Texas Coastal Geology

Richard L. Watson, Ph.D.

P.O. Box 1040 Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-749-4152 send email


Dr. Watson is a marine and coastal geologist with over 50 years of experience studying the Texas Gulf Coast.  He is an expert on sediment transport, including thorough knowledge of the longshore sediment transport system in the surf, the geologic history of the Texas Coast, inlet and tidal hydrodynamics, and Texas coastal boundary law.  Dr. Watson has experience in the design of harbor entrances and inlets. He has served as an expert witness in cases involving coastal boundary determination.  These have included determination of the ownership of 55 square miles of wind-tidal flats in Kenedy County which overlie valuable natural gas deposits as well as ownership of the wind-tidal flats adjacent to South Padre Island. He has also served as an expert witness in several cases where the upland owner has lost beach front property due to beach erosion caused by manmade changes in the shoreline and river systems which have initiated severe beach erosion on most of the Texas coast with particularly severe erosion on parts of Bolivar Peninsula, Surfside, Sargent beach, West Galveston beach, and South Padre Island.

Click here to read "Geologic framework of the eolian sand plain and the Central Flats of Laguna Madre and circulation betrween northern and southern Laguna Madre."

Click here for the coastal geology presentation for the Texas Coastal Ecology class at TAMUCC

Click here for the very first edition of the South Jetty Newspaper in June 1971

Click here for a page with photos of Port Aransas Events.

Click here for a new page of aerial photos of inlets on Florida's west coast!

Click here to go to a page about the Texas Open Beaches Act and the Severance decision 

limiting public access to the beaches

The Supreme Court of Texas on Nov. 5, 2010 just decided that the "rolling easement" guaranteeing public access to the dry beach below the vegetation is not legal.  There is no such thing in law as a "rolling easement," easements are fixed.  This will have serious implications for both beach front property owners and the right of public access to "dry beach" above MHT or MHHT.  The easement will probably still apply for slow and imperceptible movement of the vegetation line, but not for rapid and instantaneous movement (avulsion) due to a hurricane or other storm.  You can see the entire court decision at the following link.  Two justices were in dissent.  Click here for the opinion and more information.

On June 4-5, 2009 The Texas General Land Office held the Texas Coastal Conference 2009 in Galveston, Texas.  Dr. Watson gave an invited presentation titled What has hurricane Ike taught us about beach and dune management.  You can download and watch this narrated powerpoint presentation at the following link.  The file is about 20 mb, so it is best to download it rather than just click on it, unless you have a very fast internet connection.  Download the presentation here.

Click here to read Dr. Watson's invited article titled "Evaluation of coastal response to Hurricane Ike through pre-storm and post-storm aerial photography"  in Shore and Beach Vol. 77, No. 2, 49-59.  This entire issue of Shore and Beach, the Journal of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association is dedicated to description and analysis of the damage to the Louisiana and Texas coasts by Hurricane Ike which came ashore on September 13, 2008.

Dr. Watson presented a lecture titled Ike wiped entire towns off of the map.  Are we safer in Port Aransas?  The presentation was made at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, TX on March 12, 2009 to a standing room only crowd.  The slide show includes before and after photos of the upper Texas coast destroyed by Ike, Ike's effects on Mustang and N. Padre islands, and comparison to past hurricanes and the flooding that they caused at Port Aransas.  You can click on the link below to watch and listen to this narrated presentation.  However, the file is very large, about 46 mb and it is probably better to download it and watch it offline.

Ike wiped entire towns off of the map.  Are we safer in Port Aransas?

Click here for a poster about the presentation.

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If you would like to make a donation to help support the expense of providing  this website and aerial photos, please click on the Paypal button below.

Dr. Watson presented a talk titled Was Hurricane Ike a wake-up call, or are we going back to sleep? on January 15, 2008
at the Corpus Christi museum of Science and Technology

The narrated presentation can be downloaded here.  It is about 28 mb and will take time to download.

Click here to view the response to Hurricane Ike by the City of Port Aransas, you won't like it!

Click here for Hurricane Ike photos!

If you Care about a soldier, take a few minutes and watch this video.  You won't regret it.


Click here to view hurricane flood and surge maps for Port Aransas

Dr. Watson presented a paper titled “Balancing Growth of the Natural Dune Seawall with Maintenance of Tourist Beaches” at the American Shore and Beach Preservation - Texas General Land Office Conference in Galveston, Texas on October 24, 2007.  Click the following link for a copy of the conference program.

The conference is titled
 “Caring for the Coast:

Protecting, Enhancing, Preserving”


Dr. Watson presented an invited paper at the Geological Society of American national convention in Denver on the 28th of October, 2007.  The keynote session is titled "Identifying America’s Most Vulnerable Oceanfront Communities: A Geological Perspective."    Click the following link to read the abstract.


You can click here to download a narrated copy of the presentation.  It is about 13 MB, so it will take time to download.

Or you can click here to play the slide show directly.


Dr. Watson gave a presentation titled Severe Erosion of Texas Beaches Caused by Engineering Modifications to the Coast and Rivers at the Harte Research Institute auditorium, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, Texas on Friday January 19, 2007.  The proposed 350 ft. setback for construction on Nueces County barrier islands was discussed.  A PowerPoint slide show of this talk with narration as presented at the Harte Institute can be downloaded at the following link.  The presentation is about 70 megabytes and will take about 15 minutes to download on a fast connection.  

Please right click here to download the file erosion.pps

With very few exceptions, the Gulf beaches of Texas are eroding with rates varying from a few feet per year to over 15 feet per year.  Construction of long jetties at major navigational inlets has locked huge quantities of beach sand into permanent storage, compartmentalizing the coast and starving down current beaches of sand, while flood control and water supply dams on rivers that flow to the Gulf have reduced the sand supply to Gulf beaches.  Long term shoreline retreat on most of Mustang Island and North Padre Island is 2 to 3 feet per year or more.  These and other changes have initiated irreversible erosion of our Texas Gulf of Mexico beaches.  Even without predicted sea level rise this means that the shorelines will retreat 100 to 150 feet OR MORE in the next 50 years.  The 350 foot setback for new construction proposed by Nueces County will prevent many future problems by leaving a zone where new dunes can be artificially created as the present dune line is eroded back.  Without this, it will not be long before major valuable buildings will be facing destruction unless the shoreline is armored with seawalls, a very undesirable fix.

Click here to download my paper, Coastal Law and the Geology of a Changing Shoreline, March 2006.

Click here  for the Web Page to Protect the Natural Dune Seawall at Port Aransas, Check for updates

High resolution digital copies of many of these photographs are available for sale. You may purchase a digital photo in the highest resolution that I have for $25.00 for personal use or for use in your presentations.  The charge will be $150 for use in publications or for commercial reproduction.  Contact me  to purchase photos.  These photographs are copyrighted and are the property of Richard L. Watson.  They may not be copied or used without permission.  You may however link to this website from your website or by email.  

These photographs are copyrighted and are the property of Richard L. Watson.  They may not be copied or used without permission.  You may however link to this website from your website or by email. 



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