The Carriage Roads of Acadia

Acadia National Park, FRCH Creative FuelSometime in January I got talked into going to see “National Parks Adventure” in Imax … I’m not sure if it was the soothing sound of Robert Redford’s narration (apparently Morgan Freeman was unavailable…), the catchy tune of James Bay’s ‘Hold Back The River’ or the feeling of being enveloped by the overwhelmingly beautiful scenery – most likely all three – but I suddenly had an overpowering urge to explore these seemingly untouched places.

I started in March with Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah – it did not disappoint – if anything it made the desire to explore that much greater. Next on the list, Acadia.

Acadia National Park on the northeast coast of Maine reserves much of Mount Desert Island and sits right outside the quiet, coastal town of Bar Harbor. Acadia is the oldest American National Park east of the Mississippi River and the very first where the land was donated by private citizens to the federal government (making up over 47,000 acres).

Another aspect that makes Acadia so unique is the impact that its original supporters had on the park’s success. In 1916, opposed to the introduction of automobiles on the island, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., financed and directed the construction of a network of subtle bridges and carriage roads spanning over 57 miles inside the park. Throughout the process, Rockefeller showed an excellent sense of landscape design by making sure all the roads blended with the natural surroundings 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. The 17 bridges, while financed by Rockefeller, were designed by Welles Bosworth and Charles Stoughton. They were constructed of hand carved granite with each bridge taking an average of one year to construct.

Shielded from the wear-and-tear of automobile traffic, the roads (and the park) have a better chance of staying in their original condition and continue to offer some of the best views of the area to bikers, runners and horse drawn carriages – that continue to utilize the roads.  Today the carriage roads and bridges, all of which are still maintained and in use, remain the best example of turn-of-the-century “broken stone” roads in the United States.

Offering more than 120 miles of hiking trails, breathtaking views of the coast and the opportunity to feel the first rays of a sunrise in the Unites States from atop Cadillac Mountain, it’s not hard to see why Acadia consistently ranks among the most-visited national parks in the U.S.

The abundance of lobster rolls doesn’t hurt either…

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