A combination of observations and model results suggest a mechanism by which coastal blooms of the toxic dinoflagellate Alexandrium fundyense can be initiated from dormant cysts located in offshore sediments. The mechanism arises from the joint effects of organism behavior and the wind-driven response of a surface-trapped plume of fresh water originating from riverine sources. During upwelling-favorable winds, the plume thins vertically and extends offshore; downwelling winds thicken the plume and confine it to the nearshore region. In the western Gulf of Maine, the offshore extent of the river plume during upwelling conditions is suffcient to entrain upward-swimming A. fundyense cells germinated from offshore cyst beds. Subsequent downwelling conditions then transport those populations towards the coast.