Abstract

The topography of Maryland's western shore of the Chesapeake Bay shows that five streams now flowing eastward into the bay comprise the pirated (and inverted) headwaters of streams previously flowing westward from a vanished Pliocene upland now occupied by the central Chesapeake. Estuarine shoreline erosion during Pleistocene interglaciations removed the upland, exposing the upper reaches of west-flowing stream valleys. Headward (westward) erosion by east-flowing streams then occurred along existing valleys, facilitated by steep eastward gradients and easily eroded valley-floor sediments. Stream inversion may be more common than previously recognized, since any eroding shoreline causes consumption of seaward-draining watershed and steepening of gradients, thus setting the stage for eventual stream inversion.

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