History & Culture


A Peopled Place

The place we now call Acadia National Park has been peopled for more than 12,000 years. The stories of this place are weaved throughout the land and sea. They start in the past and thread through today into tomorrow. Explore the many stories of the living cultures within and around the living landscape that is Acadia National Park.

a Wabanaki person handles the long green stalks of sweetgrass
Wabanaki Heritage, Culture, & Craft

Here since time immemorial, learn about the heritage, culture, and craft of Wabanaki people in this, the Wabanaki homeland.

Deck hand Joe Mandusa works to clean the underside of the 151′ Schooner Margaret Todd in Hulls Cove
Working Waters & Waterfronts

Life in coastal maine is no lobster bake. Learn about the heritage of the many people who live and have lived near these giving waters.

Three women work a saw over a piece of wood
Working Woodlands, Farms & Quarries

The traditions of working the land runs throughout this living landscape. Learn more about how people worked the land yesterday and today.

B&W Photo of man on stone bridge
Craftsmanship & Design

Learn about the skilled laborers and designers who channeled generations of knowledge into Acadia's exemplary trails, roads, and structures.

On top of a mountain a scientists in a hard hat holds a fluffy bird
Where Science Makes History

The science that takes place in Acadia today is tied to an incredible legacy of generations of scientific study and ways of knowing.

B&W photo of 19th century encampment of Native Americans
The Untold Stories

The historical events, forces, and institutions of racism, sexism, and inequality that thread through Acadia's past and present.


Becoming Acadia National Park

This place has been known by many names through time; sometimes multiple different names at the same time. Pemetic. Mount Desert. Schoodic. Sieur de Monts. Lafayette. Acadia. Dawnland. Homeland.

In its preservation as a national park, we can look back at the forces in time that led to the creation of 'Acadia National Park.' The path from colonization toearly tourism to the formation of civic groups who eventually proposed and created Acadia National Park was far from a straight line. But each step along the way planted a stone along the trail to becoming Acadia National Park. Along the way, a world-renowned network of historic trails, motor roads, and carriage roads and bridges built the 'park-itecture' that now defines Acadia National Park to the world.

A painting of a man in 17 century European clothes
Colonization & Settlement

Learn about European Colonization starting in the 1600s to the homesteading settlers on Mount Desert Island as early as 1760.

Historic photograph of a cogwheel train
Rusticators & Early Tourism

Art brought tourism and starting in the late 1800s, wealthy "rusticators" arrived by steamboats and yachts to Mount Desert Island.

Historic image of sandy beach and mountain
Founding Acadia

Philanthropists, conservationists, and landowners all played a part in the founding of Acadia.



For thousands of years, people have lived, created, explored, worked, studied, and vacationed at the land we now know as Acadia National Park. Meet some of the fascinating individuals whose lives and contributions have shaped this place. You can also explore how these individual contributions have come together into a collective cultural heritage of Acadia.
Wabanaki sweetgrass harvesters in a field of sweetgrass
Wabanaki People

Learn about important Wabanaki people of the past, present, and future.

B&W photo of tree covered island and water, distant penninsula
African Americans

Meet the African Americans who influenced Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities.

A black and white image of four women in long dresses standing on a forest path.

Numerous women played significant roles in stewardship, philanthropy, and scientific research at Acadia.

B&W photo of tents on a field in front of open water
The Champlain Society

Learn about the group of Harvard University students whose summers of science helped lead to the founding of Acadia National Park.

Two men with a boat stand beside a lake
Hancock County Trustees

The Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations incorporated in 1901, forming a land trust that would eventually lead to a national park.

B&W photo of man in front of car bearing the words "Village Improvement Society"
Village Improvement Associations

Meet the men and women who formed Village Improvement Associations to shape the future of their communities and Acadia National Park.

Workers building a wooden bridge in a forested area
Civilian Conservation Corps - 1933-1942

During the nine years the CCC was stationed here, they completed hundreds of projects including forestry work and campground construction.

Men in work uniforms lean against the side of a boat
Job Corps - 1965-1969

Acadia's Job Corps Center provided job training to men from white, African American, and other communities of color from 1965-1969.

an image of a blueprint for an arched bridge
Skilled Local Workers

Learn about local laborers who channeled generations of granite & timber working knowledge into making Acadia's iconic landmarks.



Some of these places are vast structures or infrastructures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some are small monuments to small moments in time. Visit some of the historic places that reflect Acadia's history.
Historic photograph of a trail through forested area
Historic Trails

Mount Desert Island’s present-day trail system evolved over centuries of human use and settlement of the land.

Two people riding horseback under stone bridge
Carriage Roads & Gatehouses - 1913-1940

Learn the history behind the design, planning, and construction of the famous carriage road system.

Historic photo of cars on a scenic road
Motor Roads - 1922-1958

Acadia’s motor road system involved engineers, landscape architects, conservationists, local skilled laborers, the federal agencies.

Historic photograph of a lighthouse on an island

Lighthouses play an important role in understanding the nautical history of Mount Desert Island and along Maine's coastline.

A bronze plaque on granite next to a lakeshore
Memorials & Monuments

The park today contains a wealth of memorials that give us information into its history, establishment, and management.

A fire tower with people standing on the platform
Fire Towers

Two lookouts were located on Beech Mountain and Sargent Mountain, and used for short periods of the park's history.


Museum Collections & Archives

Momentos of history are labors of love to preserve and protect. Learn more about the incredible people and objects that make up Acadia's museum collections and archives.
Historic photograph of a brick building with people grouped in front

Learn about the William Otis Sawtelle Collections and Research Center, dedicated to the founder of the Islesford Historical Museum.

audio files
Historic Audio Files and Interviews

Songs, stories, interviews and oral histories from Acadia's past.

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    Last updated: April 11, 2022

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