By 1880, Bar Harbor was already a major summer resort attracting numerous visitors each summer, and Mt. Desert Island was fast becoming one of the most popular summer retreats in the United States.
People with a vision, were quick to realize that the exploitation of the natural beauty could rapidly change or destroy the very thing people were all here to enjoy. In 1901, Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard, along with other naturalists, created the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations.
By 1916, the trustees were able to offer the federal government more than 5,000 acres of pristine forests, mountains, streams and ponds. This area was first designated Sieur de Monts National Monument. By 1919 the name was changed to Lafayette National Park, and in 1929 it became Acadia National Park.
Between 1917 and 1940, John D. Rockefeller Jr., keeping true to his conviction that access to a national setting could be provided without spoiling the resource, financed the design, construction and maintenance of a more than fifty mile network of specially designed roads and bridges for horses and carriages. Automobiles are expressly excluded from these otherwise public ways that cross some of Mt. Desert’s most beautiful and remote areas.
Rockefeller had the roads designed to blend into the landscape and saw to it that bridges blended harmoniously with the terrain. Two gatehouses, one at Jordan Pond and the other in Northeast Harbor, mark major entrances to this road system. Both gate lodges, completed in 1932, were built in a revival style inspired by the architecture of the French Romanesque period, thus keeping with the area’s French heritage.
At the time of his death in 1960, Mr. Rockefeller had given Acadia National Park over forty miles of carriage roads, sixteen dramatic stone bridges, two unique gatehouses and approximately 15,000 acres of land. These gifts, when combined with the generous donations made by Mt. Desert Island residents, enlarged the park to its present size of more than 35,000 acres. The park holds an additional 12,000+ acres in conservation easements. Within the Town of Mt. Desert, Acadia National Park manages more than 9,000 acres.
Today Acadia National Park’s growth is measured not so much in acreage as in visitors. From 1954 to 1966, annual visitations increased from 1,000,000 people to more than 2,000,000. By 2002, more than 2.5 million tourists were lured to Mt. Desert Island by the National Park system. Acadia is among the top 10 most visited national parks with most visitors coming in the summer and early fall.
Park carriage roads are open to walkers, equestrians, and bicyclists. Some routes are closed to horses. Others extend onto private lands, and these are closed to bicyclists. Hiking trails are closed to bicycles & horses. Please respect posted regulations at lakes and ponds.
Rules of the Road
• Stay to the right.
• Pass carefully to the left.
• Yield to others. Don’t obstruct the entire carriage road when you ride or walk.
• Be prepared to stop. Stay in control.
• Gravel surfaces are loose, quick stops are dangerous.
• Let sight distance, traffic, and conditions govern speed.
• Dress for the weather and carry water.
• Use a map. Sign posts at carriage road intersections have numbers on them.
• Horses can occasionally be unpredictable. Move to the side and let them pass. Do not startle them.
• Cyclists: wear a helmet, and when approaching others from behind, call out or use your bell.
• Pets must be leashed. Leashes must be 6 ft. or less.
• Leave no trace. Carry out what you carry in.
Join a park ranger to explore Acadia National Park up close and personal. Walks, campfire programs, hikes, and boat cruises are offered daily during the summer months. For a schedule of programs, pick up a copy of the park’s newspaper, the Beaver Log, at Hulls Cove Visitor Center or any park contact station.
For more information, call, email or write:
Acadia National Park
PO Box 177
Eagle Lake Road
Bar Harbor, ME 04609-0177