It’s easy to sense the spirit of park visonary George B. Dorr at the Compass Harbor Trail at Acadia National Park.
Visitors can climb the granite stairs to the ruins of Dorr’s old estate – called Old Farm – and wade into the same deep inlet where Dorr took his regular swims.
Seventy years after his death, people can get the same breathtaking views of Frenchman Bay that Dorr enjoyed each morning and walk along the same granite-lined shore and cobblestone beach.
Dorr, a key founder of Acadia and the park’s first superintendent, lived on the grounds at Compass Harbor and died there on Aug. 5, 1944 at age 89.
Dorr’s estate was constructed by his wealthy Boston-based parents on land they bought in 1868 and finally became part of the park two years before he died. The sprawling family homestead survived the great fire of 1947, but shortly after that, the federal government found it too expensive to maintain and razed the property.
People can still find a couple of old foundations and other stone remains of Old Farm.
Dorr spent his family fortune in helping set aside lands for the park and died penniless.
Located off Route 3 about a mile from downtown Bar Harbor, the Compass Harbor Trail is less than a mile long.
The trail starts at a small lot with limited parking. The trail begins as a gravel road and then veers left and narrows as it heads to the harbor.
It’s best to bike or walk to the lot, which is located on the left headed out of town. Acadia officials are attempting to encourage walking or biking to trail heads partly because of a lack of parking.
For such a short trail, it offers a lot. On a nice day, visitors can experience tremendous views of Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, the Schoodic Peninsula and Egg Rock.
We’ve also seen fox and a Pileated Woodpecker off the trail.
A great way to discover Compass Harbor is a 1.5-hour, ranger-led tour at the site called “The Missing Mansion.” Former park volunteer Jim Allen created “The Missing Mansion” tour during a stay at the park in 2010.
Check the park’s monthly schedule of ranger programs.
Dorr’s mansion is all but gone but his legacy may last forever.