The information below provides additional history about one of the sixteen points of interest along the tour. Visit Essex, Massachusetts and enjoy our self-guided tour to learn more about each historic Essex location on the interpretive signs.
THE GREAT MARSH AND ESTUARY
HOW A SALT MARSH IS FORMED
The Great Marsh includes 25,500 acres of barrier beach, dunes, salt marsh and water bodies from Cape Ann to Salisbury, Massachusetts
Coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in and out with the tides form salt marshes. They are composed of mud and peat, which is made of decomposing plant matter often several feet thick. Peat is waterlogged, root-filled, and very spongy.
There are three different zones in a salt marsh: Thatch grasses grown in the low land that is washed by the salt water high tides every day. In the next zone are grasses that need less salt water and only extreme high tides that occur once or twice a month bath them in salt water. In the third upland zone grasses that are more economically viable grow, as tidal waters only reach them once or twice every 10 years. Each season brings a new palette of color to the landscape.
The natural composition of a salt marsh is essential to creating intertidal habitats that provide food, refuge and habitat for fish, birds and fauna. The Great Marsh continues to be an integral part of Essex's coastal community and culture.
AERIAL VIEW OF THE ESSEX RIVER AND BAY
Essex River opens into Essex Bay bordering the white barrier dunes of Crane Beach
The narrows in the Essex River runs between Conomo Point and Cross Island. The estuary, sand flats and salt marsh are essential intertidal habitats that provide food, refuge and habitat for fish, birds and fauna. The Great Marsh remains a valuable resource for clamming, fishing and recreation and an integral part of Essex’s coastal community and culture.