Proglacial Lake

Proglacial Lake

Proglacial Lake Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. A freshwater lake
  2. Formed behind a moraine or ice dam

Example of a Proglacial Lake Landform:
Lake Missoula, Clark Fork River, Idaho and Montana, USA
The proglalcial picture is of  Perito Moreno Glacier on Argentino Lake in Argentina.

What is a Proglacial Lake Landform?

A proglacial lake is a lake that forms behind a moraine or ice dam.

How are Proglacial Lakes Formed?

A proglacial lake may form behind a moraine in a valley, left by a retreating glacier. Glacial ice can also create a dam to block the flow of water from a river or melting glacier, forming a proglacial lake. When the dam breaks, catastrophic flooding can occur and carve areas of land downstream.

How Large is a Proglacial Lake?

A proglacial lake can be less than one hundred feet across, or extend for many miles. Lake Missoula was the largest known proglacial lake, covering approximately 3,000 square miles of land.

Where Can a Proglacial Lake Be Found?

A proglacial lake may be found in an area of former glacial activity, behind a moraine that blocks the flow of water from higher elevations.

Famous Proglacial Lakes and Facts

• North-central Wisconsin, USA
• Lake Missoula, Clark Fork River, Idaho and Montana, USA
• Andes Mountains, Peru
• Southern Alps, New Zealand

During the last ice age, a former route of the Wisconsin River in north-central Wisconsin was blocked by a glacier, creating a large proglacial lake. Near the end of the Ice Age, the glacier began to recede. The waters broke through, causing massive flooding that reshaped the land which includes the Wisconsin River Dells.

Lake Missoula was the largest proglacial lake known to exist, created near the end of the last ice age. The Clark Fork River in Idaho was damned by a glacier as many as 40 times during a period of about 2,000 years. Each time, a very large proglacial lake was created that would flood portions of eastern Washington when the dam broke, carving the land.

Some of the glaciers in the Andes Mountains in the tropical latitudes of Peru have receded during the 20th century. They left many moraines, forming proglacial lakes in the mountains. A recently formed moraine can sometimes break, allowing water to flood downhill. In Peru, some of these have been reinforced to prevent flooding and loss of life. In the Southern Alps of New Zealand, several proglacial lakes have formed behind moraines left by retreating glaciers. One is called Lake Tasman where boat tours are now given for visitors. The lake is 4 miles long, over a mile wide and still growing.

Proglacial Lake Definition:

A lake formed behind a moraine or ice dam.

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