The purpose of this Master’s thesis is to investigate recently identified cliff-top sand dunes located within the Lower Chippewa River Valley (LCRV), Wisconsin, USA. Research within the LCRV notes the existence of a variety of aeolian deposits, but a comprehensive explanation of their complete spatial distribution, genesis, age, and paleoenvironmental significance does not exist. In particular, stabilized cliff-top dunes with a parabolic form remain poorly understood. This problem is exacerbated by a lack of clarity in the literature regarding the genesis of dunes in a cliff-top position. Therefore, this thesis begins by reviewing the literature concerning sand dunes in cliff-top position in order to clearly define and describe the cliff-top parabolic dune form within the various physical geographies it has been observed. A diagnostic classification scheme and formation models for cliff-top dune types are presented and based upon the landscape assemblage and geomorphic systems in which they are found. The classification scheme and formation models are then applied to cliff-top dunes along the LCRV to understand their origin, geomorphic, and paleoenvironmental significance in this actively evolving landscape. These cliff-top dunes exist in positions immediately adjacent to and above the highest fluvial terrace scarps in the LCRV. Other parabolic dunes are removed from cliff-top position and cover glacial outwash plains flanking the Chippewa River. However, the cliff-top dunes exhibit different morphologies, orientations, and ages compared to other aeolian deposits recently identified. Therefore, the results of this investigation indicate cliff-top dunes in the LCRV have a genesis involving complex fluvial-aeolian processes that occurred throughout the Holocene.


Phillip Larson

Committee Member

Ronald Schirmer

Committee Member

Garry Running

Committee Member

Douglas Faulkner

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Social and Behavioral Sciences



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In Copyright