Glimpses of our National Parks
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Special Characteristics: A Group of Granite Mountains Rising from an Island on the Atlantic Coast

THE first national park in the East is an area of 8 square miles on Mount Desert Island, Me. It includes a group of low granite mountains abutting the sea, the only prominent elevation along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States.

The Lafayette National Park is not only a varied and beautiful exhibit of seacoast, mountain, and eastern forest—it is a monument to the public spirit of New England. These mountains, surrounded by thriving seashore resorts, had been in private ownership for centuries. The day was fast approaching when they would be utilized for summer homes. Foreseeing this, George B. Dorr, of Bar Harbor, Me., determined to acquire them as a gift to the people of the United States. He created a holding organization, to which he and Charles W. Eliot contributed their holdings, and set about to persuade other owners to do the same.

It took a dozen years of ceaseless effort to collect 5,000 acres, much of it by gift, some of it by purchase from funds collected from public-spirited persons. Then they presented it to the Nation, and it was made the Sieur de Monts National Monument. This was in 1915. Other contributions poured in, and when Congress made it the Lafayette National Park in 1919 its area had doubled.

Where Champlain Mountain, the easternmost and boldest in the park, comes down to meet the sea
Copyright by National Geographic Society

Compared with the huge bristling peaks of the Rockies and the Sierra, the mountains of the Lafayette National Park are low indeed. But they are no less beautiful, and they are characteristic of our East, as the Rocky Mountain and Sierran national parks are characteristic of our West. There are more than a dozen mountains in the group, which is cut into two parts by a fine fiord called Somes Sound. Fresh-water lakes lie in the hollows. Forests of coast pines, cedars, and deciduous trees of many kinds border the lakes and mount the gray sides of the mountains. Innumerable shrubs and flowering plants decorate the forest aisles. The region is a wilderness typical of the noblest woodlands of the East.

Chief of all is the mingling of mountain and sea. The waves lash their abrupt rock-bound heights, beating hollows in their foundations, undermining the granite. From the mountain tops gorgeous views are revealed of sea and sound, island and wooded mainland. The air is now fragrant with the breath of the forest, now charged with the savor of the sea. The visitor has his choice of many pleasures. He may vary his days on the mountains with saltwater bathing, boating, sailing, and fishing. He may walk and motor; the park is surrounded by a fine water-side drive; roads cross it along the shores of Somes Sound. There are many hotels in Bar Harbor and other neighborhood resorts.

Besides nature's rich endowment, history adds its charm. This was the first land within the United States which was reached by Champlain; it was in 1604. The first European settlement in America north of the Gulf of Mexico was here. The mountains bear names which memorialize its French and English occupations and its many associations with the romance of the continent's early days.

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Last Updated: 30-Oct-2009