Dune/Bluff eroded away
Morse River Fox Island
Erosion: Today was a gorgeous, sunshiny day with temperatures in the high 40’s. We
decided to visit Popham Beach State Park for a nice walk on the sand. This is our
favorite beach and we were shocked at its transformation since we had last visited it in
2007. In this Google Earth photo (from about 8 years ago) you can see the southward
facing line of trees followed by dune/bluff grasses and then the white sand beach.
Well...the dune/bluff area (under the arrow) has completely eroded away on the west
side of the parking lot toward Morse River. The river now cuts across the beach area
and ﬂows between Popham Beach and Fox Island. The pine forest is slowly toppling.
Path to the beach...We were shocked as we walked to the beach because this
view used to be all beach bluff, rugosa rose bushes, and dune grasses. There was
always an air of anticipation as we peered over the bluff to the beach.
Beach Scene: This view looks south, across the beach toward the Gulf of Maine,
at low tide. This really hasn’t changed much over the years as it is still a great
expanse of sand.
Looking West: Note the fallen Pitch Pine trees all along the bluff. The
erosion is greatest here.
Bluff Erosion: Bluff erosion can be much more dramatic that beach erosion. The
pitch pine (Pinus rigida) forest has been growing here for at least 50 years, and the
leading edge is falling onto the beach.
Dramatic Bluff Erosion: It was amazing to see the sand pulled out from
underneath the mat of dune grass.
Exposed Roots: The roots no longer have anything to hold onto and the
trees topple onto the beach.
Pitch Pine Cones and Needles: These pine trees grow on sandy barrens, and are
common in the southern part of the state. Note the rough bark. The needles are in
clusters of three.
View looking toward the southeast: We walked to the western edge
of the beach toward Morse River.You can see a bit of the river cutting across
the sand. This entire area is covered by the ocean at high tide, which only
leaves a thin strip of sand to walk on.
Morse River and the edge of Morse Hill: The river ﬂows toward the beach
and is banked by Morse HIll and Morse Mountain on the right. Nobody knows what the
future will bring, but the river has been known to change its course in the past. In fact, it
caused similar erosion events to Popham Beach in 1964, 1972, and 1987 when it
“breached a sand bar at low tide. At high tide, the new river channel scoured away the
dunes, bringing the river right to the pitch pine forest.”
Patterns in the sand: Sand patterns can tell a scientist a lot about the movement
of water on the beach. I don’t know what this pattern means, but there is a good
explanation of various sand patterns on the Maine Geological Survey web site.
Weathered Wood: Many dead trees get exposed to wind and water over the years.
✴ All photos are property of
Laurie Haines. Please ask
permission if you would like to
use them in another venue
besides this slide presentation.