Lincoln County is blessed with an abundance of rivers. Some are well known and regularly visited; others are smaller and less familiar. Regardless of their size and location, all of them are beautiful and help define the geography of the county.
The most famous local rivers are the Damariscotta, the Sheepscot and the Medomak. All three are big enough to inspire conservation organizations dedicated to their health and protection. Now part of larger regional land trusts, the three groups were created by foresighted people to protect the lands and waters they hold dear.
The Kennebec River, one of the largest in Maine, also runs through Dresden.
Small rivers in Lincoln County include the Marsh River in Newcastle, the Pemaquid River in Bristol, the Eastern River in Dresden, and the Back River which flows past Westport Island. Each corner of the county also contains numerous streams. Some of these flows are named and mapped; others are simple nets that dry out seasonally.
A river or a large stream involves adventure. You can follow the shores on foot or travel by canoe. There are experiences to be had, fish to catch and bridges to cross. Rivers are also great places to view wildlife. Great blue herons, girdled kingfishers, crows and a variety of gulls are just a few of the birds you can find along the Damariscotta River in the summer. Just recently, on November 20, I spotted two great blue herons hanging out around the Damariscotta River.
Over the millennia, rivers have played an important role in human history. They facilitated the development of agriculture and the development of the first permanent settlements and towns. Rivers also offered ancient highways and the ability to travel great distances by boat. Closer to home, the Native Americans of Maine used the state’s vast river system to reach the coast and return inland with the seasons.
History buffs may recall that the river crossings led to the last push into Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. On the Western Front, the Americans succeeded in seizing an intact bridge at Remagen in March 1945. The Germans had succeeded in destroying other bridges, making this crossing of the Rhine vitally important. The eastward push from the Rhine finally opened the German heart to an Allied advance at full speed. Operation Market Garden, an attempt to cross the river elsewhere in September 1944, had been repulsed.
On the eastern front, the Oder formed the last natural barrier between the advance of the Red Army and Berlin. A final defense of the capital began on the Seelow Heights in mid-April 1945. The ultimate assault on the heights and the capture of the Oder led to the end events of the war. Two weeks after the fight on the Oder, Berlin would surrender and Hitler would be dead. The crossing of the Rhine and the Oder directly contributed to the end of the bloodiest conflict in history.
Our local rivers have their own history and deep connections to the land and the peoples that came before it. The next chapter in Lincoln County will likely be told by the rivers large and small that have flowed freely for thousands of years.