Abstract:Field measurements are presented, which are the first to quantify the processes influencing the entrapment of suspended particulate matter (SPM) at the limit of saltwater intrusion in the Rotterdam Waterway. The estuarine turbidity maximum (ETM) is shown to be maintained by the trapping of fluvial SPM at the head of the salt wedge. The trapping process is associated with the raining out of fluvial SPM from the upper, fresher part of the water column, into the layer below the pycnocline. The dominant mechanisms responsible are baroclinic shear flows and the abrupt change in turbulent mixing characteristics due to damping of turbulence at the pycnocline. This view contrasts with the assumption of landward transport of marine SPM by asymmetries in bed stress. The SPM transport capacity of the tidal flow is not fully utilized in the ETM, and the ETM is independent of a bed-based supply of mud. This is explained by regular exchange of part of the ETM with harbor basins, which act as efficient sinks, and that the Rotterdam Waterway is not a complete fluvial SPM trap. The supply of SPM by the freshwater discharge ensures that the ETM is maintained over time.