From a Distance: The meandering Sprague River at Bates–Morse Mountain

This photo shows part of the Sprague River and salt marsh within the coastal Bates–Morse Mountain Conservation Area.

Fun facts are courtesy of Whitehouse Professor of Geology Dyk Eusden ’80 and Professor of Geology Beverly Johnson.

Aerial photograph of Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area on June 9.(Photographs by Brittney Lohmiller)
The Sprague River and marsh within the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area are seen on June 9, 2019. (Brittney Lohmiller for Bates College)

1. Pooling Resources

Pools are natural features of the marsh and provide habitat for wildlife.

2. Water Way

Spring floods cover the marsh, allowing marine life to move between pools and tidal channels.

3. Long and Winding

These winding channels are naturally occurring “meanders” and help drain the marsh.

4. Last Ditch

These straight ditches were designed to drain pools and reduce standing water. People have been ditching marshes for centuries, initially to harvest the marsh grasses for hay and then more recently, in the 1970s, to control mosquitos.

5. Plugging Along

The ditches eliminated vital habitats, prompting repair efforts with earthen “ditch plugs” in the early 2000s.

6. Tiding Over

A failed restoration attempt with a too-effective ditch plug resulted in this area being cut off from beneficial tides.

7. Rock of Ages

Morse Mountain granite is thought to be Paleozoic in origin — up to 350 million years old.

Granite cut from Maine quarries is found in buildings and structures around the country, including the Washington Monument.

8. Destination: Ocean

The natural channel of the 2.5-mile Sprague River winds through the marsh to the Atlantic.

9. Keeping in Dune

A large and mostly hidden dune field, known as parabolic dune field for its shape, runs parallel to and set back from the beach.

In the image below, one of the parabolic fields is at the lower center, nestled within the darker green bushes and trees:

Aerial photograph of Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area on June 9.(Photographs by Brittney Lohmiller)
At far upper right is the Kennebec River. At top center is Morse Mountain. At bottom right is Seawall Beach, which is separated from Popham Beach State Park by the Morse River (visible below the Kennebec at the far right. (Brittney Lohmiller for Bates College)