High water, erosion create `bizarre’ Michigan floating isle

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.

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.

“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.

Although the phenomenon isn’t incredibly rare, Steinman said he was perplexed after seeing Gee’s video because the plants appear not to be 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.”

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.”

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.  (AP)

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