Article Series

Series: Beach and Coastal Landforms

Our national parks contain diverse coastal landforms: high-energy rocky shorelines of Acadia National Park, quiet reef-lagoons within War in the Pacific National Historic Park, and the white sandy beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Coastal landforms are, or have been, affected to some degree by the direct or indirect effects of waves, tides, and currents, and may extend inland for many miles.

  • Chapter 1: Rocky Coast Landforms

    waves crashing on coastal bluffs

    Rocky coastlines have many spectacular features. Fjords, Headlands, Pocket Beaches, Sea Caves, Sea Arches, Sea Stacks, Sea Cliffs, and Tidewater Glaciers can be seen in some parks. Read more

  • Chapter 2: Sandy Coast Landforms

    sandy beach

    Depositional processes along coastlines, such as longshore sediment transport, form sandy beaches and create highly complex landforms that experience constant change and movement. Features such as Barrier Islands, Barrier Spits, Beaches, Dunes, and Tombolos are classic landforms in sandy beach environments. Read more

  • Chapter 3: Estuary Landforms

    sunset over wetlands

    Estuaries are buffer zones between river (freshwater) and ocean (saltwater) environments that are affected by tidal oscillations. Read more

  • Chapter 4: Delta Landforms

    delta wetlands

    Where rivers provide large quantities of sediment to the shore, estuaries are filled and river sediments are discharged directly into the ocean. Read more

  • Chapter 5: Tropical Coast Landforms

    tropical islands

    Tropical coastlines produce either rocky headlands or long, flat sandy shorelines. In warm tropical waters, colonies of corals may form, mostly between 30° north and 30° south latitude. Read more

  • Chapter 6: Lakeshore Landforms

    lake shoreline

    Waves on large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes shape shores of loose material, building sand barriers (including spits), as well as beaches with scarps, berms, and beach ridges. Littoral caves are another feature found along some park lakeshores. Read more