The Southern part of the Kennebec meets the “head of the tide.” From here on, the ocean shapes both the landscape and its people. Sea breezes, strong currents and maritime traditions are part of everyday life. The area is also an important stop for migrating birds. At Swan Island, a nature reserve at the north end of Merrymeeting Bay, osprey, sturgeon and other species of birds and fish abound. Centuries ago, the Abenaki lived on the island, naming it Swango, or “island of eagles.”
If you are looking for birds, you soon learn that wherever there is water, there is a variety of birds. The Kennebec River is no exception.
Merrymeeting Bay is a Maine tidal riverine delta. Six rivers converge here: the Kennebec, Androscoggin, Cathance, Muddy, Eastern, and Abagadasset. For generations, the bay provided sustenance for Native Americans and European settlers until industry polluted it. Thanks to the efforts of a grassroots coalition of environmentalists and local residents who live, fish and sail these beautiful waters, the bay is making a comeback. Wood ducks, mergansers, white-tailed deer and bald eagles are slowly returning to the bay.
Today Merrymeeting Bay sits quietly in the middle of the most populated region of Maine. Its vitality as an ecosystem is still impressive. Wild rice is its emblematic plant; the bald eagle its emblematic bird; the huge, ancient, and perilously rare Atlantic sturgeon its emblematic fish. Name me another place remotely like it.
Follow Route 128 south to the town of Woolwich. At Woolwich, the corridor crosses back to the west side of the Kennebec River on Route 1 in Bath.