By:John Page Williams
Photo by: Michael C. Wootton
While launching First Light into Tuckahoe Creek at the New Bridge ramp on Tuckahoe Creek, a few miles beyond Easton, Md., on Route 328 (Matthewstown Road), I was thinking about a Greek word derived from the ancient name of a river in today’s Turkey: meander. In general use, the word conjures up casual, lazy, wandering movement, at least when applied to creatures like humans and Irish setters. When a river meanders through sinuous curves, though, its power is remarkable—anything but casual—especially here on the tidal portions of the Chesapeake system.
I love these curving river sections, which occur on our waterways mostly in their upper tidal reaches, where the water ranges from mildly brackish to outright fresh, depending on rainfall. In general, as a river flows around a curve, the outside flow accelerates and the inside slows down, just as runners might do to stay side-by-side going around a track. In the river, the accelerating water erodes the outer bank and the channel, while the decelerating water allows some of the sediment it is carrying to settle to the bottom. The result is a deep hole next to a firm bank on the outside and a marsh or a wooded swamp on the shallower inside. We humans have made good use of these natural features on rivers all over the world through several millennia of our history. River meanders represent a profound intersection of natural and human history.
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