Late Holocene Geomorphology of the Columbia River Estuary, Oregon and Washington, USA

Curt Peterson, Sandy Vanderburgh, Michael C. Roberts


Abundant river sediment supply and an open-water central bay area characterize the geomorphology of the large Columbia River estuary (~ 100 km in length). Lateral floodplains and marsh islands do constrict the uppermost reaches of the estuary, but the central axes of the lower estuary are dominated by shallow sand shoals (0–4 m water depth). A total of 58 vibracores are used to document the grain size and age (0–2,500 14CyrBP) of late Holocene deposits in the estuary. Sedimentation rates in stable floodplains (1.1 m ka-1) reflect rates of relative sea level rise (0.75 m ka-1). Sedimentation rates of muddy sand accretionary banks and prehistoric sand shoals (1.5–7 m ka-1) greatly exceed coeval rates of sea level rise, so they must represent short–term rates of vertical accretion resulting from channel lateral migration and associated cut and fill processes. The apparent paradox of unfilled accommodation space in the estuary is resolved by 1) winter wind–wave erosion of sand shoals to -3 m NAVD88 elevation and 2) asymmetric fluvial-tidal advection that results in net seaward transport of bed load in shallow tidal channels (> – 10 m NAVD88) and shallow subtidal shoals (> – 4 m NAVD88) during spring river flooding.


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Journal of Geography and Geology   ISSN 1916-9779 (Print)   ISSN 1916-9787 (Online)

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