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Favorite Places in Maine: Horseshoe crabs of Bagaduce River

A female horseshoe crab, the larger of the two, and a male mate in the sea grass on the Bagaduce River on a high tide.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeur
A female horseshoe crab, the larger of the two, and a male mate in the sea grass on the Bagaduce River on a high tide.
This young paddler gets a first-hand look at a small horseshoe crab (larger one in foreground) during a guided tour of the Bagaduce River with Castine Kayak Adventures.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeu
This young paddler gets a first-hand look at a small horseshoe crab (larger one in foreground) during a guided tour of the Bagaduce River with Castine Kayak Adventures.
This pod of seals dries out on ledges in the upper reaches of the Bagaduce River during a guided tour by Castine Kayak Adventures while looking for horseshoe crabs.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeu
This pod of seals dries out on ledges in the upper reaches of the Bagaduce River during a guided tour by Castine Kayak Adventures while looking for horseshoe crabs.
This pair of horseshoe crabs (female left, male right) deposits and fertilizes eggs in the upper Bagaduce River.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeu
This pair of horseshoe crabs (female left, male right) deposits and fertilizes eggs in the upper Bagaduce River.
This pair of horseshoe crabs has come into the high reaches of the tidal zone to lay and fertilize eggs.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeu
This pair of horseshoe crabs has come into the high reaches of the tidal zone to lay and fertilize eggs.
A pair of kayakers looks into the shallows for horseshoe crabs near shore on the Bagaduce River while on a tour with Castine Kayak Adventures.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeu
A pair of kayakers looks into the shallows for horseshoe crabs near shore on the Bagaduce River while on a tour with Castine Kayak Adventures.
A horseshoe crab makes its way through the shallows to come ashore and lay eggs.
Photo Courtesy of Karen Francoeur
A horseshoe crab makes its way through the shallows to come ashore and lay eggs.
Posted May 18, 2011, at 11:14 a.m.
Last modified May 18, 2011, at 3:57 p.m.

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Kayaking into the reversing waterways of the upper Bagaduce in Sedgwick is an annual ritual that coincides with the horseshoe crab mating season. Near the Bagaduce Falls in Sedgwick, these amazing creatures that have been around since the dinosaurs converge, waiting for ideal conditions.

The females travel over 50 miles from the outer ocean to inner estuarine waters carrying males clinging to their backs with their clublike claws designed specifically for this purpose. The females lay their eggs precisely at the highest tide of the month, giving them several weeks to mature. Then, synchronized perfectly, the next highest tide will wash all the new little crab larvae into the water to grow and develop. Each year the event happens either in late May, June or even July, depending the warmth of the water.

A trip into the upper Bagaduce for a sea kayaker involves careful timing, too. The tide there can lag two hours behind Castine.  It’s best to go in near the high tide so that you can easily go out with the ebbing tide. The best place to see the horseshoe crabs is along the edges of the shoreline at high tide. Aside from the tidal influence, the water in the upper Bagaduce is generally calm.  The rich ecosystem provides an incredible opportunity to see a variety of sea birds, eagles, seals and even fish eggs clinging to the rich eel grass beds.  A not-to-miss early summer paddle!

Getting there: Take Route 175 south in Penobscot to Bridge Road. Launch just after crossing the bridge on the left, where there is a small public boat launch. Castine Kayak offers kayak ecotours in the upper Bagaduce during the horseshoe crab mating season. Check www.castinekayak.com for more information.

Karen Francoeur of Orono is a Master Maine Sea Kayak and Recreation Guide and owner of  Castine Kayak  Adventures. She can be reached at Castinekayak@gmail.com.

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