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Special Characteristic: A Group of Granite Mountains Rising from an Island on the Atlantic Coast with Interesting Headlands on the Nearby Mainland

Acadia National Park
Otter Cliffs from Ocean Drive—Acadia National Park

THE first national park in the East is on Mount Desert Island, Maine, and the adjoining mainland. It includes a group of low granite mountains abutting the sea, the only prominent elevation along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States. Formerly known as the Lafayette National Park, early in 1929 Congress changed its name to Acadia, as this latter word is of native origin, coming from an Indian word apparently describing the region. Early fishermen and traders visiting the area before recorded explorations of the English and French, on their return to Europe, referred to it as Acadia, the name later used by Longfellow.

The Acadia 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, Maine, 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 1916. In 1919 Congress made it the Lafayette National Park. Other contributions have been offered the Government, and it is believed that ultimately the area of the park will be about 20,000 acres. Hardly a year passes without deeds to additional tracts of land for inclusion in the park being presented to the United States.

Compared with the huge bristling peaks of the Rockies and the Sierras, the mountains of the Acadia National Park are low indeed. But they are no less beautiful, and they are characteristic of our Northeast, as the Rocky Mountain and Sierra 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.

Chief of all is the mingling of mountain and sea. The waves lash their abrupt rock-bound heights, beating hollows in their foundations, under-mining 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 boating, sailing, and fishing, and even salt-water bathing, if he be hardy enough to stand the shock of the cold water. He may walk and motor; the park is surrounded by a fine waterside 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; that 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 early days.


Acadia National Park is remarkable as a wildlife sanctuary, plant and animal. Land and sea, woodland, lake, and mountain—all are represented in it in wonderful concentration. In it, too, the Northern and Temperate Zone floras meet and overlap, and land climate meets sea climate, each tempering the other. It lies directly in the coast migration route of birds and exhibits at its fullest the Acadian Forest, made famous by Evangeline; and the northernmost extension of that great Appalachian Forest which at the landing of De Monts stretched without a break from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf, and is the oldest by the record of the rocks and richest in existing species of any mingled hardwood and coniferous forest in the Temperate Zone. And it possesses, also, a rich biologic field in the neighboring ocean, the parent habitat of life. Deeper waters apart, the sea beach and tidal pools alone form an infinite source of interest and study, while the ocean climate, like the land one, is profoundly different from that to the southward, off the Cape Cod shore. A marine biological laboratory has been established on the ocean shore, through the cooperation of the Wild Gardens of Acadia, to take advantage of the unusual opportunity afforded for study in this field.


Last Modified: Fri, Sep 1 2000 07:08:48 pm PDT

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