Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is in Maine and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Acadia National Park lies in the center of the Wabanaki homeland, which stretches from Newfoundland, Canada, to the Merrimac River valley in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Acadia National Park (Maine)
National park designation: February 26, 1919
Size: 47,389.67 acres (191.8 km2)

Acacia National ParkThis national park was originally inhabited by the Wabanaki Indians about 1500–2000 years ago. Acadia National Park preserves most of Mount Desert Island. In addition to Mount Desert Island, the Acadia National Park covers much of the Isle au Haut, a small island to the southwest of Mount Desert Island and parts of Baker Island, also nearby.

A portion of Schoodic Peninsula on the mainland is also part of this national park.

Acadia National Park contains 30,300 acres (47 square miles or 123 km2) on Mount Desert Island, 2,728 acres (4.6 square miles or 11 km2) on Isle au Haut and 2,366 acres (3.5 square miles or 9.2 km2) on the Schoodic Peninsula.

With about 49,000 acres of protected forests, beaches, mountains, and rocky coastline, Acadia National Park is the second-most-visited national park in America (after the Great Smoky Mountains National Park). According to the National Park Service, 2 million people visit Acadia each year.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

The park holds some of the most spectacular scenery on the Eastern Seaboard: a rugged coastline of surf-pounded granite and an interior graced by sculpted mountains, quiet ponds, and lush deciduous forests.

Cadillac Mountain (named after a Frenchman who explored here in the late 1600s and later founded Detroit), the highest point of land on the East Coast, dominates the park.

Although it’s rugged, the park also has graceful stone bridges, miles of carriage roads (popular with walkers, runners, and bikers as well as horse-drawn carriages), and the Jordan Pond House restaurant (famous for its popovers).

In the fall of 1604, Samuel de Champlain observed a high-notched island composed of seven or eight mountains rising to bare-rock summits from slopes of birch, fir, and pine. Today, the area remains essentially the same as it was four hundred years ago.

The landscape architect Charles Elliot is credited with the idea for the park. It first attained federal status when President Woodrow Wilson, established it as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, administered by the National Park Service.

On February 26, 1919, it became a national park, with the name Lafayette National Park in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, an influential French supporter of the American Revolution.

The park’s name was finally changed to Acadia National Park on January 19, 1929.

From 1915 to 1933, the wealthy philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed, designed (with the help of landscape architect Beatrix Farrand), and directed the construction of a network of carriage trails throughout the park. The network encompassed over 50 miles (80 km) of gravel carriage trails, 17 granite bridges, and two gate lodges. Over 45 miles of these carriage roads are still maintained today as hiking and riding trails.

Cut granite stones placed along the edges of these carriage roads act as makeshift guard rails, and are known locally as “coping stones” because they help visitors cope with the steep edges. They are also sometimes referred to as “Rockefeller’s teeth.”

On October 17, 1947, 10,000 acres (40 km2) of Acadia National Park were burned in a fire that began along the Crooked Road several miles west of Hulls Cove. The forest fire was one of a series of fires that consumed much of Maine’s forests as a result of a dry year. The fire burned for days and was fought by the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, local residents, and National Park Service employees from around the country.

Restoration of the park was supported substantially by donations from the Rockefeller family, particularly John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Regrowth was mostly allowed to occur naturally and the fire has been suggested to have actually enhanced the beauty of the park, adding diversity to tree populations and    depth to its scenery.

Acadia National Park is the only national park in the New England states.

You can take a scenic drive along the island’s rocky coastline, whose stark cliffs rise from the ocean. A network of old carriage roads lets you explore Acadia’s wooded interior, filled with birds and other wildlife, and trails for hikers of all skill levels lead to rounded mountaintops, providing views of Frenchman and Blue Hill bays and beyond.

Ponds and lakes beckon you to swim, fish, or boat, and ferries and charter boats provide a different perspective on the island and a chance to explore the outer islands.

Mount Desert Island has four different towns, each with its own personality. The town of Bar Harbor is on the northeastern corner of the island and includes the little villages of Hulls Cove, Salisbury Cove, and Town Hill.

Forest in Acadia National Park

Forest in Acadia National Park. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pfost via Flickr

The town of Mount Desert, in the middle of the island, has four main villages: Somesville, Seal Harbor, Otter Creek, and Northeast Harbor, a summer haven for the very wealthy.Southwest Harbor includes the smaller village of Manset south of the village center.

Tremont is at the southernmost tip of the island and stretches up the western shore. It includes the villages of Bass Harbor, Bernard, and Seal Cove. Yes, Mount Desert Island is a place with three personalities: the hustling, bustling tourist mecca of Bar Harbor; the “quiet side” on the western half; and the vast natural expanse of Acadia National Park.

But though less congested and smaller, Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are home to inns, campgrounds, restaurants, ferries, galleries, and small museums.

VISITOR INFORMATION

Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. 1201 Bar Harbor Rd.TrentonMaine04605800/345–4617207/288–5103www.barharborinfo.com.

Mount Desert Chamber of Commerce. 18 Harbor Dr.Northeast HarborMaine04662207/276–5040www.mountdesertchamber.org.

Mt. Desert Island Information Center at Thompson Island. Sponsored by several Mount Desert Island communities as well as Acadia National Park, the Mt. Desert Island Information Center is along Route 3 just before it crosses to Mount Desert Island. The center is loaded with pamphlets about island tours, restaurants, inns, and attractions, including Acadia National Park. You can buy park passes here, and the staff includes a park ranger. 1319 Bar Harbor Rd.TrentonMaine04605207/288–3411Mid-May–mid-June, daily 8–5; late June–Aug., daily 8–6; Sept.–mid-Oct., daily 8–5:30.

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