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Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: Chatham’s Monomoy Islands and Stage Harbor

Editor’s note: This is the 13th in a series of articles covering the region’s dramatically changing coastline. Click here to see all of the articles.

*We have highlighted and numbered 16 locations described in the article to help readers locate them in the photos.*

The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: Chatham’s Monomoy Islands and Stage Harbor, Cape Cod Life, April 2017 |

Map courtesy of the Chatham Historical Society. Photograph by Paul Rifkin

To the south of Chatham, the sandy spits that comprise North (1) and South Monomoy (2) Islands measure about eight miles, stretching north and south like fingers or drumsticks. In 2007, following several years of coastal waters picking up sediment and transporting it southward along South Beach Island (3), the island itself connected to South Monomoy. Walkers, were they so inclined, could set out from Chatham Light (4), head across Lighthouse Beach (5), plod southward over several miles of sand, and knock on the front door of the Monomoy Lighthouse (6) keeper’s quarters.

This scenario did not last long, though, for in 2013, South Beach Island was breached (7) about a mile and a half south of Chatham Light, bringing to an end this special lighthouse-to-lighthouse route. Much more than disappointing adventurous walkers, though, erosion, accretion, and other natural changes that have taken place along the coast of Chatham—and Monomoy, specifically—have impacted navigation routes in the area and brought about a major change for nearby Stage Harbor (8).

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