Coastal Plain Physiography Topics

1. Regional Setting
2. General Physiography
3. Beaches and Shores
Sea Level Changes
4. Special Features
• Introduction to Physiography
• Coastal Plain
• Piedmont
• Mesozoic Basins
• Blue Ridge
• Valley and Ridge
• Appalachian Plateaus
• Virginia's Rivers


Coastal Plain, General Physiography, Part 3

Embayed Section

Virginia’s Coastal Plain belongs to the northernmost portion of the Coastal Plain known as the Embayed Section.

characterized by many bays

• The Embayed Section extends from Cape Lookout, North Carolina to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Map of the Embayed Section. A highly irregular coastline with many bays, sounds, and estuaries is typical of this part of the Coastal Plain. (Image adapted from the United States Geological Survey)

• This section is characterized by large bays and estuaries as well as barrier islands.

widened river mouths affected by tides

This image, taken from space, shows the Hampton Roads area. Notice the many bays (arrows). [Photograph courtesy of NASA]

• Estuaries are created by the flooding (“drowning”) of ancient river valleys as sea level rises due to melting glaciers.

The Chesapeake Bay. This large estuary was created about 5000 to 6000 years ago when the lower course of the Susquehanna River through the Chesapeake lowland was flooded as meltwater from the retreating Pleistocene glaciers raised sea level. Continuing sea level rise and shoreline erosion caused the bay to expand its areal extent. [Image courtesy of NASA]

• Drowned river valleys make excellent harbors along the coast.  Virginia’s port facilities are a major source of economic activity.

Photograph of the dockside area at Norfolk. Virginia’s many embayments make good harbors and also attract tourists. (Photograph by Robert Whisonant)