of chemicals called alkenones. Alkenones are persistent organic substances produced by algae. Different forms of alkenones can be correlated with water temperatures in which the algae grew. As a result, the alkenones in lake sediments can be used to determine past water temperatures. Toney is analyzing the alkenones to determine if the lakes surface temperatures can be correlated with drought. Her study has not been completed, but already she has been able to identify a persistent drought in the area from 8,000-7,500 years ago.
So in addition to Lake George being the deepest natural lake in the state, it may also hold important information to help scientists better understand climate and climate change.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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