Thousands of people flock to Maine's popular Popham Beach each summer to enjoy one of the more unique beaches folks will find in the state.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's website says,

"Bordering the south side of the mouth of the Kennebec River, Popham Beach State Park is truly one of Maine's rare geologic landforms that features a long stretch of sand beach. Sunbathers relaxing on Popham's sands can see Fox and Wood islands offshore, and the Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the beach. Visitors can walk to Fox Island at low tide, but are warned to pay attention to the rising tides not to get marooned."

But recently, a post making its way around social media had people a little concerned about an issue that one beachgoer experienced.

It describes a situation where a lady claimed to have fallen, up to her hips, into a sinkhole.

sea beach sand for texture and background

We reached out to the folks who know the beach best, those who work in the information booth at Popham, and they said Mother Nature, namely sand movement and erosion, has created a different landscape than people might normally be used to experiencing in past visits.

"There was a lady who sank into the sand a couple of days ago and then made a post on social media about it. But it's not a new phenomenon. It's very common on a sandy beach, that the way the water and the sand interact, sometimes creates areas where the sand gets more saturated and is easier to sink into. But it's unlikely that you'll sink in past your waist. "

Fence closing off Popham Beach in Maine

"There are no sinkholes. There is some super-saturated sand, which acts kind of like quicksand, that's around the mouth of the Morse River, and people are just coming in contact with that more than they're used to because the Morse River made a turn and is cutting right across the beach now. It's not really an issue of if you're walking in dry sand that you're going to sink into it. It's more if you're trying to cross the river to get to Fox Island or something like that, that you might have an issue."

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We're told how far you sink may have to do with your size and weight.

"It's actually less of a risk for children because the more you weigh, the more you sink. If you stay calm and you just sink a little bit, you can try to extricate yourself or ask for some help and it shouldn't be a big issue."

Popham Beach, Maine
Ray Tan

"I think the primary thing that is a shift from recent years, that we're trying to caution people about is that, in the past, at low tide, the sandbar would be completely uninterrupted and you could just walk out on a sandbar all the way out to Fox Island. A lot of people like to come to Popham Beach specifically to do that, and now because of the way the river turned, even at low tide, you don't really get that uninterrupted sandbar access. We are cautioning people, we're encouraging people not to go to Fox Island. Folk are still going but we don't have our lifeguards on yet, and it's just a higher risk factor than it used to be."

The Popham lifeguards are due to report in on the weekend of June 16. Until then, we're told some informational signs are being put up around the beach to let people know to use caution in certain areas of the beach. There's also a text line you can sign up for, by texting "Popham" to 1-888-514-7527, which will allow you to stay looped into any safety issues to be aware of at the beach this summer.

"We do sometimes update if there are dangerous conditions if there's a thunderstorm in the area, if we're full to capacity. We use that text alert system to let folks know. We are a little more concerned this year with overcrowding because there's less space on the beach than there used to be (because the winter storms have washed away some parts of the beach were washed away, including the East side overlook grill.)"


The state website says the sand is not the only thing beach-goers should be mindful of when they visit Popham. Strong surf with undertows, rip tides, and of course what lives in the ocean, namely sharks, are also things the folks in the know want you to be aware of when you visit.

"Things change. You know, we're right on the front lines dealing with Nature. There's nothing strange or alarming about these phenomena. Erosion is occurring, Sand is shifting. The river changed course. The issue is more that it impacts us; We're used to having some things a certain way, and now they're different."

Safe travels and enjoy your time at the beach this summer. Just make sure you realize your experience might be a little different from what you've been used to in the past.

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