Elements of a geoacoustic model of the geologically young (< 10 million years) upper crust, the top few hundred meters of the basalt subbottom, are described. The model is based on analysis of low‐frequency reflectivity versus angle data at a 1 million‐year‐old sediment‐free site, as well as limited Deep Sea Drilling Project downhole logging results, and extrapolated seismic refraction measurements. The upper crust at this site, which is in close proximity to the crest of the East Pacific Rise, may be characterized by low interfacial velocities (Vp∼2800 m/s and Vs∼800 m/s), large gradients (3–5 s−1), and substantial rms roughness (∼5 m). The low‐inferred shear speed implies no shear critical angle. Hence, low‐frequency energy incident on the bottom at small grazing angles is in large part transmitted into the rock, refracted by the gradient, and reradiated into the water. Scattering loss occurs at both the initial incidence and the interaction of the refracted energy at the boundary. Low interfacial shear speeds lead to large grazing angles at the boundary for the transmitted shear waves, large wavenumbers and, hence, large boundary‐scattering losses; small changes in interfacial shear speed produce large changes in subsurface boundary‐scattering loss, and hence in the reflection coefficient. A summary of logging and extrapolated seismic refraction measurements in the young crust, below 10 million years, suggests that the range of interfacial shear speeds is between about 800 and 2400 m/s. In older crust, the range of shear speeds is projected to be significantly different. Ramifications of the site dependence of upper crustal properties, particularly shear speed, on sound propagation are discussed.