A beach is a strip of land along the edge of a body of water such as an ocean or lake. It is made of loose materials such as sand, pebbles, shells, and rocks. Beaches are constantly changing, with waves and currents depositing and taking away sediment. Beaches are also home to many plants and animals that have adapted to the coastal environment.
The word beach comes from the Old English verb “beachn” and means a low shore. The name may refer to any sandy shore, but it is most often used for a wide expanse of sand backed by dunes or other types of coastal vegetation. In some places, beaches are very shallow, while in others they extend far out into the sea. Beaches are also a popular recreational destination, with people using them for swimming, sunbathing, and playing beach sports.
In addition to sand, the surface of a beach often contains other materials such as rocks, twigs, mud, and other debris. The sand itself is a result of erosion and deposition, with a mix of small particles (usually silt) and larger fragments of other material such as shells or cobbles. Beach sand is very fine in texture, and its color is often white or golden. Beaches are a type of geological formation, and their shape is determined by many factors such as the size and power of the waves that strike them, the types of sediments involved, and how the sand is delivered to the coast.
Sand is the main sediment on most beaches. However, other materials such as gravel, pebbles, and even sandstone may be present. The composition of a beach also depends on the surrounding environment, with coastlines facing very energetic wave and wind systems tending to hold only large rocks as smaller sediments will be carried to calmer areas by longshore currents. In contrast, beaches in calmer, more protected locations may allow for the accumulation of clay and mud as well as sand.
In some areas, beaches develop beach ridges that are typically topped by vegetation such as shrubs or grasses. The ridges are formed by the buildup of sand between wave crests and breakers that are deposited on the sand during a storm. In more sheltered areas, parabolic dunes with their summits coastward may form instead.
Beaches are a natural phenomenon that occur in many different types of landscapes, including deserts and mountains, as well as in the Arctic and Antarctic, where they can be found covered with snow all year round. Beaches are usually regarded as desirable tourist destinations, and they can be used for various recreational activities, including swimming, sunbathing, walking, and picnicking.
To protect the environment, it is important to keep beaches clean and litter-free, and not to disturb the ecosystems that they contain. In addition, it is important to respect the rules and regulations of any specific beach, including whether or not alcohol is allowed on the premises. Guests should also avoid driving in the water, as boating under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and illegal on some beaches.