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The mouth of Chesapeake Bay contains a distinctive shoal complex and related deposits that result from the complex interaction of three different processes: (1) progradation of a barrier spit at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula, (2) strong, reversing tidal currents that transport and rework sediment brought to the bay mouth from the north, and (3) landward (bayward) net non-tidal circulation and sediment transport. Together, these processes play a major role in changing the configuration of the estuary and filling it with sediment. The deposits at the mouth of the bay hold keys both to the evolution of the bay during the Holocene transgression and to the history of previous generations of the bay. The deposit associated with the shoals at the mouth of the bay, the bay-mouth sand, is a distinct stratigraphic unit composed mostly of uniform, gray, fine sand. The position and internal structure of the unit shows that it is related to near-present sea level, and thus is less than a few thousand years old. The processes affecting the upper surface of the deposit and the patterns of erosion and deposition at this surface are complex, but the geometry and structure of the deposit indicate that it is a coherent unit that is prograding bayward and tending to fill the estuary. The source of the bay-mouth sand is primarily outside the bay in the nearshore zone of the Delmarva Peninsula and on the inner continental shelf. The internal structure of the deposit, its surface morphology, its heavy-mineral composition, bottom-current studies, comparative bathymetry, and sediment budgets all suggest that sand is brought to the bay mouth by southerly longshore drift along the Delmarva Peninsula and then swept into the bay. In addition to building the southward- and bayward-prograding bay-mouth sand, these processes result in sand deposition tens of kilometers into the bay. ?? 1988.
Additional Publication Details
Structure, age and origin of the bay-mouth shoal deposits, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia