Saturday, November 3, 2012

Great Marsh Glimpses: Rough Meadows.

The Great Marsh by Martin Johnson Heade.

The Great Marsh extends from the New Hampshire border at the Merrimack mouth to a southern rampart made by Cape Ann. Its bulwarks against the open ocean consist of two chunky barrier strips, Plum Island and Cranes Beach.



The quieter space behind these barriers makes for an outstanding fish nursery, which, in it's turn attracts all manner of food chain participants. 

Another point of wonder is that much of it is fairly intact from encroachment by pollution and invasive species. It has its problems and is vulnerable to rising water that will likely accompany global warming. 

And then, there is the degree of excitement shared by the array of organizations that are converging attend to this bit of grandeur. I went up to that area in September to just cover the basic run of the Bay Circuit Trail from Joppa Flats to the Rowley commuter rail station

On a whim, I imposed myself on the volunteer staff at Joppa Flats and was taken by their excitement about the overall collaboration and the recent opening of the Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in the heart of it. I left with a Massachusetts Audubon membership renewal, (it's been years), a pile of printed material and an urge to follow up on the prompting of the gracious staff to explore the place.



I was back by the first of October, just at the cusp of the highest monthly tides. I was oblivious to tide timing and walked to the Sawyer Island parcel of the Essex County Greenbelt Association, all the way at the end of the road, first.



These properties belonged to Professor Alfred D Chandler Jr. and became his legacy contribution to this grand undertaking.

"Al loved to hunt, and he was a very good shot. During duck season, he could be found at daybreak in the marshes, then back in his study at midday, then back in the marshes."


The main access road into the Sanctuary passes along a stretch that can be immersed in high tide and so I found myself waiting for it to recede. 



It was an agreeable mission as it forced me to take long bemused looks around and discover things like Salicornia gravid from the brackish water. I also saw a fairly dense mass of infant fish feeding on algae. 

Once the tide let me pass I was free to follow Professor Chandler's Long Walk to its overlook spot to take in the demure vastness of it all.


On the way back I took in the Hickory Trail and Appy's Way. I'll return some day to explore the Sassafras Trail and The Kestral Trail. 

All in all it is an outstanding introduction to the quiet side of the Great Marsh.