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Camp Ellis beaches offer education churned up from the sea

At the mouth of the Saco River
At the mouth of the Saco River
Jane Beecher Russo

Camp Ellis, a beachside community within the City of Saco, Maine, is located on the North side of the mouth of the Saco River as it meets the sea. Here one can discover endless secrets as the sea releases it's grip on them. The Saco River, which begins as mountain run-off into Saco Lake in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, winds it's way through dozens of towns in New Hampshire and Maine before reaching the city of Saco. The fresh water of the river blends with the salt water from the sea, just below the falls in downtown Saco, creating brackish water which then winds it's way to the open ocean. In Camp Ellis, there are two beaches, each with their own stories of historic significance. They are separated by the mile long man made rock jetty, installed in the 1800's by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is scheduled for a redesigned correction.

Camp Ellis Beach, to the south of the jetty, is a small strip of beach where one can find rocks, shells, and driftwood pushed in from the sea, seagrass growing in the granite blocks which protect the village from erosion, and countless broken clam shells from seagulls dropping them from the air in order to break them open. It's a quiet beach, just perfect for a beach day away from the crowds. One can watch the fishing boats come and go, bringing their catch in to the hoists located on the pier, or search along the shoreline for treasures washing up. Mornings are best for watching fishing vessel activity, low tide is best for treasure hunting, and anytime is best for relaxing and sun bathing. It's even a great place to bring young children on an overcast day, as the activity will interest them and the undertow is not overly strong.

Camp Ellis Beach, to the north of the jetty is an ever changing shape, due to years of storm erosion. The beach is great for experiencing that never ending breeze, coming across Saco Bay. One can sunbathe, swim, or just stroll in the surf. There are, of course, any number of treasures washing up as the tide goes out approximately every 12 hours. The charm of Camp Ellis village is a fiercely guarded secret of fabled innocence from years past. The majority of the cottages are small and quaint, many having been passed down through generations of beach going families. Here you will find the true beach cottage, with wide painted pine floors, white washed wainscoting, deep cast iron farmers sinks, and pegs by the back door for hanging those wet towels. A handful are available for rent if you can find a vacancy, but most renters come back year after year trying to catch a whisper of that elusive 'days of old feel'.

There are limitless ways to wind the hours away here, river fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or ocean versions of the same. Local resident Garrett Rice enjoys fishing from the mile long jetty, as it brings him out into deeper water than fishing from the shore would. "The jetty is a very peaceful place to fish," he states, "you can fish into the night, and have the place to yourself after everyone leaves." The jetty is also a great place to watch the sunset from. There are river and ocean cruises, ferries to Wood Island, boating tours, sport fishing or lobster boat charters, ice cream after dinner at the Camp Ellis General store or at Garsides homemade ice cream just up the street. You can purchase live lobster and clams and have your own Maine lobster clambake, or steam them for a great family feast with corn on the cob and fresh local Kates butter.