A Complex Bayside Beach: Herring Cove Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA


  • Brenda Ekwurzel


Mixed sand and gravel, reflective beach, recurved spit, longshore drift, shoreline change


Herring Cove Beach is a bayside beach, sheltered from Atlantic Ocean waves, located at the terminus of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is an 8 km long, mixed sand and gravel reflective beach which faces Cape Cod Bay with over 30 km of fetch. Prevailing northwest winds produce a net southeast longshore drift from Race Point to Long Point. Seven profile locations were surveyed between 1985 and 1989, and historical shoreline changes over a 155 year period were calculated to test if this bayside beach, located over 30 km from the mainland, is similar to other bayside beaches. Storm surges generated in Cape Cod Bay and longshore drift from Cape Cod Oceanside beaches cause Herring Cove Beach to exhibit some characteristics which are atypical of bayside beaches. Most bayside beaches are not influenced significantly by storms because they face small bays with limited fetch. In contrast, Herring Cove Beach has experienced severe storm erosion. Atlantic Ocean waves erode Outer Cape oceanside beaches and probably control rates and volumes of sediment supply around Race Point onto Herring Cove Beach. Profiles 1 to 3 exhibit short cycles of erosion and accretion during this study and on a larger scale through historical shoreline changes. This probably reflects the influence of sediment supplied from Oceanside beaches transported around Race Point. With increased distance from this sediment source, beach mobility decreases and down drift profiles (4-7) behave as typical bayside beaches exhibiting seasonal response.