Geology of Livonia, Michigan


Livonia is a city in the western suburbs of Detroit in Wayne County, Michigan. With a population of over 94,000 residents, it is Michigan’s 9th largest municipality. Livonia’s landscape and geology have been shaped over thousands of years by glacial activity, climate patterns, and human development.

In this local guide, we will explore the geological history, rock formations, soils, minerals, and other unique geological features that characterize Livonia and make it an interesting place to study geology.

Glacial History and Impact on Topography

Repeated Glaciation over Thousands of Years

The geology of Livonia begins with understanding the huge impact glaciers have had in shaping the landscape.

Livonia’s terrain has been directly influenced by the advance and retreat of massive ice sheets over at least the past 160,000 years.

Michigan has undergone dozens of glacial periods during the Pleistocene Ice Age, as glaciers expanded and receded over the land.

The most recent glacier, called the Wisconsinan, retreated from Michigan just 10,000-12,000 years ago. At over 3,000 feet thick, this huge glacier ground away bedrock, moved colossal amounts of sediment, and profoundly altered Livonia’s topography.

Glacial Deposits of Sediment and Till

As glaciers advanced, they scraped up and pushed tremendous amounts of debris. This unsorted mixture of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders is called glacial till.

When the ice sheets melted, they dropped this thick layer of sediment. In some areas of Livonia, this till is over 150 feet deep.

Glaciers also left behind stratified drift – layered deposits of sand and gravel. Meltwater rivers washed away finer sediments, leaving behind outwash material. These sandy glacial deposits are up to 200 feet deep in places.

Glacial Landforms

The passage of glaciers shaped distinct landforms that still characterize Livonia’s landscape.

  • Moraines – Long ridges or hills of till deposited along the edge of a glacier.
  • Drumlins – Elongated teardrop shaped hills made of till that were molded underneath moving ice.
  • Kettles – Steep sided depressions formed by stranded blocks of glacial ice that later melted. Many of Livonia’s lakes fill these kettle holes.
  • Eskers – Raised, winding ridges created by meltwater flowing in tunnels under the glacier ice.
  • Outwash Plains – Broad flat areas covered by sandy glacial outwash sediments.

Bedrock Geology

Underneath the surface deposits of glacial sediment lies 400-million-year-old bedrock. Let’s look at the bedrock formations underlying Livonia:

Michigan Formation

The Michigan Formation is a widespread layer of shale, limestone, and sandstone that covers much of the southern Lower Peninsula. In Livonia, this bedrock formation is 325-400 feet thick. The shales and carbonates were deposited during the Mississippian Period.

Coldwater Shale

Below the Michigan Formation lies the Coldwater Shale, a bluish-gray shale with some limestone that is 175-300 feet thick in Livonia’s bedrock. It was formed during the Late Devonian period.

Sylvania Sandstone

The oldest bedrock unit is the Sylvania Sandstone, made up of light-colored sandstones, shales, and conglomerates.

In Wayne County, it reaches thicknesses over 500 feet. These sandy sediments accumulated as beach, river, and nearshore deposits during the Early Devonian.


The soils in Livonia reflect the glaciated landscape. Most soils belong to the Granby-Oshtemo-Fox association, with loamy and sandy profiles.

Some major soil types include:

  • Oshtemo loamy sands – Excessively drained sandy soils formed in outwash plains. Good for agriculture.
  • Fox sandy loams – Moderately well drained soils on moraines and ice-contact terrain. Forested or residential areas.
  • Boyer-Oshtemo loams – Somewhat poorly drained loam soils in low spots on the landscape. Prone to frost action.
  • Pewamo-Gilford-Sloan association – Poorly drained clay loams occupying depressions and drainageways. Often wetlands.

Mineral Resources

Economically valuable minerals have been discovered and mined in Livonia over the years.

  • Sand and Gravel – Extensive glacial sand/gravel deposits, up to 200 feet thick, have long been excavated from pits for construction aggregate.
  • Salt – Salt beds 1,000-1,500 feet underground have been solution mined; brine pumped to the surface and evaporated to produce salt.
  • Limestone – Small quantities of limestone were once mined from exposed bedrock for use as construction stone.
  • Peat – Peat moss harvesting from bogs and marshes took place on a small scale during early settlement.

Unique Local Geological Features

Some interesting geological places to visit in Livonia include:

  • Lola Valley Creek – Walking trails follow this winding creek through woodlands, wetlands, and kettles. Displays glacial geology.
  • Felix Drain Flooding – Spring snowmelt sometimes overwhelms this county drain, illustrating Livonia’s poor drainage.
  • Glacial Esker Trail – Walk along a sinuous esker ridge formed by the glacier; great views.
  • Sand/Gravel Pits – Active aggregate pits exposing thick glacial sediments; many fossils found here.
  • Sandy’s RV Park – Campground situated on outwash plain; sandy soil prone to erosion.
  • Rotary Park Sinkholes – Golf course site displays classic karst sinkholes in the Saginaw Formation limestone.


In summary, Livonia’s landscape has been shaped over long periods of geological time by the advance and retreat of massive glaciers, deposition of deep glacial sediments, bedrock formations containing ancient marine sediments, and patterns of soil development.

This geological history has provided mineral resources that spurred early settlement, created landforms and soils impacting land use, and given Livonia unique geological sites to visit.

The city’s geology continues to influence infrastructure, construction, land development, and environmental management in an urbanizing setting.

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  • Take I-94 W from Detroit for 20 miles. Exit at Merriman Rd, turn right. Go 3 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Turn left, drive 2 miles to Livonia.
  • From downtown Detroit, take Lodge Fwy NW 10 miles to I-96 W. Drive 15 miles, exit at Inkster Rd. Turn left, go 5 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Turn right, follow 3 miles into Livonia.
  • From Detroit, go west on Michigan Ave 8 miles. Turn right on Greenfield Rd, go 12 miles north to Schoolcraft Rd. Make a left, drive 3 miles west to reach Livonia.