Glaciers in Rhode Island and New England
Approximately 20,000 years ago the last ice age ended with the retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet.
During the peak of the ice age over 5,000,000 square miles of North America where covered by the
glacier. The geography of New England is a direct outcome of glacial retreat; the glacial retreat left New
England several new land features such as Long Island, Cape Cod and various coastal ponds and
estuaries. These glacial deposits are referred to as Moraines; there are several types of moraines.
But the one you will be hunting for is an End Moraine. These moraines are formed at the edge of a
retreating glacier when they left behind long narrow hills of glacial deposit. Another popular glacial
feature is a Kettle. Kettles are crater like pits that are formed when massive house size chunks of a
glacier fall off and melt a hole that typically resembles a tea kettle. Occasionally these holes either
retain rainwater or become inundated by natural springs making these holes into kettle ponds or lakes.
In Rhode Island it is difficult to not find a landscape that has not been created by the Laurentide Ice sheet.
Two of the biggest glacial features in the state are the Charlestown moraine which is approximately 15 miles
long, and Block Island which is a Terminal Moraine created by a lobe of the glacier that extended out 20 miles
past the current coastline. Before the last ice age the ocean spanning between Rhode Island and Block Island
did not exist. The glacier was so massive that millions of tons of sea water had been retained by the glacier lowering the sea level over 60 meters in the New England Area.