What is Acadia National Park?

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The majestic rocky coastline and thick woodlands filled with wildlife have made Acadia National Park legendary to the people of Maine and far beyond. The 47,633-acre park takes up almost half of Mount Desert Island, a 14-by-12-mile lobster claw-shaped isle made predominantly of rugged granite. The park also comprises smaller areas on surrounding islands and part of the mainland at Schoodic Point. Although small compared to other national parks, Acadia still hosts more than 2 million visitors annually, and it’s the only national park in the northeastern United States.

Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Acadia area, and they lived here for more than 6,000 years before French explorer Samuel de Champlain officially founded a settlement on Mount Desert Island in 1604. Until 1713, the island was a part of French Acadia, and not until after the Revolutionary War was it officially settled. Predictably, the majestic beauty of the area became a popular summer destination for wealthy vacationers who erected mansions, er, summer cottages .

The eventual expansion of the park is largely thanks to land donated by private citizens who loved the area and wanted to preserve its natural beauty. One of the best-known contributors to the park was John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who built the popular carriage road system to avoid motorized vehicles. He later donated 11,000 acres of land and because of private gifts like these, the park grew piecemeal throughout the 20th century. In fact, Congress could only establish its official boundaries in 1986.

Today Acadia National Park’s mountains, inlets, wildlife, and granite sea cliffs are best seen by kayak, on foot or by bike - and there are a slew of adventure outfitters nearby to will help you gear up and get you exploring.

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