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 of ducks.

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'

inland river delta

Sturgeon Island

Brick Island

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.)
Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler