Sedimentologic analyses of 21 sediment cores, ranging from 0.4 to 9.6 m in length, reveal that the shallow geologic framework of the Skagit River Delta, western Washington, United States, has changed significantly since 1850. The cores collected from elevations of 3.94 to -2.41 m (relative to mean lower low water) along four cross-shore transects between the emergent marsh and delta front show relatively similar environmental changes across an area spanning ~75 km2. Offshore of the present North Fork Skagit River and South Fork Skagit River mouths where river discharge is focused by diked channels through the delta, the entire 5–7-km-wide tidal flats are covered with 1–2 m of cross-bedded medium-to-coarse sands. The bottoms of cores, collected in these areas are composed of mud. A sharp transition from mud to a cross-bedded sand unit indicates that the tidal flats changed abruptly from a calm environment to an energetic one. This is in stark contrast to the Martha's Bay tidal flats north of the Skagit Bay jetty that was completed in the 1940s to protect the newly constructed Swinomish Channel from flooding and sedimentation. North of the jetty, mud ranging from 1 to 2 m thick drapes a previously silt- and sand-rich tidal flat. The silty sand is a sediment facies that would be expected there where North Fork Skagit River sedimentation occurred prior to jetty emplacement. This report describes the compositional and textural properties of the sediment cores by using geophysical, photographic, x-radiography, and standard sediment grain-size and carbon-analytical methods. The findings help to characterize benthic habitat structure and sediment transport processes and the environmental changes that have occurred across the nearshore of the Skagit River Delta. The findings will be useful for quantifying changes to nearshore marine resources, including impacts resulting from diking, river-delta channelization, shoreline development, and natural variations in fluvial-sediment inputs. These results also provide important quantitative data on the amount of sediment delivered to the nearshore from the Skagit River for use in calculating sediment budgets for application to watershed planning and wetland and coastal-ecosystem restoration.
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USGS Numbered Series
Shallow stratigraphy of the Skagit River Delta, Washington, derived from sediment cores