Carriage Roads & Bridges
The Carriage Roads and stone bridges in Acadia National Park were financed and directed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., between 1913 and 1940, for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and carriages. The network includes 57 miles of woodland roads free of motor vehicles, of which 45 miles are within Acadia National Park . These allow seasonal cross-country skiing and limited snowmobiling. Twelve miles are on private land.
Duck Brook Carriage Road Bridge GPS (shown): Latitude 44.391560; Longitude -68.235826
Inspiration & Construction
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was an experienced horseman who wanted to travel by horse and carriage on Mount Desert Island roadways without encountering motor driven vehicles. His father, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., had previously built carriage roads on his private estates in Ohio and New York. John, Jr., acquired a love for this same type of road building practice which enabled him to envision the construction of similiar roads on Mount Desert Island. His family’s great wealth allowed him to do something about it.
Throughout, John Jr. showed an excellent sense of landscape design by making sure that the roads flowed with the natural setting rather than re-shaping the land to accommodate. Even Maine’s wet coastal climate was taken into account when choosing to use stone culverts, wide ditches, three layers of crushed rock, and a 6 - 8 inch crown that provided excellent water drainage. This showed a clear respect for the landscape and an understanding of the requirements. His experience and love of traveling by horse drawn carriages aided in making additional design choices that met those particular needs.
A “hands on” type of project manager, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., paid close attention to the smallest of details in the road’s construction as well as the landscaping. Granite from Hall Quarry on Mount Desert Island was quarried and transported by the construction crews for road material and bridge facing. Native vegetation such as fern and wild blueberries was tastefully used throughout to landscape the roadside. During this whole process, he even knew, and kept track of, the names of the laborers. By the time the project was finished, he not only had financed and supervised the roads, but 16 of the 17 stone faced bridges on the island that can be seen crossing streams, roads, waterfalls, and even a cliff side.
Keeping the Dream Alive
Today, the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park remain the best example of turn-of-the-century “broken stone” roads in America. But this system still needs to be maintained and this can be time consuming. The National Park Service, especially with funding cutbacks, cannot do it alone. Federal construction funds, combined with matching funds from the nonprofit organization “Friends of Acadia,” allowed for an extensive carriage road rehabilitation from 1992 through 1995. However, this needs to continue. As a result, a partnership was formed between the park and Friends of Acadia. An endowment was setup by Friends of Acadia in 1995 to aid in the protection of the carriage roads in perpetuity. In addition, volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year.
There are many different access points on Mount Desert Island including Jordan Pond, the North side of Eagle Lake, Bubble Pond, the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and more. Select Carriage Roads Map to see the network of roads on Mount Desert Island (furnished by U.S. National Parks).
There also are more than 120 miles of hiking trails within the Park that often connect with, or cross, carriage roads. Trails range from short, level surf walks to the steep and challenging Precipice Trail. Connecting trails enable the skilled and hardy hiker to scale several Acadia peaks in one trip. Settings vary widely from deep wooded forests to high mountain summits and shorelines with views of the ocean and outer islands.
Discovering the Carriage Roads
You can never truly appreciate the beauty and amount of work that went into creating the park’s carriage road system until you actually walk the distance. I do not mean walk every mile, but walk, jog, or ride a bike on at least one of them. This is much better than any theme park ride could ever be. This stuff is real - real nature in an intimate way. It gives you a feeling like you have actually been invited into the forest by the creatures that live there. If, and when you do, I recommend that you go through a checklist of things to do - things like making sure that your cell phone is fully charged. But beware. Mount Desert Island is notorious for having lots of cell phone dead spots. Make sure to tell someone where you are planning on going. Take water with you. Bikes are prohibited on privately owned carriage roads and on hiking trails. And always remember to “Leave no trace.” Carry out what you carry in.