Cape Cod has a unique geological feature known as a “Pamet.” Like archipelago, peninsula, tombolo or isthmus, a pamet is a specific geological landform, in the case of Cape Cod, one defined as a dry stream valley on a glacial outwash plain.

The term was first coined in 1934 by Woodworth and Wigglesworth as a “long depression in a thick deposit of stratified gravel and sand … resembles a valley formed by running water but its sides and bottom has the forms of mounds and hollows produced by irregularities in the deposition of glacial drift, either ice-laid or water-laid.”

The word “pamet” is derived from the name of a Wampanoag tribe that lived in present-day Truro near the northernmost extremity of Cape Cod along the Pamet River, a beautiful valley that bisects the finger-like extremity from east-to-west, spanning Cape Cod Bay near the site of Corn Hill (where the Pilgrims discovered, and plundered, a cache of corn buried in the sand in baskets by the Pamets) eastwards to Ballston Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

There are other pamets on the Cape, particularly in East Falmouth — visible from Route 28 between Waquoit and Teaticket — marked by streams such as the Coonamesset, Quashnet, and Mashpee Rivers and in some cases, developed in the 19th century into cranberry bogs which rely on the fresh water streams for irrigation.

 On Friday of the past week, during the most recent northeaster of this terrible winter of 2013, the storm surge and relentless surf punched through the dunes at Ballston Beach and poured into the Pamet River, making North Truro and Provincetown technically an island unto themselves.

Here, courtesy of the Cape Cod Times’ CapeCast (hosted by the inimitable Eric Williams) is some great video showing nature in her full fury:


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

2 thoughts on “Pamets”

  1. The part where the cameraman gets swept out to sea is particularly thrilling.

  2. ocean tides breaching streambeds or lagoons here in CA draws hundred of steelhead or salmon fishermen for the event. Steelhead come inland during breaching and are pissed off enough to hit any godawful ugly lure or fly.
    the last two breaachings here in SOCal hve brought in a lot of steelhead and salmon. Some dude caught a 20 pound king in the San Gabriel River seven miles up stream from its breached conlfuence.
    Funny clip, thanks for posting it Dave!

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