Carolina "Bays"

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

The Carolina Bays aren't conspicuous on maps because they have very little relief, but sometimes the outlines of larger ones are plotted. Above is a fairly typical example from eastern North Carolina.

Thousands of small elliptical depressions dot the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Maryland to South Carolina, but the heaviest concentration is in the Carolinas. These depressions are nicknamed "bays."

Below are details of some of the bays in the photo at left. Note that the bays have parallel long axes.

Bays typically have shallow depressions in the center and slight raised rims. The one in the photo at left has been completely plowed over but is outlined by a ring of light colored soil.
This bay has been left as woodland
Portions of at least four bays are visible in this picture.
Three bays of different sizes are visible in this photo.

Bays persistently turn up on amateur lists of meteor impact craters, but they are definitely not due to impact.

The formation mechanism of the bays is still imperfectly known but most geologists suspect they are the result of chemical weathering in a warm, moist climate with poor drainage.

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Created 20 January 2005, Last Update 06 June 2020