Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

Where is Southern Maine?

By Jeanne Christie, ASWM

When people from ‘away’ think of Maine, they often picture the rock bound coast dotted with quaint fishing villages and populated by people famous for the brevity of their conversation and unique regional accent. The state also contains an abundance of other natural wonders including lakes, mountains, and forests. It’s been settled since the 1600s and in many communities families have known each other for generations.

Maine is also famous for its eclectic town names including Sweden, Denmark, Paris and Norway. These can all easily be found on a map, preferably the Maine Gazetteer, but the location of the area that comprises southern Maine remains a mystery.

My relatives from Downeast Maine (which is really up the coast, but that’s another story) tell me that southern Maine begins in Augusta. When queried, residents of Augusta identify the beginning as Lewiston/Auburn. Folks from Lewiston/Auburn are quick to note that southern Maine begins in Portland and residents of Portland know that South Portland is where southern Maine begins. South Portlanders indicate that southern Maine begins in Saco-Biddeford and there is no doubt in my mind that inhabitants of Kittery, the southernmost town in the state, will be quick to point out that southern Maine actually begins in New Hampshire.

Why doesn’t anybody claim to live in southern Maine? Because long-time residents believe that southern Maine is the area somewhere in the lower part of the state, where people become somehow less ‘Maine-ish’.

Southern Maine is a place that doesn’t exist. Its location is known only to people who don’t live there.

Southern Maine is where hundreds of summer camps dot crystal blue lakes and winter snow can reach the second story. Where the glimmer of Mt. Washington and the White mountains inhabit a distant sky. It’s where the fly fishing stream is just down the hill from the Super Walmart. Where middle school parents organize to save the music program and the state legislator mails the fish stocking schedule to every resident. In southern Maine the lead TV news story might be a water main break downtown and the police report in the weekly newspaper includes calls about cows running loose, broken mailboxes and young people observed walking into the woods. It’s where total strangers will strike up a conversation and talk and talk and talk…

It’s the place where no one is from; but everyone knows. Welcome to Southern Maine.

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