Monday September 30, 2013 | 08:50 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

On Friday I took a drive down to Drake’s Island in Wells. We had visited it one cool spring morning in 2012, and I’d been meaning to get back forever.

The beach lies at the heavily-armored mouth of the Webhannet River. The Webhannet runs through protected marshland into Wells Harbor, then out into the open ocean by way of a 1960s Army Corps of Engineers jetty.

Friday was a moody morning, clouds rippling overhead in waves of their own. I arrived around 10:30, a bit before low tide. I parked in the well-maintained gravel lot, overlooking the rotting remains of an earlier generation’s seawall.

A small boardwalk brings visitors quickly to their first peek of the beach.

It’s a long, very gentle slope of fine, tan sand, trailing off into the roaring ocean. A series of rubble piles -- more or less wave-tossed -- breaks up the southern part of the beach into segments, leaving an interesting array of boulders to pick over.

That’s where the contrasts begin.

Along many of the segments, the fine, clean sand rolls out into the unbroken ocean. Waves churn against the beach, the sea foams. Anything one wave brings in, the next wave pulls back out. Here, even the tumbled boulders were completely devoid of wrack left behind.

But in one section, the ocean’s waves are buffered out past the surf zone by another (man-made?) tumble of rocks. They lose most of their energy hurling against this sub-surface wall, and what comes in has more of a chance to settle out.

This small beach-within-a-beach is a zone of life:


(Snails "racing" down to the receding tideline)

And death:


(Dead crab shredded in seagull feeding frenzy)

The long gentle curve of Drake’s Island beach goes on and on to the north. It’s a fantastic beach for the feel of soft, even sand under your feet and the steady roar and crash of the surf. For the open skies and -- on a cool late September morning -- the sense of peace.

More to come on this rather remarkable part of Maine’s coast.

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About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

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