Wells Beach is a beautiful place that hosts thousands of visitors each year. Many visitors come in search of sand, sun, and relaxation. However, not all of these visitors arrive by car, by bus, or by rail. Every year numerous animal species flock (or swim) to Wells Beach to take advantage of the area’s natural resources.
One visitor who is perhaps a bit more famous than others is the piping plover. The piping plover is a small, sand-colored bird, that nests and feeds on Wells Beach. The plover is a federally protected species, with a total population of just over 6,500 individuals. They arrive at Wells Beach during the months of March and April and they spend the summer building their nests, mating, and raising their young. They migrate south during late August and September.
On Wells Beach they generally build their nests in the tall grass on the north end of the beach. They are very sensitive to disturbances in their nesting area, and it is usually fenced off to prevent beachgoers from intruding. So if you see them on the beach, please be sure to give them space. They’re not trying to bother anyone and they would like to not be bothered themselves.
I thought I’d take today to address a question that we at the hotel hear a lot, particularly at this time of year. Guests always ask me why the beach looks so different or why there are so many rocks compared to when they visit Wells Beach in the summer. The answer is actually fairly simple, though maybe a bit unexpected. Every year at the end of autumn the ocean currents actually change and begin to erode the beach. The sand is carried away and deposited on a sandbar that sits about a mile offshore. This exposes rocks on the beach that are normally hidden during the summer. The ocean currents switch again in the spring and the sand is carried back to shore and redeposited on Wells Beach. This fluctuation in ocean currents and ocean tides means that Wells Beach can look very different depending on the season.
Every few years the town of Wells makes an additional effort to combat erosion by dredging sand and sediment that has been deposited in Wells Harbor. They pipe that sand the length of Wells Beach and deposit it in the area of our Driftwinds building. The sand is then moved and graded until the beach has the appearance that so many of us are familiar with.
I was watching television the other day and stumbled across some broadcasters who were performing an interesting exercise. They were trying to make a Mount Rushmore of the four major sports leagues, essentially trying to pick the greatest basketball, baseball, football, and hockey players respectively. Naturally, the question that came to my mind, was, who would be on the Maine Mount Rushmore?
- Joshua Chamberlain – This is probably the George Washington of our group. Born in Brewer in 1828, he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1852. He achieved his greatest fame during the American Civil War, where at the Battle of Gettysburg he and the 20th Maine famously held the Union flank, preserving victory for the North. He returned home from the war a hero and was elected to four consecutive terms as Maine Governor. To this day, his victory in 1868 is the widest margin of victory of any Maine gubernatorial race. Following his political career he assumed the position of Bowdoin College president, which he held for twelve years until he was forced to resign due to poor health. He eventually passed away in 1914, at the age of 85, in Portland.
- Stephen King – I’ll make this the Thomas Jefferson of the group, mostly because Jefferson is perhaps best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence and Stephen King is obviously an author as well. King was born in Portland in 1947 and graduated from the University of Maine in 1970. He is widely considered the most prominent horror writer of his generation, with many of his stories taking place in Maine, particularly the fictional town of Derry. Many of his books have been adapted into movies, including Carrie, The Green Mile, and Misery. He currently resides in Bangor.
- Hannibal Hamlin – This is the Abraham Lincoln of the group because why not? He actually served as the 15th Vice President of the United States under Lincoln from 1861 to 1865. Hamlin was born in the tiny town of Paris in 1809 and later graduated from Hebron College. In addition to Vice President he also served in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate, and was elected 26th Governor of Maine in 1857. He passed away in 1891, at the age of 81, in Bangor.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – This is the Theodore Roosevelt of our Mount Rushmore, not because there’s a logical connection, but just because he’s the only one left. Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807 and went on to attend and graduate from Bowdoin College. He was considered the most influential poet of his day and his works include Paul Revere’s Ride, The Courtship of Miles Standish, and The Song of Hiawatha. He passed away in 1882 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A few months ago we touched upon lobstering and mentioned its importance to Maine both historically and economically. So it was only a matter of time before discussion of one of Maine’s other most iconic images, lighthouses, was brought up. The state has long been famous for its rocky coast and lighthouses were a necessity for safely guiding mariners off its shores. A total of 70 lighthouses once lit up the Maine coast, and of those, 57 are still active.
The oldest lighthouse is Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. Originally commissioned by George Washington in 1787, it was first lit early in the year of 1791. However, for a time it appeared that the now iconic structure would not be completed. In the days of our nation’s infancy there were not always ample finances to complete construction projects. It took two separate acts of Congress and authorization by our country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to finally appropriate the funds for the completion of the lighthouse.
Today it is the focal point of Fort Williams Park and is the most photographed lighthouse not only in the state, but in all of North America. It’s hard to imagine that such an important and historical structure was almost never completed.
Fun Fact: The only state with more lighthouses than Maine is Michigan!
Maine and lobster go together like peanut butter and jelly, or as Forrest Gump would say, ”peas and carrots.” Each year Maine lobstermen haul in an excess of 100 million pounds of the tasty crustacean. That’s a pretty impressive number when you consider that lobster was initially considered a peasant food and was one of the staple meals fed to prisoners. Every lobsterman in the state has a unique color scheme for their buoys and every trap has a unique tag. The scheme is unique within the state, but may not be unique between states.
Throughout the year, but particularly during the winter months, you may notice lobster buoys or lobster traps washed up on the beach. It is illegal to remove them from the beach and keep them as souvenirs. All buoys and traps are the property of the lobsterman, and with traps costing about $100 apiece you can understand why they’d like to opportunity to retrieve them themselves. If you’d like to help out, you can report the tag number to the Maine Department of Marine Resources and they will pass along the information to the lobsterman. Maine is a special place, so please come and enjoy the beautiful scenery and fantastic food, but be mindful of the laws and be courteous to all the men and women who earn a living by way of lobstering.