In a strict sense, shallows occur anywhere a body of water decreases in depth, whether near the shore or miles from land where shoals and sandbars rise. More generally taken to mean the rim of quiet water along the edges of a creek, river, lake, or ocean, the shallows is an area where children can safely play. Shallows may extend far into the water or may drop abruptly away from dry ground. The word is associated more with areas of slow water and backwash than with swift-flowing currents. “The oarsman pulls precisely,” writes John R. Stilgoe in Shallow Water Dictionary, “for in the shallows a wrong stroke or two, a slight falling off before the wind, means a gentle grounding in clean white sand or grayish-black mud.”

Jan DeBlieu