This study investigates the possibility of hindcasting-observed decadal-scale morphologic change in San Pablo Bay, a subembayment of the San Francisco Estuary, California, USA, by means of a 3-D numerical model (Delft3D). The hindcast period, 1856-1887, is characterized by upstream hydraulic mining that resulted in a high sediment input to the estuary. The model includes wind waves, salt water and fresh water interactions, and graded sediment transport, among others. Simplified initial conditions and hydrodynamic forcing were necessary because detailed historic descriptions were lacking. Model results show significant skill. The river discharge and sediment concentration have a strong positive influence on deposition volumes. Waves decrease deposition rates and have, together with tidal movement, the greatest effect on sediment distribution within San Pablo Bay. The applied process-based (or reductionist) modeling approach is valuable once reasonable values for model parameters and hydrodynamic forcing are obtained. Sensitivity analysis reveals the dominant forcing of the system and suggests that the model planform plays a dominant role in the morphodynamic development. A detailed physical explanation of the model outcomes is difficult because of the high nonlinearity of the processes. Process formulation refinement, a more detailed description of the forcing, or further model parameter variations may lead to an enhanced model performance, albeit to a limited extent. The approach potentially provides a sound basis for prediction of future developments. Parallel use of highly schematized box models and a process-based approach as described in the present work is probably the most valuable method to assess decadal morphodynamic development. Copyright ?? 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.