Washington's Coast
Washington State Department of Ecology

ANIMALS
PLANTS
 
BEACHES
north
south
central
basics
drift

Damon Point Oyhut Wildlife Area, Ocean Shores
Beach zones
What is a beach?
A beach is an area of loose sediment (sand, gravel, silt, or cobbles) controlled by coastal processes. Waves, currents, and weather are always shaping the shore. Sediment may be added, causing the beach to grow or accrete -- or sediment may be taken away, causing the beach to erode.
 
Accretion
Beach growth -- or the accumulation of beach sediment.
 
Backshore
The part of the beach reached only by the highest tides and storm waves.
 
Bar
A ridge of sand formed by waves and currents.
 
Berm
A low or nearly horizontal plateau on the beach or backshore, formed by waves. The berm marks the limit of ordinary high tide.
 
Berm crest
The seaward edge of the berm, delineating the the foreshore from the backshore.
 
Bluff
A steep headland, promontory, or sea-cliff.
 
Dune
A hill or ridge of sand shaped by wind, either bare or topped with vegetation.
 
Erosion
The wearing away of the land by natural forces. On a beach, the carrying away of beach material by waves, tides, or deflation.
 
Foreshore
The seaward sloping section on the beach between high and low tides.
 
Inshore
The section of the beach profile that reaches from the foreshore to beyond the surf zone.
 
Offshore
The section of the coastal profile that spans seaward from the breaker zone to the edge of the continental shelf.
 
Ridge
A rise in elevation seaward of a runnel.
 
Runnel
A trough that runs parallel to the beach. Ebb tides move out the runnel between ridges, feeding a rip channel.
 
Rip channel
A trough, channel, or break in between nearshore bars, allowing the flow of a rip current.
 
Sand
Loose grains of sediment. Often quartz or feldspar measuring between 1/16 and 2 millimeters in diameter.
 
Sediment
Loose material deposited by currents, waves, wind, rivers, or glaciers.
 
Shoal
A sandbank or a sandbar.
 
Shoreface
The narrow zone seaward from the low tide shoreline covered by water, over which beach sand and gravel move with changing wave conditions.
 
Shoreline
Where the exposed beach meets the water.
 
Tide
The periodic change in the water level of the ocean, inlets, bays, and estuaries due to the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun.
 
Trough
A linear depression running parallel to the shore, hollowed out by wave action and currents. A trough can also be a the lowest point between wave crests.
 

Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study. A recent study of Washington's coastal processes and shoreline changes.
 

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