Intensive studies of 17 geographically and hydrologically diverse stream bed sediments provide information on the relation between grain size, surface area, and operationally defined geochemical phases (e.g. Mn oxides, amorphous Fe oxides) to trace element concentrations. Of the size fractions investigated (<2, <16, <63 and <125 ??m), the strongest correlation with trace elements occurs with the percent <63 ??m or <125 ??m fractions. As the proportion of these size fractions increases in the samples, so do the trace element concentrations. When surface area (as defined by nitrogen adsorption and the BET equations) increases, trace element levels also increase. Correlations between bulk sediment chemistry and surface area are as strong as those between sediment chemistry and the proportion of the <63 or <125 ??m fractions. Surface area appears to serve as a proxy for grain size. The strongest correlations between grain size and surface area are the same as for trace elements and grain size (with the <63 or <125 ??m fractions). Surface area also is affected by geochemical phase, as are the trace elements associated with sediments. Of the phases considered (carbonates, Mn oxides, reactive Fe, amorphous Fe, organic matter), amorphous Fe oxides appear to exert the greatest control over both surface area and trace element levels. The concentrations of various geochemical phases affect surface area, grain size, and trace element chemistry. However, the effect of phase is grain-size dependent. For material with mean grain sizes in the fine sand range and coarser (> 125 ??m), each of the various phases contribute to overall sample surface area. For material having mean grain sizes in the very fine sand range and finer (<125 ??m), the same phases act as surface-area inhibitors by cementing fine grains together to form aggregates. This increases the mean grain size of the sample and reduces the surface area. The presence of these aggregates may explain why the <63 ??m or <125 ??m size fractions are more important to sediment-trace element levels and surface area than other finer fractions. ?? 1987.