AbstractThis study investigates the longitudinal variation of lateral entrapment of suspended sediment, as is observed in some tidal estuaries. In particular, field data from the Yangtze Estuary are analysed, which reveal that in one cross-section, two maxima of suspended sediment concentration (SSC) occur close to the south and north sides, while in a cross-section 2 km down-estuary, only one SSC maximum on the south side is present. This pattern is found during both spring tide and neap tide, which are characterised by different intensities of turbulence. To understand longitudinal variation in lateral trapping of sediment, results of a new three-dimensional exploratory model are analysed. The hydrodynamic part contains residual flow due to fresh water input, density gradients and Coriolis force and due to channel curvature-induced leakage. Moreover, the model includes a spatially varying eddy viscosity that accounts for variation of intensity of turbulence over the spring-neap cycle. By imposing morphodynamic equilibrium, the two-dimensional distribution of sediment in the domain is obtained analytically by a novel procedure. Results reveal that the occurrence of the SSC maxima near the south side of both cross-sections is due to sediment entrapment by lateral density gradients, while the second SSC maximum near the north side of the first cross-section is by sediment transport due to curvature-induced leakage. Coriolis deflection of longitudinal flow also contributes the trapping of sediment near the north side. This mechanism is important in the upper estuary, where the flow due to lateral density gradients is weak.