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Our Projects > Studies and Information About York's Rivers, Maine > Salt Marshes and Tidal Restrictions


The York River's approximately 400 acres of salt marsh form valuable wildlife habitat, and represent about 10% of the salt marsh in York County.  Salt marsh ecosystems are among the most productive in the world.  Marshes themselves face little threat of development because they are regularly inundated by the tides.  However, they are impacted by nearby development of uplands, and may be further degraded when fill is used to make a marsh buildable, either for a road, railroad, or other development.

Where roads or railroads cross the salt marsh, they restrict the tidal flow across the marsh. Because the salt marsh relies on regular cycles of inundation by salt water, restricted flow can result in degradation of the marshes. Often, invasive species such as phragmites become prevalent.

There are two types of tidal restrictions: Bridges and culverts across the river or creek channel are restrictive if the size is not large enough. Also, causeways restrict the flow ideally, a causeway would have a series of culverts under the entire length of the causeway.


There has been no formal study of tidal restrictions on the York River or of the health of the salt marshes.

Anecdotal Knowledge

Interview with Brad Sterl (retired) of Department of Marine Resources. Interviewed Dec. 1999.

In his estimation, the worst tidal restriction is at Cooks Bridge (Rt. 91), where the road crosses the marsh. Upstream, a large area of marsh is affected. Prior to the 1960s, there was a bridge across the channel, which he remembers to be 26'. In the 1960s, the bridge was replaced by 2 culverts, which do not allow for sufficient water flow, and which are placed too high in the road bed, so that they also restrict fish passage. Although there are other restrictions, he believes this is the worst one.

He believes that Smelt Brook's bridge is big enough so that it does not restrict tidal flow. There was a tidal mill on Dolly Gordon Brook; the remains of this mill may restrict flow.

Contact:  Brad Sterl in Ogunquit.

Observations on the Lower Barrels Millpond, Becka Roolf. Dec. 1999.

In a trip to the Wiggly Bridge, she observed that the Lower Barrells Millpond was ringed with Phragmites, an invasive species to saltmarshes.  The other visible portions of the York River had very little or no Phragmites.  The causeway with the Wiggly Bridge is clearly restrictive, and in fact causes a rapid to be formed during tide changes.

The culvert where Rt. 91 crosses Cider Hill Creek also appears to be placed too high.

Contact:  Becka Roolf, Rivers & Trails Program, AMC/National Park Service.  207-725-5028.


Describes a volunteer-based method for determining how restrictive a tidal crossing is. This handbook is available in its entirety on the Internet, or in hard copy for $5. The Maine Audubon Society (Rob Bryan) has also used this method on Scarborough Marsh, in 1999. This is a method that could be used by the York Rivers Association.

Contact: Parker River Clean Water Association.  978-462-2551.

Provides an overview of tidal marshes, tips on mapping tidal marshes, and an evaluation system that emphasizes ecology, habitat, and aesthetics.  The section on restoration projects and improving educational/recreational opportunities is very short, emphasizes common sense, and presents contact information for relevant state and federal agencies, without getting into any details what might be involved in restoring a marsh.  Whereas the Parker River guide, above, concentrates on a fairly technical assessment of one specific type of tidal marsh degredation, the MAS book is much broader.

Contact:  Robert Byran, Maine Audubon Society, 207-781-6180.

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