Data from an extensive grid of sidescan-sonar records reveal the distribution of sedimentary environments in the large, tidally dominated Delaware Bay estuary. Bathymetric features of the estuary include large tidal channels under the relatively deep (> 10 m water depth) central part of the bay, linear sand shoals (2-8 m relief) that parallel the sides of the tidal channels, and broad, low-relief plains that form the shallow bay margins. The two sedimentary environments that were identified are characterized by either (1) bedload transport and/or erosion or (2) sediment reworking and/or deposition. Sand waves and sand ribbons, composed of medium to coarse sands, define sites of active bedload transport within the tidal channels and in gaps between the linear shoals. The sand waves have spacings that vary from 1 to 70 m, amplitudes of 2 m or less, and crestlines that are usually straight. The orientations of the sand waves and ribbons indicate that bottom sediment movement may be toward either the northwest or southeast along the trends of the tidal channels, although sand-wave asymmetry indicates that the net bottom transport is directed northwestward toward the head of the bay. Gravelly, coarse-grained sediments, which appear as strongly reflective patterns on the sonographs, are also present along the axes and flanks of the tidal channels. These coarse sediments are lag deposits that have developed primarily where older strata were eroded at the bay floor. Conversely, fine sands that compose the linear shoals and muddy sands that cover the shallow bay margins appear mainly on the sonographs either as smooth featureless beds that have uniform light to moderate shading or as mosaics of light and dark patches produced by variations in grain size. These acoustic and textural characteristics are the result of sediment deposition and reworking. Data from this study (1) support the hypothesis that bed configurations under deep tidal flows are functions of current velocity, sediment size, and depth; (2) suggest criteria that could be used to distinguish between open estuarine tidal deposits in the geologic record; and (3) provide a guide to future utilization of the bay floor. ?? 1989.
Additional publication details
Modern sedimentary environments in a large tidal estuary, Delaware Bay