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Assateague Island

National Seashore

Maryland & Virginia

cover of park brochure

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Two people walking along the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland & Virginia

Assateague Island is a barrier island built by sand that persistent waves have raised from the ocean's gently sloping floor. Constant reshaping mirrors a restless origin, as steady winds continue moving trillions of sand grains, each a bit of eroded sediment from the ancient Appalacian Mountains. Occasional storms drive waves and sands so forcefully that the beach and shoreline can change dramatically. Most of Assateague Island is undeveloped and features low average elevation and scrub vegetation. The mean elevation of the island is 2 m above sea level. Some sand dunes however, reach up to 10 m in elevation.

In the early 1900's, Assateague Island was connected to another island to the north. In 1933, a large hurricane occurred which separated Assateague from what is now Fenwick Island. A new inlet was created due to the erosion caused by overwash during the hurricane. Although natural sediment transport processes would have closed the gap between the two islands, the new inlet was kept open in order to provide better navigation to the Ocean City area of Maryland. The change in erosional patterns caused by the new inlet has altered the natural transport of sediment along the shoreline. As a result, the processes taking place on the shoreline of Assateague Island have been altered significantly. Because of this, Assateague Island has started to migrate westward. The presence of endangered species, important migratory habitats, and local communities have caused many agencies to recognize the importance of preserving the island and preventing its landward migration caused by the artificial jetty. The National Park Service along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others have come together to try and preserve the island by restoring the sediment budget to pre-jetty conditions.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A general photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/Geology/parks/asis/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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