An Introduction to Merrymeeting Bay
|Merrymeeting Bay is the 9000-acre confluence of six rivers, two of which,
the Androscoggin and the Kennebec, are two of Maine's largest. Four smaller
rivers flow from the towns surrounding the Bay: the Eastern from Dresden
and Pittston; the Abagadasset from Bowdoinham and Richmond; the Cathance
from Bowdoinham and Bowdoin; and the Muddy River from Topsham. Merrymeeting
Bay is a unique ecosystem; technically, it is an inland delta, not an estuary,
as it is cut off from direct access to the ocean; at low tide the waters
of the Bay flow out through The Chops, a narrow gap, into the lower Kennebec.
Though the Bay is affected by tides, there is very little salt in its waters.
Large areas of the Bay consist of fresh water mud flats and sand bars upon
which wild rice and pickerel weed flourish, plants that provide food and
cover for waterfowl.
Merrymeeting bay is home to several endangered and protected species of
wildlife; shortnosed and Atlantic sturgeon, bald eagles, ospreys;
and many species of anadromous fish, such as shad, smelt, striped bass,
river herring, and salmon. The Bay and its tributaries are favored breeding
grounds for Canada geese, herons, and other wading birds, and for many species
Merrymeeting Bay, by virtue of its unique characteristics and large size,
is an ecological gem in our midst. Unfortunately, many factors, particularly
water pollution and pressures from development, have reduced much of the
once-abundant resources of the Bay to remnant levels. Long-term solutions
to its ecological collapse in the 1970's require long-term commitments and
support. (from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay leaflet)
Not a bay as it is not on the ocean
Not an estuary as average overall salinity does not exceed .5 parts /thousand,
though there are periods of salt water as far upstream as Swan Island
Called a 'tidal riverine'
or inland river delta
Origin of the Name: Many theories
1. Indian name 'Quavocook' meaning the 'duck water place' (F.H.Eckstrom
in Indian Place Names of the Maine Coast says this is apocryphal.)