Dynamic Sustainability: Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Photo of ponies on Assateague Island


Ocean City and Assateague Island

Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Barrier System Basics

Fenwick and Assateague Islands are long and narrow landforms found off the coast of Maryland. They were formed after the last Ice Age when rising seas eroded sediment from the Delaware headlands, which was then deposited along the coast as these barriers. Fenwick Island is a barrier spit, which is attached to the mainland, and Assateague Island is a true barrier island.

These barriers are gradually eroding as longshore currents and rising seas continually move sediment to the south. At the southern end of Assateague Island there is a growing, hooked portion of the island upon which sediments are deposited.

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Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Assateague Island

Assateague Island
Source: IAN Image Library

Fenwick and Assateague

For thousands of years Fenwick and Assateague were one barrier spit connected to the Delmarva Peninsula. Fenwick Island is still attached to the mainland, thus it is not a true island, but Assateague Island was severed from Fenwick in 1933 by a hurricane.