Estero Bay, which lies on the central California coast, has rocky headlands at both ends and sandy beaches within it. The shoreline of the bay has adjusted to be in equilibrium with the predominant wave climate, which is from the northwest. Because of its present shoreline configuration, the net southward littoral transport found along much of the California coast does not occur within Estero Bay. Instead, the sand primarily moves on- and offshore with a reversing longshore component. This sand transport pattern produces a littoral cell within Estero Bay even though there is no submarine canyon in the area. The primary sand sinks for this cell appear to be the sand spit south of Morro Rock and the entrance to Morro Bay itself, although this opinion was not experimentally verified.
Field work during one summer (1978) and the following winter (1979) produced baseline data on the profile of and grain-size distribution across the littoral zone. In the offshore part of the littoral zone we also studied ripple size and type, internal structure, depth of erosion, and mineralogy. Although these data, which were collected along nine transects spaced 2 km apart, are inadequate to yield transport and energy rates, they indicate a northward decrease in wave energy within Estero Bay and a mixing of the sediments in the offshore. Box core and rod height data from grid points in seven meters of water showed that on the order of a meter of erosion occurred in the central part of the bay between the two sampling periods. Offshore, the data were incomplete, but at one station, in 17 m of water, at least 20 cm of erosion occurred.