Shoreline Evolution

The Chesapeake Bay’s estuarine shorelines are constantly evolving. Winds, waves, tides, and currents are constantly shaping and modifying coastlines by eroding, transporting, and depositing sediments. Determining the rates and patterns of shore change provides the basis to know how a particular coast has changed through time and how it might proceed in the future. 

The Shoreline Studies Program at VIMS is working locality-by-locality to document how the shore zone has evolved since 1937. Aerial imagery was taken for most of the Bay region beginning that year, and can be used to assess the geomorphic nature of shore change. Aerial photos show how the coast has changed, the extent of which beaches, dunes, bars, and spits have grown or decayed, how barriers have breached, which inlets have changed course, and how one shore type has displaced another—or in some cases—has not changed at all. Shore change is a natural process but, quite often, the impacts of man, through shore hardening or inlet stabilization, come to dominate a given shore reach. In addition to documenting historical shorelines, the change in shore positions along the rivers and larger creeks of the Bay has been quantified.

Individual Shoreline Evolution Reports are listed alphabetically on the "Reports" page. These reports include the 1937 and 2009 aerial mosaics and shorelines as well as additional years in-between.

Go to the 1937 and 2009 Shoreline Evolution Database 


See Samples of Change

Shoreline Studies Home Page