A Pictorial History of Shinnecock Inlet
Assembled and annotated by Dr. Andrew Morang of the Coastal Inlets Research Program of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Edited for the web by Thomas Wilson. Also available on LIShore
Click on any of the pictures for a more detailed image
June 30, 1938. This photograph was taken before the Great New England Hurricane of 21 September 1938 cut Shinnecock Inlet. During the storm, the barrier breached where a channel crossed from the bay to the road. Another identifier of the future inlet’s location is the left-right jog in the road, which disappeared when the storm washed away this part of the barrier. The channel may be a remnant of an inlet that was dug by the Shinnecock and Peconic Canal Company in 1896. This image is part of a mosaic prepared by the Beach Erosion Board, the predecessor organization of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Coastal Engineering Research Center.
September 24, 1938. Taken 3 days after the Great New England Hurricane, this image shows the new Shinnecock Inlet and many overwash fans along the adjacent shore. These fans and inlets attest to the tremendous power of this storm, the most devastating hurricane on record to strike the Northeast coast of the United States. All the inlets along this stretch of the coast trended left of shore-perpendicular. The overwash fans demonstrate a mechanism by which sand is carried from the open coast into the back bays. This image is part of a mosaic prepared by the Beach Erosion Board, a series of 157 photographs covering Fire Island Inlet to Southampton. The photographs were probably taken by the U.S. Army Air Corps, Mitchell Field, Long Island.
February 24, 1939. Five months after the hurricane, a prominent flood shoal has formed in Shinnecock Bay, but only a small ebb had grown on the Atlantic side of the inlet, Construction equipment is stockpiled on the road just west of the inlet. Suffolk County, with support from the Works Progress Administration, constructed a 1,470-ft bulkhead along the west side of the inlet. The ocean shore east of the inlet remained unstructured. This image is part of a photographic mosaic prepared by the Beach Erosion Board.
April 1, 1947. Seven years after the 1938 hurricane, the flood shoal has grown dramatically. The main channel through the inlet had migrated away from the west shore revetment and extends out to sea in a NW-SE direction. Two channels formerly circled the flood shoal, but at this date, the east channel has shoaled next to the east shoreline of the inlet. The main channel now turns west and follows the bay shoreline to the west. A spit has grown out from the west shore, and a sand bar is located in the mouth of the inlet.
March 10, 1956. The east and west jetties have been completed, and now the channel is restricted to a N-S direction. A sand spit still protrudes from the west beach into the inlet. The updrift fillet (on the east (right) side has begun to fill with sand. Note that the west beach is straight because the area directly west of the west jetty had not yet begun to erode. The dune that parallels the road is vegetated almost to the edge of the inlet. In the future, this area would suffer chronic erosion. (Photograph by Lockwood, Kessler & Bartlett.)
March 25, 1962. This photograph was taken two weeks after the Ash Wednesday northeaster of 6-8 March. Although this storm caused extensive beach erosion and property destruction throughout the Atlantic seaboard, the area near Shinnecock Inlet appears to have suffered no morphologic changes. The indentation in the shoreline just west of the west jetty shows the erosion-prone area. The bulge on the west beach where the ebb shoal attaches to the shore is about half-way between the inlet and the Ponquogue Bridge. Over the following 35 years, as the ebb shoal grows, the bulge will migrate west until it is approximately adjacent to the bridge. (Photograph by Lockwood, Kessler & Bartlett.)
August 10, 1976. This photograph was taken one day after Hurricane Belle crossed the area. The west beach is flush with the end of the west jetty because of beach fill. Compared to 1962, the lobes and bars of the flood shoal have grown and moved further north into Shinnecock Bay. The ebb shoal has also grown. Four black lines crossing the west beach appear to be drawn with a fine pen on the photographic paper print. (Photograph by AeroGraphic Corp.)
April 5, 1988. Waves can be seen entering the inlet and diffracting in a circular pattern in Shinnecock Bay. An exposed sand bar in the flood shoal, previously straight or V-shaped, now resembles a “T” with the growth of a spit southeast toward the inlet. West of the west jetty, unvegetated beach sand extends up to the road. In the 1962 photograph, this area still had a vegetated dune. (Photograph by AeroGraphic Corp.)
September 29, 1992. In this image, the east beach has advanced almost to the end of the east jetty, while the west beach has receded severely. Part of the west beach is less than 20-30 m-wide. The east revetment within the inlet has deteriorated, accompanied with erosion of east shore. Jetty repair has begun, and a barge containing rock is moored in the east channel in Shinnecock Bay. In the flood shoal, the exposed T-shaped sand bar has moved and changed shape. (Photograph by TopoMetrics, Inc.)
October 24,1996. Breaking waves show where the west edge of the ebb shoal joins the west beach. The ebb shoal is still approximately a symmetric oval of sand, but compared to the 1960’s and 1970’s, it has been pushed about 500 m west of the inlet mouth. Rough water can be seen between the jetties and across the mouth of the inlet. With the wave conditions on this day, a boat leaving the inlet would encounter breaking waves on the forward port quarter. (Photograph by Sidney B. Bowne & Son.)
April 22, 1997. The edge of the ebb shoal is clearly visible in this image, taken on a day with almost no waves and clear water. Water depth at the bar is about 3 m (10 ft). The dark water off the mouth of the inlet is the deposition basin. Both the ridge of sand that projects seaward from the west jetty and the deep hole to its west were measured by bathymetric surveys in the 1990’s. (Photograph by Sidney B. Bowne & Son.)
October 10, 1999. Geomorphically, the inlet, beaches, and flood shoal have not changed greatly in two and a half years since the previous photograph was taken. In 1998, 440,000 cu. yd. of material were dredged from the entrance channel and the deposition basin and placed on the beach west of the inlet, in a zone between the jetty and 3,500 ft west. The sand was placed as a berm between the dune line and the water. This feature cannot be seen in this photograph because of scale and file size constraints.