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We're learning a lot about Lake Huron these days. First were the purple mats of algae that may hearken back to a time when North America was more like Antarctica.

Now we learn from two University of Michigan researchers, John O'Shea and Guy Meadows, that Paleo-Indians may have once hunted for Caribou on a land bridge that is today under the surface of Lake Huron. (click to see underwater pics!)

Using detailed government data on lake floor topography, a research vessel and a remote mini-rover equipped with a camera, scientists found what they believe are hunting pits, camps and rock structures called caribou "drive lines" on the bottom of Lake Huron.

Drive lines, also called drive lanes, are walls built of rocks that hunters used to lure caribou into ambush. A peculiarity of the deer species is that it readily follows linear cues, even though the rock walls are short enough to step over.

There has only been scant evidence for the presence of native peoples in the Great Lakes area after the great ice sheets left. But it has been long suspected.

According to National Geographic, a long line of rocks was used as a way to herd the Caribou into a hunter's blind, a technique that is still used to hunt Caribou in the arctic today.

The line resembles lanes still used by Arctic caribou hunters, according to the study.

"An interesting behavioral trait of caribou is that they follow linear features," said University of Michigan archaeologist John O'Shea, who co-authored the new study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The hunters recognized this, and the drive lanes were a way of casually suggesting, Why don't you walk this way?"

At the time, Lake Huron's water levels were considerably lower than today, and two land bridges were exposed.


Tree stumps can still be found up to 100 feet down in Georgian Bay.

tree stump

The water levels were less than they are today, as the climate was cooler and drier, and the great proglacial lake that covered much of Manitoba and Minnesota had stopped draining through the Great Lakes, and the Great Lakes were still draining into the remains of the Champlain Sea to the northeast.

The Great Lakes area would have been a land of rich northern game, with herds of Caribou and Muskox running the causeway between "Lake Stanley" and "Lake Hough" (the scientific names given to the dried up predecessor of Lake Huron.)

Originally posted to Bobs Telecaster on Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 12:01 PM PDT.

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