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The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: West Falmouth Harbor, Chapoquoit Beach & Black Beach

The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: West Falmouth Harbor, Chapoquoit Beach & Black Beach, September/October 2017 Cape Cod LIFE |

This present day photo shows the intriguing nature of the various basins, coves and points that make up West Falmouth Harbor. Photo by Josh Shortsleeve

Fraser says the movement of sediment into the channel has caused some shoaling at the harbor’s entrance and a slight shift in the navigation route in the channel. According to Fraser, the sand is being taken from the southerly beaches outside the harbor, and deposited along Chapoquoit Point’s north-facing shoreline.

West Falmouth Harbor is considered a “middle-draft harbor,” which means some deep draft vessels may face restrictions at low tide, when depths in some areas can be as shallow as 1 to 6 feet. Fraser says the harbor was last dredged in the 1960s and may be a candidate for another round due to the shoaling, but the area is also an active habitat for an endangered eelgrass, which makes securing permits for such work more involved.

Chapoquoit Beach stretches southward from the northwest corner of Chapoquoit Point for nearly one mile. According to M. Leslie Fields, a coastal geologist at the Woods Hole Group, Chapoquoit and neighboring Black Beach have been eroding at a rate of about 8 inches per year at the northern end, and 1 to 1.5 feet at the southern end from 1845 to 2014. That’s 120 feet in 170 years. Fields says the rates at the southern end are slightly higher than many places on Cape Cod. Currently, areas of the Chapoquoit Beach parking lot are just 35 feet from the water, and an area of Chapoquoit Road just north of the parking lot is even closer. Fraser says most of what might be considered “troubled areas” on Chapoquoit Beach are privately owned, so the town does not have any plans underway for shoreline armoring there.

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