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USGS Geology in the Parks



Headland, Central California
Headland along California's central coast. Image from USGS Center for Coastal Geology.

Headlands are projections of land that stick out into a sea or lake.

Waves approaching the shore reach headlands before they encounter the surrounding coast. This slows the waves down near the headland forcing them to bend around the point as they advance. The result is that wave energy is focused on the headland and spreads out in the bays. The erosional forces on the headland are intense! The battered headlands tend to erode relatively quickly. As you might imagine, this process tends to straighten out coastlines over time.

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