Shoreline Evolution: Middlesex County, Virginia Rappahannock River and Piankatank River Shorelines

Donna A. Milligan, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Christine A. Wilcox, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
C. Scott Hardaway Jr, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Mary C. Cox, Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Middlesex County is situated along the Rappahannock and Piankatank Rivers (Figure 1). Through time, the County’s shoreline has evolved, and 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. Along Chesapeake Bay’s estuarine shores, winds, waves, tides and currents shape and modify coastlines by eroding, transporting and depositing sediments. The purpose of this report is to document how the shore zone of Middlesex County 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, how beaches, dunes, bars, and spits have grown or decayed, how barriers have breached, how inlets have changed course, and how one shore type has displaced another or 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 in Middlesex County will be quantified in this report. The shorelines of very irregular coasts, small creeks around inlets, and other complicated areas, will be shown but not quantified.