Wednesday October 16, 2013 | 12:16 PM
Posted by Harold Johnson

Any coastline is a marvel -- but I believe a coastline at the edge of a river mouth is magical.

At first glance, that may not make much sense. Water flowing into water, big deal.

But it’s not just water flowing into water. It’s two completely different worlds, meeting and mixing and melding in front of you.


(My daughter a few years ago at Ocean Park, the mouth of Goosefare Brook)

That river water started as rainfall days or weeks or months -- or in some rivers centuries -- ago. It trickled down hillsides, percolated through the soil. It cascaded down rocky rills, splashed in hollows and rivulets, collected into streams. The streams coalesced into brooks, the brooks into rivers. And all along the water running down, down, down toward the ocean. Where days or months or years later it will be gathered up into clouds, which will blow across the land & rain down on the hillsides all over again.

It’s that water cycle that makes all life possible on land. Trees, grasses, insects, birds, beasts. Us. 90% of the world’s population lives less than half a dozen miles from the nearest river.

And you can stand right at the cusp of where those two worlds meet, where the cycle is renewed. Because like I say, it’s not just water flowing into water. It’s freshwater flowing into salty. Sun-baked into depth-chilled (or possibly glacier-chilled into tropical). Shallow into deep, sediment-loaded into clear.

Life-giving into life-making.


(This photo of the Amazon river basin linked from The Telegraph - click to see 20 gorgeous satellite photos of river deltas around the world)

The part of the ocean just offshore is the most biologically productive place on the planet. That’s where the nutrients in the ocean are churned up into a broth that contains the building blocks of life. At least 178,000 species of life call coastal waters home. It’s the region where we catch 95% of all the fish & shellfish that people eat.

The building blocks -- as well as much of the churning and mixing -- that support that life come largely from rivers.

Just like the humble little Goosefare Brook in Ocean Park, which anyone can stand by on any day.

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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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