12 Amazing Facts About Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

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Acadia National Park is a frequently visited, 47,000-acre park located along the mid-section of the Maine coast. Its natural beauty has made it one of the top 10 most-visited national parks in the U.S. with 3.5 million people visiting each year. The park is uniquely diverse, consisting of granite mountains, rocky coastlines, lakes, ponds, and numerous species of plants and wildlife. It also borders charming coastal villages such as Northeast Harbor, Bass Harbor, and Somesville.

Within the park, 35,332 acres are owned by the National Park Service and the remaining 12,416 acres are privately owned lands that are under conservation easements managed by the National Park Service. Every part of Acadia has its own unique characteristics and qualities. Discover some of the park's most fascinating facts and features.

1. The Park was Named After a Region of Greece

Sieur de Monts
Sieur de Monts.

Wayne Hsieh / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

The park was first established under the name Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1919, it was changed to Lafayette National Park when it became the first national park east of the Mississippi. In 1929, it was officially named Acadia National Park after “Arcadia”, a region of Greece that the park resembles.

2. Acadia Was Founded by Private Citizens

Acadia's private citizens predicted the biodiverse coastland would be over-developed and therefore acted to quickly protect it. They wanted to ensure that their beloved natural landscapes and views were preserved for the future. Donations of money, land, resources, and time from people like John D. Rockefeller Jr., George B. Dorr, and Charles W. Elliott are the reason that the park exists today.

3. The Park Is Home to More Than 1,000 Plant Species

Trees in Acadia

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A thousand different plant species thrive in the diverse ecosystems that make up the park, including coastal, mountain, wetland, and forest ecosystems. Species commonly found in deciduous and coniferous woods within the park include ash, aspen, spruce, beech, pine, maple, white-cedar, and birch trees. Wild strawberry, blueberry shrubs, and mayflower inhabit roadsides and meadows within the park. Bogs, freshwater marshes, and ponds are home to cranberry, huckleberry, snowberry, cat-tail, water-lily, and winterberry. Juniper, rose, and raspberry shrubs are commonly found on mountain tops and dry, rocky places within Acadia.

4. Acadia's Weather Can Change Rapidly

It can go from hot and sunny to cold and wet in a matter of minutes. The best time to visit is in July and August as temperatures reach highs of 76 degrees F and conditions are generally less wet. However, the park is at its busiest during this time. September through early October is a less crowded time. If you are feeling adventurous and ready to face freezing temperatures, winter in the park is uniquely beautiful. Check the current weather condition when planning your visit.

5. It Contains 158 Miles of Hiking Trails

Hiking in Acadia

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The park consists of 158 miles of hiking trails that range from easy walks along coastal paths to challenging mountain hikes. Beginners enjoy easy hikes such as Ocean Path, Thunder Hole to Sand Beach, and the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. Moderate hikes include the Jordan Pond Full Loop Trail and the Ocean Path and Gorham Mountain Loop Trail. More experienced hikers take on the Beehive Loop Trail, Cadillac North Ridge Trail, and Precipice, Orange and Black and Champlain North Ridge Trail Loop.

6. Conservation Easements Protect Over 25% of Park Land

Acadia National Park is one the few national parks that is made up of land that was donated by landowners to the federal government. Within the Acadian archipelago, permission was granted to the National Park Service to be able to hold conservation easements on private property. Today, landowners in the area still place easements on their land to ensure that it is not developed. Conservation easements are currently held on 184 properties by the National Park Service at Acadia National Park.

7. The Park's Lands Are Home to the Wabanaki

The Wabanaki—made up of four tribes, the Maliseet, the Micmac, the Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot—have inhabited the lands that made up Acadia National Park for 12,000 years. They traditionally hunted, fished, gathered berries, and harvested clams on these lands. Today the tribes of the Wabanaki each have a reservation and government headquarters located within their territory in Maine.

8. Acadia Has Three Campgrounds and Five Lean-To Shelters

Within the park there are two campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, one campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, and five lean-to shelters on Isle au Haut. Backcountry camping and overnight parking is not permitted in Acadia. Download the National Park Service App to check availability at Acadia and to reserve a campsite in advance.

9. The Park's Curatorial Program Has Collected 1.4 Million Objects

The Curatorial Program at Acadia National Park was created to preserve the natural and cultural history of the park. This includes the preservation of historical artifacts, natural history specimens, and archival documents both physically and intellectually. Currently, 1.4 million objects dating back to 1596 are in the collection from both Acadia National Park and Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.  

10. The Isle au Haut Is Known for Its Fishing

Isle Au Haut

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The Isle au Haut, located 15 miles off the coast of Mount Desert Island, is an island in which half is managed by Acadia National Park and half is privately-owned. In 1943, founders of a summer community on the island donated portions of the Isle of Haut to the federal government as part of Acadia National Park. Fishing has been the primary occupation of residents for over 200 years and a vibrant fishing community still resides there today. Visitors to Acadia can get to the Isle au Haut from the mainland by ferry from Stonington, a seaside community.

11. 10,000 Acres of Acadia Caught Fire

In 1947, a fire started in the park due to months of drought. It engulfed 10,000 acres of the park, resulting in the destruction of natural habitats, local homes, and businesses. Although the trees and plants grew back, the fire changed the composition of the park. Birch and aspen trees grew in place of where spruce and fir trees previously were. The National Park Service states that spruce and fir will gradually make their way back into the park’s ecology.

12. It's a Great Place to Spot Birds of Prey

Cadillac Mountain

Denis Tangney Jr. / Getty Images

Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast, is optimal for spotting birds of prey. Bird watchers spot 2,500 birds a year on average, including eagles, vultures, owls, falcons, and osprey. During the fall months, as a part of Hawk Watch, official counters, rangers, and volunteers, head up Cadillac Mountain to watch these birds fly south for the winter.  Their goal is to count, identify, and record the birds of prey. In the past 25 years they have tallied over 71,000 birds of prey, which contributes to the research and conservations of these birds.

View Article Sources
  1. "Sieur De Monts National Monument (Now Acadia National Park), Maine." National Parks Service, 2021.

  2. "Checklist Of Common Native Plants At Acadia." National Park Service, 2015.

  3. "The Wabanaki: People Of The Dawnland." National Park Service, 2021.

  4. "Fire Of 1947." National Park Service, 2020.

  5. "Riding The Winds: Hawk Watch In Acadia National Park 2020." National Park Service, 2020.