The Kennebec Estuary, encompassing 25,000 acres of prime habitat for every species of waterfowl that uses the Atlantic flyway, is a priority area within The Nature Conservancy’s conservation work in Maine. Six rivers converge here in Merrymeeting Bay, an inland, freshwater tidal delta at the heart of the estuary. From there to the sea, the Kennebec River’s brackish waters and strong tidal currents prevent the River's waters from freezing solid, creating wintering habitat for waterfowl.
The Kennebec Estuary is one of Maine's most significant natural areas. Containing over 20 percent of Maine's tidal marshes, this estuarine system provides critical habitat for several endangered and threatened species, shorebirds, wading birds, migratory fish, and other water-dependent species.
A treasure trove of Maine’s natural assets, the Kennebec Estuary is located less than an hour northeast of Portland, Maine's largest city, in the mid-coast towns of Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoinham, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham and Woolwich. Rapid increases in residential and second home development in the area are leading to rising land prices, producing the incentive for landowners to sell land for development.
Merrymeeting Bay's freshwater intertidal regions provide excellent habitat for a variety of common and rare plant species, such as the globally-rare Eaton's bur-marigold.
Merrymeeting Bay and the lower Kennebec River provide habitat for bald eagles, more than 50 species of freshwater fish and all 10 of Maine's migratory fish species, including Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, shad, and alewives. The region supports thousands of ducks, geese, rails, wading birds and other water-dependent species during the annual spring and fall migration periods. In addition to providing habitat for breeding and wintering, the area is frequented by every species of waterfowl that uses the Atlantic Flyway during the migration periods. Conservation work in such a crossroads for migration protects Maine’s environment and natural systems, while having positive effects far beyond our borders, as well.
The Kennebec Estuary is a priority for The Nature Conservancy as we work to protect Maine’s environment. In response to intense development pressure, The Nature Conservancy has increased its environmental conservation work in the region. The Nature Conservancy is working with a variety of mid-coast Maine conservation partners to protect wildlife habitat and restore the health of the ecosystem through land acquisition, wetland restoration and improved access to spawning areas for migratory fish.
To date, The Nature Conservancy in Maine and its partners in the Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition have added nearly 5,000 acres to the 10,800 acres of conservation land throughout the region.