Coastal zones encompass a complex spectrum of environmental gradients that each impact the composition of bacterioplankton communities. Few studies have attempted to address these gradients comprehensively. We generated a synoptic, 16S rRNA gene-based bacterioplankton community profile of a coastal zone by applying the fingerprinting technique denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis to water samples collected from the Columbia River, estuary, and plume, and along coastal transects covering 360 km of the Oregon and Washington coasts and extending to the deep ocean (>2,000 m). Communities were found to cluster into five distinct groups based on location in the system (ANOSIM, p < 0.003): estuary, plume, epipelagic, shelf bottom (depth < 150 m), and slope bottom (depth > 650 m). Across all environments, abiotic factors (salinity, temperature, depth) explained most of the community variability (? = 0.734). But within each coastal environment, biotic factors explained most of the variability. Thus, structuring physical factors in coastal zones, such as salinity and temperature, define the boundaries of many distinct microbial habitats, but within these habitats variability in microbial communities is explained by biological gradients in primary and secondary productivity.