DownEast Acadia: It’s in Our Nature


002NY DownEast Acadiacopy

Black Mountain from Donnell Pond © Downeast Acadia

DownEast Acadia is a place of rugged beauty and unspoiled wildlands, where people feel revitalized and inspired by nature. Everything that makes DownEast Acadia so remarkable relies on its large expanses of intact natural areas and its residents’ innate connection with the natural rhythms of changing seasons and shifting ocean tides. 

The historic villages of DownEast Acadia are nestled amongst waterbodies in a vast natural wonderland that stretches from grand inland lakes to the bold Atlantic coast. Wild blueberry barrens and forests stretch as far as the eye can see. Crystal-clear rivers and streams flow into the ocean, where rugged coastal cliffs are dotted with lighthouses and seabirds. Active fishing villages, prolific wild blueberry barrens, and working forests reflect a deep-rooted relationship as people continue to harvest the natural bounty of land and sea today, as their ancestors have done for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

DownEast Acadia’s unparalleled beauty and recreation assets have attracted summer visitors and sportspeople for over 150 years. Bar Harbor was the destination of choice for the “Rusticators” of the 19th century—well-to-do travelers seeking reprieve from city life through a “rustic,” restorative, rejuvenating holiday spent enjoying outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, fishing, picnicking, beachgoing, sunbathing, stargazing, and napping in hammocks.

George Bucknam Dorr and John D. Rockefeller were Rusticators associated with one of the oldest land trusts in the Nation, who, through private philanthropy, created one of the oldest and most-visited National Parks: Acadia National Park, making DownEast Acadia an early leader of the American conservation movement.

DownEast Acadia’s rough-hewn vistas of sea, forest, and mountain have stirred the souls of generations of artists, writers, and landscape architects who have memorialized the landscape in works of art and literature. Artists continue to be drawn here today and to find inspiration in the rugged coast and mountains; peaceful lakes and forests; dramatic tidal and seasonal fluctuations; small, tight-knit communities; natural resources industries; and the steady, humble push of people going about their daily lives.

DownEast Acadia: water activities abound here. These paddlers are enjoying a day on the water.
Black Mountain from Donnell Pond © Downeast Acadia

Wherever you travel in DownEast Acadia, you’ll encounter its centuries-old industrial and maritime heritage. Three National Scenic Byways wind through historic villages displaying exemplary 19th-century homes built for sea captains, lumber barons, and business owners. Windjammer cruises and lighthouse tours evoke the days when the Bold Coast was a prolific commercial shipping route. The network of lakes and rivers flowing into the sea that attract paddlers today once floated logs to the sea to be shipped by schooner to build early American cities. Trails now lead hikers through abandoned granite quarries from which great granite blocks were cut and transported under sail to those growing cities.

DownEast Acadia has a long-standing tradition of sporting camps and guiding services that offer remote wilderness experiences. The waters of DownEast Acadia achieved legendary status amongst fishermen seeking the mighty Atlantic salmon; for 80 years, the American President was presented with the first salmon caught each spring in the Penobscot River. Traditional outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and camping remain deeply ingrained in local culture. Wilderness lodges and guiding businesses, some operated by the same family for decades, offer personalized outdoor experiences for anglers, bird watchers, picnickers, hunters, paddlers, campers, and family adventurers.

Despite the pace at which the world has changed over the past century, especially in recent years, DownEast Acadia remains an ideal place for nature lovers. The rural landscapes, clean waters, and intact wildlife habitat that have always provided rejuvenation and inspiration remain quite plentiful in DownEast Acadia.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of conserved lands provide public access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, paddling routes, bicycling, ATV and snowmobile trails, swimming beaches, campsites, and much more. Access to resources is provided to clamdiggers, seaweed harvesters, and other commercial fishermen. Wildlife habitat is preserved to support commercial fisheries and forestry, wild blueberry producers, farmers, and hunting, fishing, and foraging traditions. DownEast Acadia boasts some of the cleanest water, darkest night skies, and least developed landscapes remaining on the eastern coast of the United States today.

A beautiful night sky in DownEast Acadia
Night Sky in Acadia @Michael Newman

DownEast Acadia contains:

  • 200,000+ acres of ponds
    and lakes
  • 3,300+ miles of streams
  • 1,000+ miles of rivers
  • 1.7 million acres of forest lands
  • 700,000+ acres of conserved land
  • 7 units of State Public Land
  • 12 Wildlife Management Areas
  • 5 State Parks
  • 1 National Park spanning three distinct areas
  • 2 National Wildlife Refuges
  • 11 Land Trusts

Creating and maintaining these recreation and wildlife areas requires the passion of hundreds of land stewards who commit countless hours to all aspects of land preservation, including negotiating conservation easements, developing trail guides, conducting education programs, clearing downed trees, mapping vulnerable resources, picking up litter, cleaning facilities, meeting the people who visit, and continuing to raise the funds to keep on going and growing year after year.

This committed and passionate network of people includes staff, volunteers, and partners of the National and State parks, National Wildlife Refuges, State Public Reserve Lands, Tribal governments, land trust preserves, and municipalities. It also includes the many private landowners who generously provide public access and maintain trails, roads, boat landings, and campsites for public use.

From the St. Croix River to the Penobscot River, from the Bold Coast to the Grand Lakes, DownEast Acadia is rich in unspoiled landscapes shaped by the deep-rooted natural heritage traditions of its human inhabitants. Next time you travel to DownEast Acadia, stop at a local land trust office to say hello to the people who help preserve the region’s natural splendor. You’ll be greeted by a new friend excited to share insider knowledge and swap trail stories with you.

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From Bucksport to Calais to Grand Lake, an unbelievable 2,330 miles of coastline and 5,600 square miles of wide-open space and fresh air await visitors to DownEast Acadia. 


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