To mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we will be listing our favorite 100 facts about Acadia National Park.
Here’s the first 50 facts:
1. The National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016 and so did Acadia, which became the Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916.
2. President Barack Obama is the first sitting president to visit Acadia, having vacationed in the park in July, 2010 with his family. President William Howard Taft went to Mount Desert Island in 1910, in a tour that preceded Acadia becoming a national park. Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison are other sitting presidents who visited the area before Acadia became a national park.
3. In September of 2009, according to ABC News, filmmaker Ken Burns went to the White House and gave Obama a private viewing of his series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Maybe Burns’s film helped inspire Obama to visit Acadia.
4. President Woodrow Wilson established Acadia as a national monument on July 8, 1916, only one month before he signed the law to create the National Park Service itself on August 25, 1916.
5. President Wilson signed a bill passed by Congress to create Lafayette National Park on Feb. 26, 1919. The park was named Acadia National Park on Jan. 19, 1929.
6. Acadia is the fifth smallest national park by land area but is among the top ten most visited, hosting about 4 million people in 2022.
7. Acadia National Park includes about 49,000 acres including nearly 13,000 in conservation easements for private lands and 31,000 on Mount Desert Island.
8. The park also includes 2,400 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula and nearby islands, plus 2,900 acres on Isle au Haut.
9. Acadia was the first national park to be created east of the Mississippi River and is the only national park in the Northeast. A national park is distinct from a historic site, historical park, monument, parkway, lakeshore, seashore or other titles.
10. Mount Desert Island was discovered in 1604 by Samuel Champlain. That’s the reason one peak is called Champlain Mountain. Champlain called the island “Isles des Monts Desert,” meaning “island of barren mountains.”
11.There are 26 mountains in the park.
12. Acadia Mountain is on the only mountain ridge in the park that stretches east to west instead of north to south.
13. Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet is the highest peak in Acadia, while Flying Mountain is the lowest at 284 feet.
14. The actual summit of Cadillac is off the Cadillac South Ridge Trail behind the gift shop.
15. Cadillac is the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
16. People can drive to the peak of Cadillac via a 3.5-mile-long road.
17. The Cadillac Mountain road is closed from December through April 14.
18. From Oct. 7 to March 6, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the United States where people can see the sun rise.
19. The only fire tower in Acadia is on top of Beech Mountain, and the top platform is often open during special “open houses,” and a lower platform is always open, offering spectacular views.
20. Acadia is one of the few national parks that permits dogs, but man’s best friend must be kept on a leash.
21. Acadia boasts about 155 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads.
22. Acadia has more than 300 species of birds, more than 50 species of mammals on land and at sea and about 1,000 species of flowering plants.
23. The bald eagle and the peregrine falcon are no longer on the federal endangered species list but are still protected.
24. Acadia is a good vantage point to witness the amazing comeback of the peregrine falcon from pesticide pollution and other factors. Acadia began taking part in the falcon restoration in 1984; the last known nesting pair had been reported in 1956 in the park. To protect the birds, the park closes the hiking trails on the east face of Champlain Mountain from roughly March to August.
25. There are 26 lakes and ponds on Mount Desert Island, the location for most of the park. Jordan Pond, at 150 feet, is the deepest.
26. Snow fall averages about 60 inches a year.
27. With separate locations in downtown Bar Harbor and the Sieur de Monts Spring, the Abbe Museum chronicles the history and culture of the Wabanaki Indians, the original inhabitants of Mount Desert. Several thousand years prior to Champlain’s appearance, the Wabanaki lived in Maine and established camps on Mount Desert Island, according to the NPS.
28. Sand Beach is comprised of sand, shell fragments, quartz and pink feldspar.
29. The best time to try to hear the explosion of Thunder Hole is after a storm and with the approach of high tide.
30. Bar Island, located off the coast of Bar Harbor, can be reached with a hike at low tide on the Bar Island Trail.
31. It’s a fjard, not a fjord. Somes Sound, a 5-mile-long embayment that almost cuts Mt. Desert Island in half, is easily confused with a fjord. It’s actually a fjard, partly because of a lack of a shallow accumulation of glacial sediment at its mouth and cliffs that are less steep than a fjord.
32. The only light house on Mount Desert Island in Acadia is Bass Harbor Head Light Station, with construction completed in 1858. The site includes an original Keeper’s Dwelling, a Bell House, built in 1897; and an Oil House, built about 1900; and a garage built about 1905.
33. Located on the southernmost tip of Mount Desert Island, Bass Harbor Head was automated in 1974 and its light can be seen 13 miles out to sea.
34. The Bass Harbor Head lighthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, served as a Coast Guard residence from 1974 until 2012 when it was vacated. Completing a long process, Acadia National Park accepted ownership of the light house on July 8, 2020 when the property was transferred from the Coast Guard. The lighthouse’s interior is not open to the public but short paths on either side lead to great views below and next to the structure. The park in 2020 was considering multiple uses and treatment of historic structures. No matter the ultimate use of the light house, the Fresnel lens will be maintained by the Coast Guard as an active aid to navigation.
35. Isle au Haut, a 90-minute drive from Bar Harbor and then a five-mile boat trip, means high island in French. The explorer Champlain also named this island when he saw it in 1604.
36. Eben’s Head, a rocky promontory, is great for watching a sunset on Isle au Haut.
37. About half of Isle au Haut is federal park land, but the other half is privately owned, with summer and year-round residents.
38. In the early 1900s, Waldron Bates, a Harvard graduate and lawyer, developed a special standard for building cairns, now called the Bates-style cairn, partly distinguished by top pointer stones. Acadia National Park rebuilt many of the historic cairns developed by Bates and is noted for the Bates-style cairns on its trails.
39. A park policy warns hikers against picking up rocks and adding them to cairns or using rocks to create new cairns.
40. The paved loop road, including the road to Cadillac, is 27 miles long.
41. John D. Rockefeller Jr., the only son of the founder of Standard Oil, fell under the spell of Mount Desert Island while vacationing there in the early 1900s and ended up donating almost 11,000 acres of Acadia’s land.
42. The park’s system of carriage roads – known as Rockefeller’s roads – are a special legacy of his wealth and vision. Rockefeller came up with the idea for the roads as an alternative to the automobile and oversaw their meticulous construction, starting in 1913. The hilly, curving 51 miles of carriage roads, including 43 inside the park, are used mostly by bicyclists but also by hikers and horseback riders.
43. The Seaside Path, located between Jordan Pond and Seal Harbor, received an extensive rehab and opened anew in 2020.
44. The carriage roads include 17 stone bridges including 16 built by Rockefeller and the last by the park in 1941.
45. Rockefeller also began motor road construction in the park in 1927 and hired famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design many of the routes.
46. George B. Dorr, the first superintendent of the park, exhausted his family fortune to help create the park. The partial ruins of his old estate can be seen from the easy Compass Harbor Trail, along with Dorr’s favorite swimming hole and closeup views of the Porcupine Islands.
47. Dorr’s estate was built on land purchased by his father in 1868 and accepted by the federal government in 1942 as part of the park.
48. Dorr and Harvard President Charles W. Eliot helped found a land corporation in the early 1900s that began purchasing of land for the park, including the 520-foot Beehive that towers over Sand Beach and a nearby lake called the Bowl.
49. Jack Perkins, a former NBC news correspondent and anchor who is known for his videos on Acadia National Park, documented his life on Bar Island in his 2013 book, “Finding Moosewood, Finding God: What happened when a TV newsman abandoned his career for life on an island.”
50. In early 2003, the Associated Press reported that Perkins sold his 12 acres on Bar Island to the National Park Service for $1.4 million. The land is held as open space.
Sources: Maine Geological Survey, National Park Service, “Acadia’s Carriage Roads,” by Robert A. Thayer; “Acadia: The Story Behind the Scenery,” by Robert Rothe; “Historic Structure report of Bass Harbor Head Light Station”; “A Guide’s Guide to Acadia National Park”, by the National Park Service; and “Hiking Acadia National Park,” by Dolores Kong and Dan Ring.