The Alaska Panhandle is a rugged, deep coast defined by glacial features as well as tectonic activity. It consists of deep fjords and many glaciers, which carry large amounts of gravel and rock to the coast. This material forms outwash fans and gravel beaches where the glaciers reach the ocean and deposit loads of sediment. Volcanic eruptions on the western side of this coast also provide sediment, and earthquakes cause changes in the elevation of the land.
The ocean along this area of the Alaskan coast generally does not freeze. The waves therefore constantly re-work glacial and volcanic sediments.