Composition of tidal flat sediments, Willapa Bay, Washington

Open-File Report 81-272
By:  and 



The purpose of this study was to characterize the modern sediments of sandy tidal flats in Willapa Bay, Washington based on their composition.

Generally, clay comprises less than five percent of the sediment. Clay content increases upslope and up-estuary. Principal clay minerals are montmorillanite, illite, and chlorite; two clay mineral suites are present: (1) muddy flat suite with clay containing 44% montmorillonite, and (2) sandy flat suite with clay composition of 88% montmorillonite.

Heavy minerals make up approximately four percent of the tidal flat sediment. Distribution of heavy minerals reflect their source with (1) heavy minerals most abundant near the beach on flats to the north where they were eroded out of terrace deposits, and (2) relatively greater heavy mineral concentrations (supplied by the Naselle River) across the entire flat to the south. The composition of the heavy mineral suite is mainly clinopyroxene, orthopyroxene, hornblende, epidote, and opaque minerals. This mineral suite represents several sources including rivers, ocean and ocean beaches, and reworked local Tertiary and Quaternary deposits.

Tidal flat sediments are approximately 90% light minerals, mostly quartz. The light fraction also contains small quantities of lithic fragments, pumice, vegetation, and biogenic shell fragments. Tertiary and Quaternary terrace deposits are the major source of most of the light material.

Fossils make up less than one percent of the bottom sediment. Two foram assemblages are present: (1) a modern shallow-water assemblage characterized by Trochammina inflata, found mainly in muddy flats near rivers, and (2) a relic deep-water assemblage (Eocene to Cretaceous) characterized by such species as Bathysiphon and Cyclammina found predominantly on the sandy flats. Macrofossils consists of shells of the modern tidal flat mollusc assemblage.

Organic sediments were mostly carbon (1%). The highest concentrations of organic carbon are associated with muddy sediments near the Palix River and Pickernell Creek; overall, organic carbon concentration increased up-estuary. C/N ratios are transitional between open marine environments and marsh deposits of estuaries.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Composition of tidal flat sediments, Willapa Bay, Washington
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 81-272
DOI 10.3133/ofr81272
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description iii, 49 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Willapa Bay
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