Salt Marsh

Located behind Pemaquid Beach in Bristol is a 6-acre back-barrier marsh. This marsh is known as the Fish Point Salt Marsh or Pemaquid Beach Salt Marsh.

The marsh is held in private ownership by the adjacent landowners, so public access to the marsh is not permitted. However, the marsh can be viewed from an overlook site at Pemaquid Beach Park, where a 36”x 27” panel stands at the end of a path off the park’s picnic area.

The colorful display (see the full panel below) describes what a salt marsh is, why marshes are one of the most productive habitats, how they help filter and detoxify water, and how marshes serve to protect our coastlines from erosion. What makes the conservation message of this salt marsh panel so important is that estuaries are one of the most threatened of Earth’s ecosystems.

Joan Lyford, hero of the Fish Point Salt Marsh

the late Joan Lyford, hero of the Fish Point Salt Marsh

salt marshview of the salt marshvisitors viewing the salt marsh

What is an estuary?

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where two different bodies of water meet and mix. Typically, estuaries are thought of as where rivers meet the sea and freshwater mixes with saltwater to become brackish.

The Pemaquid Beach Salt Marsh is an example of a saltwater estuary, with its freshwater inflow coming in part from the freshwater marsh across the road from the entrance to the Park. But, estuaries also can be found where freshwater from rivers or streams and chemically distinct freshwater of a large lake meet and mix. Saltwater estuaries are tidally driven, and freshwater estuaries are storm-driven. Merrymeeting Bay in Maine is the largest freshwater-dominated estuary system north of Chesapeake Bay.

Estuaries are among the most productive and valuable ecosystems on the planet. They provide a source of jobs, food, protection, recreation, and beauty in our everyday lives.

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2005 Salt Marsh Restoration

The Pemaquid Beach Salt Marsh was once a threatened ecosystem, slowly dying as a result of limited saltwater input due to a roadway culvert restricting tidal flow. But, thanks to the initiative and diligence of a local resident, the late Joan Lyford, in bringing attention to the problem, the culvert was replaced in 2005, restoring the natural tidal flow and increasing native salt marsh vegetation.

The culvert replacement work was completed thanks to funding from Coastal America, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment/ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Habitat Restoration Partnership, Maine Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and the Town of Bristol.

Following the restoration, the former PWA monitored the marsh for 3 years. The primary objective of the post-restoration monitoring study was to document changes in the marsh to determine habitat restoration success. The former PWA organized data collection and reporting on the fish, groundwater salinity, vegetation, and birds at the marsh as a baseline for future trend monitoring.

2005-2007 Monitoring Report

  • counting birds at the salt marsh
    counting birds

Ongoing Monitoring

Coastal Rivers intends to continue to watch-over the marsh and collect monitoring data every 7 to 10 years to help ensure the continued health of the ecosystem. The monitoring effort requires CoastalRivers to hire an expert consultant to oversee the volunteers and compile the report, which costs around $4,300.

If you would like to invest in the future of the Pemaquid Beach Salt Marsh, click here to make a donation and put “salt marsh” in the Comments field.  It’s a tax-deductible gift that will have real impact.

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salt marsh informational panel by Alison Carver

Alison Carver, local graphic artist, designed the panel and included beautiful original artwork of several species that frequent the marsh, such as the European Green Crab and Great Blue Heron. Bristol Parks Commissioner Gordon Benner installed the panel and created a scenic trail for its placement.

3 Round Top Ln • PO Box 333 • Damariscotta, Maine 04543
207-563-1393 •
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