Jordan Stream Path one of top hikes in Acadia National Park

One in a series of historic Acadia hiking trail highlights

Jordan Stream Path is among the shortest and most overlooked hikes in Acadia National Park, but it travels to one of the park’s unusual sights – Cobblestone Bridge, which is quietly marking its own centennial this year.

acadia national park hikes

Jordan Stream Path leads to Cobblestone Bridge, which turns 100 years old this year. Hard to believe that George B. Dorr and others once found the bridge to be unattractive.

Previously badly eroded, the Jordan Stream Path looks mostly pristine, following an extensive rehabilitation overseen by Christian Barter, a park trail crew supervisor who is also the park’s poet laureate.

The stream, closely hugged by the path, seems like something out of a Robert Frost poem, with small waterfalls and rushing water, seen during one of our hikes in Acadia National Park in early July this year. The stream starts at the south end of Jordan Pond and goes all the way to Little Long Pond near Seal Harbor.

The path begins near the busy Jordan Pond House but most people appear to disregard the path and opt for the many other more prominent hikes in Acadia National Park in the same area. The path might be a good pick to get away from the crowds during the Labor Day weekend.

jordan stream path

Fine stonework on Jordan Stream Path.

Jim Linnane, a volunteer crew leader with the Friends of Acadia who hiked the path on Saturday, noted that thick spruce forests – untouched by the great fire of 1947– help keep the area private and quiet.

“Hiking the Jordan Stream trail this morning, I thought about how special it is, especially because it is so close to the mass of humanity which descends on the Jordan Pond area on a nice day like today,” Linnane wrote in an email.

“Surprisingly, after a very dry summer, the Jordan Stream still has some running water,” he wrote. “The gurgle and trickle of the stream is a welcome and wonderful interruption to the silence of the deep woods.”

The path goes for only about a half mile within park boundaries, but just outside the park, it reaches the famed Cobblestone Bridge, an appealing feature among hikes in Acadia National Park.

While Acadia’s centennial was last year, the bridge turns 100 years old this year. It’s a popular spot for horse-drawn carriages to stop, to let off visitors for a view of the bridge.

Cobblestone Bridge reached by one of easiest hikes in Acadia

The 150-foot- long, 21-foot high bridge was constructed in 1917 and was the first major structure built as part of the carriage road system on Mount Desert Island, according to the book “Acadia’s Carriage Roads,” by Robert A. Thayer.

acadia national park hikes

Jordan Stream flows underneath Cobblestone Bridge. The year of completion is set into the span’s center stone.

John D. Rockefeller Jr., the only son of the founder of a giant oil company, came up with the idea for the carriage roads and oversaw the details of construction, starting in 1913. The estimated 45 miles of carriage roads include 17 stone bridges with 16 built by Rockefeller and the last by the park in 1941.

The carriage roads and bridges can be found along many Acadia National Park hikes.

According to Thayer, Cobblestone Bridge is the only span in the system built with naturally rounded stones, or cobblestones, and not cut stone.

The bridges that followed are all crafted from granite from the quarries. Cobblestones were more often used in roads and streets.

According to “Creating Acadia National Park: the Biography of George Bucknam Dorr,” by Ronald Epp, the Cobblestone is the only carriage road bridge not transferred to the park and therefore is limited to carriage, horse and pedestrians, with no bicyclists allowed.

Both Thayer and Epp note that the bridge was designed by William W. Bosworth, a noted New York architect and that it was criticized by Dorr, the park’s first superintendent who, Thayer wrote, did not like it from an artistic standpoint. While Bosworth designed the bridge, Charles Simpson, the local engineer for Rockefeller, advocated using cobblestones to mirror the boulders in the stream, Thayer wrote.

Before reaching the bridge, Jordan Stream Path goes for about 0.6 mile within the park, then continues outside the borders for about a mile to a carriage road that loops back to the path.

As we note in our book Hiking Acadia National Park, which includes more than 75 hikes in Acadia National Park, the path was originally laid out by the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Association as a scenic connector between the village and Jordan Pond. In the 1700s, it may have been part of a Micmac canoe carry trail linking Jordan Pond to the ocean. (See sidebar about links)

hikes in acadia national park

Moss, water, rock and wood along the Jordan Stream Path.

Across the carriage road behind the Jordan Pond House, the path starts to the left of a wooden bridge over the stream. With the stream to the right, step over some rough stones and roots and then along 12 stone steps, a carriage road and a wooden bridge to the other side of the stream.

During our hike over the July 4 weekend, the stream ran fast over a slab rock to a pool and then we reached some log cribbing, placed on the bank for erosion control.

Soon, the path heads downhill over two sections of bog walk and then another 13 sections, all part of the rehabilitation, which was completed in 2015, according to Jeff Chapin, crew supervisor on the Acadia National Park trails crew who helped with the planning for the work.

jordan stream path

One of the many sections of bog walk on Jordan Stream Path.

Another 22 sections of wooden bog walkway carry people to some areas of beaver activity. During our hike, we spotted a dam being created and some bark chewed away from the base of a tree.

Next, hike over some roots and then on four new bridges over the stream before reaching a narrow section of the path along the stream.

The rehabilitation includes a poetic touch of 34 new granite block steps right next to the stream. Like similar steps in the park, the flat steps along Jordan Stream Path demonstrate the fine craftsmanship and stone work of the workers on the trails crews, who were helped by volunteers with Friends of Acadia in the summer of 2015.

If you are looking for a short and maybe quiet hike this Labor Day weekend, don’t overlook the Jordan Stream Path and take time to think about the centennial of the Cobblestone Bridge.

hikes in acadia national park

Jordan Stream cascading from Jordan Pond, on its way to Little Long Pond and the sea.

Cobblestone Bridge in Acadia National Park

Cobblestone Bridge appears to take on a different character depending upon the light, seasons and angle, but its essential nature has endured these 100 years.



7 thoughts on “Jordan Stream Path one of top hikes in Acadia National Park

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  4. Ronald H. Epp, Ph.D.

    Delighted to see Dolores and Dan quoting the superlative HAER study done of Acadia back in the 90’s by Richard Quin and Neal Maher. I referenced Dorr’s criticism of the Cobblestone Bridge in my biography. It should be noted that Dorr’s remark was an aside reminding Arno Cammerer that the Cobblestone Bridge was built “before the Park’s establishment.” He avoided referring to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who authorized its construction on his own land. Bear in mind that this several thousand word letter to Cammerer responds to Senator George Pepper’s attack on the road building of Dorr and Rockefeller. Whether or not we agree with Dorr’s aesthetic judgment, what was being threatened at the forthcoming March 24, 1924 hearing before Interior Secretary Hubert Work was the permanent cessation of park road development. This was the paramount issue that Dorr was addressing.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Ronald. That adds depth to the story and advances the issue. Cammerer was nanmed assistant director of the NPS in 1919 and was director from 1933-40.

  5. Jim Linnane

    Thanks for quoting me.

    The craftsmanship of intrusions on nature by trails, carriage roads, and carriage road bridges actually enhances the visitor’s experience because it is so respectful of the landscape.

    A small point. I believe that all the carriage road bridges, except the Bubble Pond bridge, are constructed of concrete covered with slabs of granite. According to Bob Thayer’s beautiful picture book, the Bubble Pond bridge was built with granite, and the cobblestones on the Cobblestone bridge were implanted into reinforced concrete and held in place with a wood frame. Cobblestone facing was discontinued because the stones were scarce. The other bridges were faced with locally quarried granite to appear as if they grew out of the landscape. Cobblestones were certainly appropriate for a bridge crossing Jordan Stream at that point.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Couldn’t believe that you had just hiked Jordan Stream Path the very day we were writing the blog post – good karma! Thanks for your insight as always. Yes, the craftsmanship does indeed enhance the experience for visitors today, with the carriage roads and carriage road bridges seemingly one with the landscape, although there was at times controversy during the building of the structures. There’s a fascinating history to each of the carriage road bridges, and we enjoyed referring to Bob Thayer’s book once again in writing the blog.

      The National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record report on Cobblestone Bridge includes more details about its construction, as well as this passage, with its insight into earlier views about the structure:

      “Many observers found the bridge interesting, but it had its critics as well, including park superintendent George Dorr, who thought it inappropriate. In 1924, seven years after its completion, Dorr was still expressing his disdain for the bridge, stating in a letter to Park Service Assistant Director Arno B. Cammerer that ‘all have agreed in regretting it from the artistic standpoint,’ but pointed out that vegetation was closing in around it and that it would soon be ‘little noticeable.'”

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