Deltaic Complexes of the Québec North Shore

  • Pierre DietrichEmail author
  • Alexandre Normandeau
  • Patrick Lajeunesse
  • Jean-François Ghienne
  • Mathieu Schuster
  • Alexis Nutz
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


One of the most particular morphological features of the Québec North Shore (North Shore of the Estuary and Gulf of the St. Lawrence, eastern Canada) is the occurrence of deltaic complexes that form thick and extensive sediment bodies (gravel, sand and mud) along the modern coastline. The deltaic complexes were emplaced during the retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet from the region that commenced about 11 ka in the context of falling relative sea level. Deltaic complexes are made up of three distinct, superimposed depositional systems, consisting of: (1) ice-contact subaqueous fans and deltas, (2) ice-distal glacifluvial deltas, and (3) coastal suites and meandering channel belts. Ice-contact systems were emplaced immediately after deglaciation of the region at the front of the ice-margins. Subsequent ice retreat fed glacifluvial deltas in meltwater and glacigenic sediments until the complete retreat of the ice-margin from the drainage basin a few thousand years ago. The resulting shutdown in sediment supply led to the reworking of the now-inactive glacifluvial deltas by shore-related and fluvial processes that resulted in the deposition of coastal suites and meander channel belts. Submarine sediment accumulations and related morphologies revealed by high-resolution swath bathymetric and seismostratigraphic data collected off these deltaic complexes are the subaqueous counterparts of these deltas. The modern evolution of these deltaic complexes is controlled by the reworking, transport, and deposition of sediments by shore-related processes along the coast, on the shallow shelf, and through submarine channels and canyons.


Deltaic complexes Laurentide Ice Sheet Deglaciation Ice-contact deposits Glacifluvial deltas Submarine fans 


  1. Bernatchez P, Dubois J-MM (2008) Seasonal quantification of coastal processes and cliff erosion on fine sediment shorelines in a cold temperate climate, North Shore of the St. Lawrence Maritime Estuary, Québec. J Coastal Res 24:169–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boulton GS (1990) Sedimentary and sea level changes during glacial cycles and their control on glacimarine facies architecture. In: Dowdeswell JA, Scourse JD (eds) Glacimarine environments: processes and sediments. Geological Society of London SP 53:15–52Google Scholar
  3. Dietrich P, Ghienne J-F, Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P (2016) Upslope-migrating bedforms in a proglacial sandur delta: cyclic steps from river-derived underflows? J Sediment Res 86:113–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dietrich P, Ghienne J-F, Schuster M, Lajeunesse P, Nutz A, Deschamps R, Roquin C, Duringer P (2017a) From outwash to coastal systems in the Portneuf-Forestville deltaic complex (Québec North Shore): Anatomy of a forced regressive deglacial sequence. Sedimentology 64:1044–1078CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dietrich P, Ghienne J-F, Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P (2017b) Reconstructing ice-margin retreat using delta morphostratigraphy. Sci Rep 16936Google Scholar
  6. Dionne JC (2001) Relative sea-level changes in the St. Lawrence Estuary from deglaciation to present day. In: Weddle TK, Retelle MJ (eds) Deglacial history and relative sea-level changes, Northern New England and Adjacent Canada. Geological Society America Special Paper 351, pp 271–284Google Scholar
  7. Dionne J-C, Dubois J-MM, Bernatchez P (2004) La terrasse Mitis à la pointe de Mille-Vaches (péninsule de Portneuf), rive nord de l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent: nature des dépôts et évolution du niveau marin relatif à l’Holocène. Géogr Phy Quat 58:281–295Google Scholar
  8. Drapeau G (1992) Dynamique sédimentaire des littoraux de l’estuaire du Saint-Laurent. Géogr Phys Quat 46:233–242Google Scholar
  9. Dredge LA (1983) Surficial geology of the Sept-Îles area, Quebec North Shore. Geological Survey of Canada Memoir 408, 40 pGoogle Scholar
  10. Dubois JMM, Dionne JC (1985). The Québec North Shore moraine system: A major feature of Late Wisconsin deglaciation. Geological Society America Special Papers 197, pp 125–134Google Scholar
  11. Duchesne MJ, Long B, Urgeles R, Locat J (2003) New evidence of slope instability in the Outardes Bay delta area, Quebec, Canada. Geo-Mar Lett 22:233–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fraser C, Hill PR, Allard M (2005) Morphology and facies architecture of a falling sea level strandplain, Umiujaq, Hudson Bay, Canada. Sedimentology 52:141–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gagné H, Lajeunesse P, St-Onge G, Bolduc A (2009) recent transfer of coastal sediments to the Laurentian Channel, Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (Eastern Canada), through submarine canyon and fan systems. Geo-Mar Lett 29:191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gagnon-Poiré A, Lajeunesse P, Normandeau A, Francus P, St-Onge G, Nzekwe OP (2018) Late-Quaternary glacial to postglacial sedimentation in three adjacent fjord-lakes of the Quebec North Shore (eastern Canadian Shield). Quat Sci Rev 186:91–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hein FJ, Syvitski JPM, Dredge LA, Long BF (1993) Quaternary sedimentation and marine placers along the North Shore, Gulf of St-Lawrence. Can J Earth Sci 30:553–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hein CJ, FitzGerald DM, Buynevich IV, Van Heteren S, Kelley JT (2014) Evolution of paraglacial coasts in response to changes in fluvial sediment supply. In: Martini IP, Wanless HR (eds) Sedimentary coastal zones from high to low latitudes: similarities and differences. Geol Soc London SP 388:247–280Google Scholar
  17. Lajeunesse P, St-Onge G, Locat J, Duchesne MJ, Higgins MD, Sanfaçon R, Ortiz J (2013) The Corossol structure: a possible impact crater on the seafloor of the northwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Eastern Canada. Meteorit Planet Sci 48:2542–2558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lajeunesse P (2014) Buried preglacial fluvial gorges and valleys preserved through quaternary glaciations beneath the eastern Laurentide Ice Sheet. Geol Soc Am Bull 126:447–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lajeunesse P (2016) Late-Wisconsinan grounding-zone wedges, northwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence (eastern Canada). In: Dowdeswell J, Canals M, Jakobsson M, Todd BJ, Dowdeswell EK, Hogan KA (eds) Atlas of submarine glacial landforms: modern, quaternary and ancient. Geol Soc London Mem 46:227–228Google Scholar
  20. Lajeunesse P, Dietrich P, Ghienne J-F (2018) Late Wisconsinan grounding zones of the Laurentide Ice Sheet margin off the Québec North Shore (NW Gulf of St. Lawrence). In: Le Heron DP, Hogan K, Phillips E, Huuse M, Busfield M, Graham A, Kouwe W (eds) Glaciated margins: the sedimentary and geophysical archive. Geol Soc London SP 475-10Google Scholar
  21. Tooth S, Brandt D, Hancox PJ, McCarthy TS (2004) Geological controls on alluvial river behavior: a comparative study of three rivers on the South African Highveld. J Afr Earth Sci 38:79–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mulder T, Syvitski JP (1995) Turbidity currents generated at river mouths during exceptional discharges to the world oceans. J Geol 103:285–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P, St-Onge G (2013) Shallow-water longshore drift-fed submarine fan deposition (Moisie River Delta, Eastern Canada). Geo-Mar Lett 33:391–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P, St-Onge G (2015) Submarine canyons and channels in the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (Eastern Canada): Morphology, classification and recent sediment dynamics. Geomorphology 241:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Normandeau A, Lajeunesse P, Poiré AG, Francus P (2016) Morphological expression of bedforms formed by supercritical sediment density flows on four fjord-lake deltas of the south-eastern Canadian Shield (Eastern Canada). Sedimentology 63:2106–2129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Normandeau A, Dietrich P, Lajeunesse P, St-Onge G, Ghienne J-F, Duchesne M, Francus P (2017) Timing and controls on the delivery of coarse sediment to deltas and submarine fans on a formerly glaciated coast and shelf. Geol Soc Am Bull 129:1424–1441Google Scholar
  27. Nutz A, Ghienne J-F, Schuster M, Dietrich P, Roquin C, Hay MB, Bouchette F, Cousineau P (2015) Forced regressive deposits of a deglaciation sequence: Example from the Late Quaternary succession in the Lake Saint-Jean basin (Québec, Canada). Sedimentology 62:1573–1610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Occhietti S, Parent M, Lajeunesse P, Robert F, Govare E (2011) Late Pleistocene-early Holocene decay of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. In: Ehlers J, Gibbards PL, Hughes PD (eds) Quaternary glaciations—extent and chronology. A closer look. Developments in Quaternary Science, 15, 601–630, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  29. Peltier WR, Argus DF, Drummond R (2015) Space geodesy constrains ice age terminal deglaciation: the global ICE-6G_C (VM5a) model. J Geophys Res 120:450–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pinet N, Brake V, Campbell DC, Duchesne MJ (2011) Seafloor and shallow subsurface of the St. Lawrence River Estuary. Geosci Can 38:31–40Google Scholar
  31. Pinet N, Brake V, Duchesne MJ (2016) Partly-filled U-shaped morphology of the Laurentian Channel, St Lawrence Estuary, Canada. In: Dowdeswell J, Canals M, Jakobsson M, Todd BJ, Dowdeswell EK, Hogan KA (eds) Atlas of submarine glacial landforms: modern, quaternary and ancient. Geol Soc London Mem 46:163–164Google Scholar
  32. Sella GF, Stein S, Dixon TH, Craymer M, James TS, Mazzotti S, Dokka RK (2007) Observation of glacial isostatic adjustment in “stable” North America with GPS. Geophys Res Lett 34Google Scholar
  33. Shaw J, Gareau P, Courtney RC (2002) Palaeogeography of Atlantic Canada 13-0kyr. Quat Sci Rev 21:1861–1878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shaw J, Piper DJW, Fader GBJ, King EL, Todd BJ, Bell T, Batterson MJ, Liverman DGE (2006) A conceptual model of the deglaciation of Atlantic Canada. Quat Sci Rev 25:2059–2081CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Todd BJ (2016) The Laurentian Channel: a major cross-shelf trough in Atlantic Canada. In: Dowdeswell J, Canals M, Jakobsson M, Todd BJ, Dowdeswell EK, Hogan KA (eds) Atlas of submarine glacial landforms: modern, quaternary and ancient. Geol Soc London Mem 46:161–162Google Scholar
  36. Woodworth PL, Gehrels WR, Nerem RS (2011) Nineteenth and twentieth century changes in sea level. Oceanography 24:80–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre Dietrich
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexandre Normandeau
    • 3
  • Patrick Lajeunesse
    • 4
  • Jean-François Ghienne
    • 5
  • Mathieu Schuster
    • 5
  • Alexis Nutz
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Univ Rennes, CNRS, Géosciences Rennes, UMR 6118RennesFrance
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Geological Survey of Canada, AtlanticDartmouthCanada
  4. 4.Département de GéographieUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Institut de Physique du Globe de Strasbourg, UMR 7516, CNRS, Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  6. 6.Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géosciences de l’Environnement (CEREGE), Aix-Marseille UniversityAix-en-Provence Cedex 4France
  7. 7.Department of GeoscienceAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

Personalised recommendations