Spits are one of many kinds of shore forms found along Puget Sound. Spits are created when wind and water carry enough sand and gravel to create a finger of land. An eroding bluff often provides the materials to form a spit.

As spits form, they break the wind and waves and shelter a quiet bay. Plants along with driftwood help protect the spit - as the inner bay becomes rich in algae, eelgrass, benthic (bottom dwelling) organisms, and fish.

From Spit to Saltmarsh

Often these sheltered bays are fed by streams. If the streams have a high sediment content, the bay will start to fill in. Slowly the open water will turn to a salt marsh, which may in time form dry land.

Unstable & Dynamic

Because they are formed by wind and wave action, spits are unstable and dynamic. Bulkheads, highways, or railroads along the base of nearby eroding bluffs will reduce the supply of sediments necessary to maintain a spit. Logging and farming in adjacent areas can increase river-borne sediments and smother life on the intertidal parts of spits. Increased sediments from streams may also fill in the bay on the leeward side of a spit.

Spits & Shore Drift

Spits will often be pointing in the direction of shore drift. A shift in drift direction can form a curve or a hook.

Wind and waves shifting in multiple directions can shape a complex spit, as seen with Dungeness Spit.


Spits: Sensitive Animals & Plants

Visitors to spits can frighten and destroy wildlife - or drive it away completely. In addition, countless human feet trampling vegetation and substrate can erode an entire spit.

To protect spits...
  • Stay clear of breeding bird colonies, seal haulouts, and other wildlife.
  • Don't trample plants.

Related Topics

Dungeness Spit, The largest natural spit in the United States.
Shore forms, A gallery of Sound shore forms.
Shore drift, Materials on the move.

Related Links

Dungeness Recreation Area, Cline Spit, Clallam Bay Spit, Clallam County Parks. A guide to Clallam county parks on or near spits. 

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Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham