California's diverse coastal communities are the result of many different natural forces. Tectonic and volcanic activity, occuring over the past 250 million years, created our coastal mountain ranges. Both the Farallon and Channel Island systems are the result of similar geologic process. Coastal streams and rivers, along with wind and rain, shape and tear down these mountains through erosion. The powerful, ceaseless waves of the Pacific also cut into the coast mountain ranges and carve vertical cliffs, terraces, and bluffs into the rock. Elsewhere along the California coast, debris from wave erosion and sand deposited by streams and rivers accumulates and forms California's sandy beaches. Inland, where wind-blown sand from the beaches collects, one can find fragile systems of coastal dunes. Coastal rivers and streams meet with the salty waters of the Pacific and create the marshes and lagoons which constitute California's coastal wetlands. In other areas, abrasive sand and wave motion cut grooves and pockets into the rock and intertidal communities and tidepools form. And even below the Pacific's waters geologic forces act, through many of the same processes, on the sea floor. Click on the items below to learn more about specific features of California's coastal geology.

Explore California's Coastal Geography

The following materials have been taken from the California Coastal Commission's California Coastal Resource Guide.

Coastal Mountains
Streams and Rivers
Marine Terraces
Bluffs and Headlands
Coastal Sand Dunes
Beaches
Wetlands
Rocky Intertidal
Islands and Offshore Rocks
Nearshore Waters and Open Ocean

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