11 Pristine Facts About Acadia National Park

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Maine’s Acadia National Park was the first national park east of the Mississippi River, and while it might not be as renowned as some of its Western brethren, it’s every bit as spectacular. 

1. Most of the Park Sits on Mount Desert Island. 

While the park extends to some surrounding islands and a peninsula, the bulk of the park is on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. While the park is known for its incredible, lush vegetation, the “desert” part of its name makes some sense when you know the history. Famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed by the island in 1604, noticed the bare, rocky tops of its mountains, and gave it the French name L'Isle des Monts Déserts, or “the island of barren mountains.” When this name migrated into English, it became Mount Desert Island. 

2. Two Men Helped Bring the Park to Life. 

In the 19th century, wealthy East Coast residents realized Mount Desert Island was an ideal vacation destination, and many of them started building opulent, mansion-like “cottages” on the island. Harvard president Charles W. Eliot was one of these “cottagers,” and his son, a landscape architect also named Charles, was a fan of the island as well. The younger Eliot passed away when he was just 38, but not before passionately advocating for the state of Maine to preserve its coastal areas against encroaching commercialism. 

Charles W. Eliot heeded his late son’s words and sprang into action in 1901 by forming the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to buy up local wilderness lands and maintain them for public use. One of Eliot’s key recruits was George Bucknam Dorr, an island resident who became so committed to the cause that he would later be known as “the father of Acadia National Park.” 

3. Almost All of the Land Came from Private Donations. 

In Dorr, Eliot found the perfect point man for preserving the island. Dorr spent decades buying up available parcels of land with his own money and convincing other wealthy landowners to donate their own tracts for preservation. By 1913 it was clear that in order to preserve their work, Dorr, Eliot, and their allies would need the help of the federal government, and in 1916 the land – which had become an irregularly shaped plot that wrapped around tracts that were still in private hands – became a national monument. 

Even after getting this monument status for the project, Dorr continued spending his inheritance and coaxing other landowners to donate property, and the park kept on growing. Eventually, the park would grow to over 35,000 acres with another 12,000 acres of private land managed by the National Park Service under conservation easements.

4. It Hasn’t Always Been Called Acadia. 

The park has had three official names, all of them sporting heavy French influences. When the park opened on July 8, 1916, it was called Sieur de Monts National Monument. This name reflected the impact of Pierre Dugua, Sieur du Monts, a French nobleman and colonist who served as the early 17th century lieutenant governor of New France. While Dugua’s title remains on a spring within the park, when the area became a national park on February 26, 1919, it took the name Lafayette National Park in a nod to the Marquis de Lafayette. On January 19, 1929, the name again switched to Acadia National Park, a callback to the 17th and 18th century French colony of the same name that included the park’s land. 

5. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Made a Lasting Contribution to the Park. 

Oil heir and philanthropist Rockefeller was one of the most generous donors to the park, eventually contributing 11,000 acres of land. His bigger impact, though, came from designing, funding, and overseeing the creation of an intricate system of carriage roads that crisscrossed the island. Rockefeller wanted to be able to traverse the island without interference from cars, and the 45 miles of carriage roads he helped create between 1913 and 1940 gave visitors an easy way to enjoy all the beauty the island had to offer. 

6. Rockefeller left his “teeth” on the island. 

Rockefeller’s meticulously designed and landscaped carriage roads contain several notable features, including cedar signposts and striking stone bridges. Perhaps the most memorable are the large coping stones that serve as the roads’ answer to guardrails. These massive, irregularly shaped and arranged blocks of granite are nicknamed “Rockefeller’s teeth.” 

7. The roads had to be reclaimed from the wilderness. 

Rockefeller maintained the roads until his death in 1960, at which point the National Park Service took on the massive task of keeping the network clear. As manpower and funding became tight, road maintenance fell by the wayside, and by the mid-1980s, Rockefeller’s byways had become overgrown. Luckily, Friends of Acadia and the park service teamed up for an $8 million restoration project, and today the roads are again enjoyed by horseback riders, hikers, and other outdoorsy types. 

8. A Fire Gutted the Park In 1947. 

Picturesque Mount Desert Island suffered a crushing blow in late October 1947 when a fire sparked following months of drought. The wildfire quickly spread, and by the time it was finally extinguished, it had engulfed 10,000 acres of Acadia and millions of dollars’ worth of local residences and businesses. Luckily for nature lovers, it takes more than fire to keep a good park down. Locals rebuilt their homes, and many of the sprawling estates of 19th century vacationers gave way to amenities for parkgoers. Nature took its course, and trees quickly began growing again. The National Park Service explains that while the island’s forests have seen their composition change with birch and aspen replacing pre-fire mainstays like spruce and fir, these evergreens will gradually work their way back into the mix. 

9. You Won’t Find a Higher View on the East Coast. 

One of the park’s peaks, Cadillac Mountain, is the East Coast’s tallest mountain. At 1,530 feet, it offers incredible views from its pink granite summit. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, if you want to find a higher peak on the Atlantic coast, you’d have to trek all the way down to Rio de Janeiro. 

10. It’s a Great Place to Spot a Bird of Prey. 

Cadillac Mountain may be tall, but it’s not too tall for raptors that migrate south for the winter. From August through early October, birdwatchers, rangers, and volunteers team up for Hawk Watch to monitor and count the birds flying through the region. As Friends of Acadia notes, these watchers typically spot around 2,500 birds a year, so if you’ve been curious about what a peregrine looks like mid-flight, Acadia is the place for you. 

11. Now is the Perfect Time to Visit. 

Everyone from U.S. News & World Report to the National Park Service itself say that October is an ideal month to visit Acadia. The summer crowds have thinned out, but the fall foliage is becoming spectacular. The Park Service says the autumn leaves reach their zenith in mid-October, but if you’re in the leaf-viewing mood, you can always track the state of the local trees with the state of Maine’s official fall foliage website.

The Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Each State

Hot air balloons drifting over the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hot air balloons drifting over the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Greg Meland/iStock via Getty Images

In 2018, Americans took about 1.8 billion trips for leisure purposes alone, the U.S. Travel Association reports. But what types of attractions do they visit during those trips? Thanks to new data from Groupon and Viator, a TripAdvisor company, we now have the answer.

Map of the Northeast of the United States, showing a few of the most popular tourist attractions in that region
Groupon

Groupon mapped out each state’s most popular travel experience and classified them according to price, type, and region. Tourists in the northeast United States tend to gravitate toward what Groupon describes as “exploration and discovery” activities, like the Founding Fathers Tour of Philadelphia, Maine's Portland City and Lighthouse Tour, and the day trip from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard.

Map of the Midwest region of the United States, listing a few of the most popular tourist attractions in those states
Groupon

The Midwest is by far the cheapest place to vacation, with the cost of attractions in the region averaging about $48. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and North Dakota are great states to visit if you’re looking for a top-ranked food tour, while South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois offer plenty of educational tours and experiences (including a movie site tour for Field of Dreams fans).

Map of the Southern region of the United States, listing some of the most popular tourist attractions in that area
Groupon

Experiences in the South are fairly varied. Visitors have plenty of options, whether they’re looking for a historic tour of Asheville, North Carolina's Biltmore Estate (the largest privately owned house in the United States) or a day of thrills at Virginia’s Busch Gardens amusement park. Tourists in the South do seem to prefer watery activities, though—the region is popular for dinner cruises and dolphin watching.

Map of the Western region of the United States, listing some of the most popular tourist destinations in the area
Groupon

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West is easily the most expensive region for visitors, averaging about $176 per attraction. Tourists in this region tend to gravitate toward experiences like helicopter tours and hot air balloon rides, all of which push the region toward the pricey end of the scale. Still, if you’re looking for astounding natural beauty, there are few places with more variety than the American West.

Driving This Thanksgiving Holiday? Here’s the Worst Time to Leave, According to Google Maps

Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images
Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, cooking the turkey correctly or dodging political arguments with family members aren't the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. It's having to share the road with millions of other travelers on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you're hoping to make this element of the holiday a little more tolerable in 2019, plan your day with data from Google Maps.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Google Maps recently published a roundup of Thanksgiving travel tips, including the absolute worst times to hit the road. You may think that leaving the day before Thanksgiving will give you a head-start on traffic, but according to Google, Wednesday is the busiest travel day of the week. Congestion peaks between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday in many parts of the country. If you have no choice but to travel on November 27, plan to leave earlier in the day before roads get too crowded.

It pays to leave the house early the day of the actual holiday. Around 6 a.m., roads will be clear in most major cities, with traffic gradually increasing throughout the morning and peaking as early as noon.

As people who regularly travel for Turkey Day know, getting to dinner on time is only half the headache. Traffic can be just as brutal on the way home. To make the journey as painless as possible, plan to leave first thing in the morning—ideally on Sunday, when most travelers have completed the trip.

Traveling for Thanksgiving is rarely as simple as driving to and from dinner. If you plan on making pit stops along the way, Google has travel information for that as well. According to Google search trends, "ham shops" are busiest at noon the day before Thanksgiving, and outlet malls reach peak traffic around noon on Black Friday. Here are some more stress-free travel tips for the holiday season.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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