Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park History

All the beauty of Maine comes together in Acadia National Park. Mountains, conifers, and wildlife meet the ocean in a spectacle that, once seen, is never forgotten. Yet, the true gift of Acadia goes far deeper than its natural beauty. For through its pristine qualities, we gain a clearer vision of ourselves. And, through this vision, we enrich and improve our lives. Those before us who made this park possible, knew this and chose to make the commitment so that we all may benefit. We must honor this, and protect it for future generations.

Cadillac Mountain ViewOne of the most unique historical aspects of how the park formed is that it is due to the vision and donations of private citizens like George B. Dorr and Charles W. Eliot. They anticipated the dangers that over-development would bring to this coastal wonderland and acted quickly to prevent it. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., played a critical role by building the now famous carriage roads (1915 - 1933) and by donating over 11,000 acres of land. There have been countless others who have since donated their time and resources to help realize this dream so that we may all experience its raw beauty and power.

Acadia - How it Got Its Name

Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park Acadia was first established as Sieur de Monts National Monument in July 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson but then was changed to Lafayette National Park in February 1919 when it became the first national park east of the Mississippi. It was not until January 1929 that it officially was named Acadia National Park. The word “Acadia” likely stems from “Arcadia,” a part of Greece that this area reminded the explorer, Giovanni Verrazano of as he sailed by in 1524. Today, it encompasses approximately 47,748 acres in three main areas. The largest is located on Mount Desert Island. Next, is an approximate 2,366 acre tract of land to the Northeast on the mainland at Schoodic Peninsula. Thirdly, to the Southwest (accessible only by boat) is Isle Au Haut. Baker Island (Southeast coast) and Bar Island (north side of Bar Harbor) also have National Park land.

The Work Continues

In order to preserve scenic values and define its permanent boundary, the park began purchasing small tracts of land and easements in 1986. True to the spirit of the original vision, many landowners continue this tradition today by placing easements on their property in order to limit any potential future development.

View of Otter Cliff from Shore Path in Acadia Rocky coastlines, granite mountains, lakes and ponds, moss and evergreen, crashing waves and abundant wildlife mix with local character and seafood. Borders of the park are accented by picturesque harbor villages such as Somesville, Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and more.

There is an information center on Thompson Island, a small island located between the mainland and Mount Desert Island. The main island has two centers. The main Visitor Center is near Route 3 in Hulls Cove (Bar Harbor) and the Park Headquarters & Winter Visitor Center is on Route 233 just west of Eagle Lake.

Some Interesting Stats & Facts

  • The word “Acadia” likely stems from “Arcadia,” a part of Greece that MDI reminded the explorer, Giovanni Verrazano of when he sailed by in 1524.
  • There was a major fire in 1947 referred to as “The Year Maine Burned,” that burned more than 10,000 acres within the park - 17,188 acres total acres on Mount Desert Island.
  • Much of the physical labor required to build the park's carriage roads and trails was provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps beginning in 1933.
  • Average Winter Temperature: 27 ° Fahrenheit (-2.77 Celsius)
  • Average Summer Temperature: 67 ° Fahrenheit (19.44 Celsius)
  • Annual Precipitation: 47 inches (119.38 Centimeters)
  • Altitude: 0 - 1,530 feet (0 - 466 meters)
  • Mountains in Acadia: 26 (seven are more than 1,000 feet or 304.8 meters high)
  • Ocean Shoreline: Over 40 miles (64.37 K)
  • Visitors Per Year: Over two million

Be sure to use the “Map” at the top of this page to get a great overview of the Park and surrounding communities. It is the main navigation for this website. You may also prefer starting by using the Contents link above. Please take your time, explore, and enjoy!

Weddings: Visit the weddings section for information about having a wedding ceremony within the park or elsewhere on MDI or in nearby villages and towns.

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