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Cobscook Bay Tides

>> Sunday, July 25, 2010

We're back from our outstanding week camping in northeastern Maine.  I'll have lots of posts about the area over the next week or so.  I took more than 1000 photos, some of which I'm rather tickled with.  The flora, fauna, geology and hydrogeology of the area are fascinating to me, partly because they're so different from Central New York.  With all the possible good blog material, it's hard to boil all the great info and photos down into a couple of posts, but I'll do my best.

With any discussion of Downeast Maine, the obvious place to start is the tides.

First, to orient you, here's Maine (the way life should be!):

Cobscook Bay is part of the Bay of Fundy, which is known for its incredible tide changes.  Cobscook Bay is technically sort of at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy:

Where we were, in northeastern Maine, is just the start of the Bay of Fundy, and the tidal fluctuations get way more impressive up in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Still, 20+ foot tide changes are pretty staggering to observe.  I've read that more than 100 billion tons of water flow into and back out of the Bay of Fundy twice each day.

The crazy tide changes were evident right at our own camp site, at Cobscook Bay State Park.  Here's the view from our site, at high and low tides:

Quite a difference, huh?  It's so tempting to try to walk out to all sorts of little islands at low tide, but I assure you, much of the time that's not an option.  This stuff:

is like quick sand:

 Splorpy icky stickiness that one can't walk across.

Those huge tide changes lead to some facinating viewscapes, though.  I've now spent a couple of weeks of my life in Cobscook Bay area, and have not ceased to be amazed every time I turn a corner and see the likes of this:

There's just so much exposed at low tide!  For the folks who make a living off the water, I'm sure those tides dictate a great deal about schedules, access to one's boat, and the dangers of trying to navigate the waters.  Docks tend to have creative and fascinating constructions so they can be useful at both high and low tides.

One of the more interesting spots we visited is call the "Reversing Falls".  Here's an idea of where the Reversing Falls are located:

The Reversing Falls are slightly below and to the left of the blue text that says "Cobscook Bay".  All it really is is a narrowed area where a lot of water has to pass through to get to other areas of the Bay.  The water visibly flows one direction when the tide is coming in, and the opposite direction when the tide is going out.  That doesn't sound like much, but I assure you, it's mighty impressive to watch.  Spouse and I stopped there twice, once for each direction of flow, and spent some time while the tide was coming in just sitting on a point of land and observing it.

The sheer power of that volume of water is frightening to someone like me who's a little afraid of dark water and currents.  It's not that I can't swim, it's just that deep water with stuff under it that I can't see completely freaks me out.  I often literally have nightmares about having to walk across a dock that's sinking under the surface of water.  You can imagine, then, that high tides in Cobscook Bay generally give me the willies, because so darn much stuff just disappears under the water twice a day.  

These photos just don't do justice to the Reversing Falls experience.  From our vantage point, we could clearly see the difference in the water level - to the left of the photo the water was considerably higher than to the right, with a long elevated flow in the center snaking off into the distance.  The force of the water movement was such that little whirlpools would come boiling out of seemingly quiet inlets:

Crazy nutty people actually like to kayak in this water during the tide changes, but you wouldn't get me out there in a boat for love nor money.  It was hard enough to stand on the shore and watch the currents rip past.

It's not just the depth of the water and the stuff under the surface that freak me out, it's also the possibility of getting stranded.  One of the places we visited is a lighthouse on Campobello Island (which is technically in Canada).  See the map above.  We had spotted the lighthouse last year, but it was high tide at the time, and the lighthouse is only accessible at low tide.  Thus, a return visit was required this year.  

It's a rather perilous trek out to the lighthouse, over several sets of steep stairs and long stretches of slippery rocks.  Our hounds did remarkably well with it all.

They have all wheel drive, so actually manage walking across slippery seaweed better than their humans.  They never will learn not to try to drink out of saltwater puddles, though.  Pleh.  They did have to get carried down the last steep crooked ladder.

There is a lovely spot just past the lighthouse where one can sit and watch for whales.  We didn't see any whales, but did spot quite a number of porpoises frolicking in the water.  Sadly, my reflexes weren't fast enough to catch good photos of them.  This is, I swear, a fin in the middle of the photo:

I was so freaked out by the possibility of getting stranded out there, or worse, having to walk back while the water was lapping at my ankles, that we didn't stay long enough to spot whales.  Oh well.  We saw enough other cool stuff in Maine to more than make up for missing out on whales.


Holly July 25, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

Great pics- whirlpools have always freaked me out. I've never been to Maine. I hope you had some lobster.

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