Encompassing 45,000 acres on two islands and a mainland peninsula on the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is a jewel of granite mountains, filigreed coastlines, forested valleys, meadows and marshes, unique cultural resources, dazzling night skies, and precious communities of plant and animal life. These weave together to create a national park like no other. Acadia’s landscape holds human history as well, from Native Americans and European explorers to seafaring and homesteading residents and seasonal populations of “rusticators,” artists, and conservationists. Acadia’s resources are found in undisturbed natural systems for study, exceptional scenery for individual inspiration, protected habitat for plants and animals, and defining stories of people and the land.
Acadia, like other national parks, offers opportunities to fulfill emotional and spiritual needs for renewal and to invoke attitudes of reverence and stewardship. Because of the deep affection held for Acadia, private citizens of both a century ago and today took the actions necessary to preserve these beautiful landscapes. As a national park, Acadia has continued the tradition of providing spiritual respite and encouraging responsible stewardship. Acadia’s easy accessibility for all ages and all levels of ability make it possible for everyone to observe and be renewed by nature.
The flora and fauna of Acadia National Park and surrounding waters comprise a rich mix of species significant in their biodiversity. Botanically, Acadia lies in a transition zone between the northern coniferous forests and the temperate deciduous woods. The co-mingling of species from two distinct regions creates unusual plant associations. Rare and endangered plant species find refuge here. The variety of vegetation supports a diversity of wildlife as well. Critical habitat is provided for all animals, especially for protected species and nesting seabirds on outlying islands.
The cultural resources of Acadia National Park document human activities that span 5,000 years. Acadia’s human history begins with centuries of use by native people, who became known as the Wabanaki. Only five centuries ago, Europeans began making contact with these people, as they too explored and settled here. Decades of commercial use by lumbermen, shipbuilders, and fishermen overlapped and even fostered increased pressure for conservation and the evolution of tourism. Today, more than two million visitors each year seek Acadia’s gifts, either by trail, boat, bicycle, vehicle, or through quiet contemplation, making Acadia one of the ten most popular national parks in the US.
Acadia National Park provides many opportunities to increase our understanding of natural systems and human impact on them. Considered a living laboratory since the 19th century, Acadia offers significant possibilities for education, continued ecosystem monitoring, and research that generates valuable data.
Research conducted by park staff, visiting researchers, and citizen scientists continue to add to Acadia’s foundation of historic scientific reports. While a variety of science occurs throughout the park, the Schoodic Education and Research Center has turned a former navy base into a focal point for science and education.
The natural landforms of Acadia National Park illustrate the dynamics of many geologic processes. Exploring Acadia is like walking through a geology textbook with chapters that include all three rock types, plate tectonics, volcanism, glaciations, and shoreline erosion. The park’s granite mountains are surrounded by sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, covering a time span of half a billion years. The awesome power of glaciers is evident in the valleys and cliff sides, while the on-going assault by the sea reworks the island’s edge even today. Significant geologic resources include Somes Sound, a glacially sculpted fjord (or fjard); Sand Beach, a natural pocket beach composed primarily of shell fragments; and a collection of former sea-level features such as cobble beaches, cliffs, and caves that are now exposed approximately 240 feet above current sea level.