DownEast Acadia’s many State Parks that offer a broad range of beauty and outdoor recreation.
While many come to DownEast Acadia to visit Acadia National Park, the region is also home to several Maine State Parks, and Historic Sites that are equally as beautiful and generally much less crowded.
Cobscook, the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy tribal word for “boiling tides,” aptly describes this setting where the tidal range that can reach 28 feet, compared to a 9-foot average tide along Maine’s southern coast.The bay is an unusual estuary with a narrow opening to the sea, a long and convoluted shoreline, and relatively few feeder streams and rivers.
Nutrient-rich salt water flowing in from the Gulf of Maine stimulates plankton growth, which feeds a vast array of invertebrates, such as shellfish and marine worms. Eagles, ospreys, seals, otters and even the occasional bear enjoy the Bay’s abundant smelt, alewives, shad, sea-run brook trout, striped bass, and Atlantic salmon. Attracted by the bay’s sheltered coves, mudflats, and eelgrass beds, thousands of shorebirds stop over each fall to rest and forage. The inner coves supports the state’s highest bald eagles concentration.
Cobscook Bay State Park
The wildlife-rich waters of Cobscook Bay surround this 888-acre park on three sides, providing opportunities to watch birds and observe the ebb and flow of the region’s impressive tides. The park is an excellent base for family camping and explorations in easternmost Maine. Many of the park’s 106 tent and RV campsites border the sheltered inlet of Whiting Bay. There is a boat launch for those with the experience to handle boating in challenging conditions due to with rapids created by fast-moving tides.
Fort O'Brien State Historic Site
Also known as Fort Machias, Fort O’Brien was built in 1775 and destroyed by the British in the same year. Refortified in 1777, it was destroyed once again by the British in 1814. Well-preserved earthworks which overlook Machias Bay were erected for a battery of guns in 1863. This state historic site is one of few Maine forts active during three wars—the American Revolution, War of 1812, and Civil War. Visitors can spend the afternoon picnicking, walking, relaxing, and exploring the remaining earthworks from the wars.
Lamoine State Park
This lesser known park, is located off Route 184 8 miles south of Ellsworth. Visitors enjoy camping, boating, fishing and simple relaxation in this beautiful location with stellar views of Frenchman’s Bay. Amenities include campground facilities, picnic area, playground and boat launch.
Quoddy Head State Park
This park encompasses 541 acres at the tip of America’s easternmost peninsula, offering opportunities to visit a historic lighthouse, picnic and hike up to 5 miles of scenic trails. From the candy-striped West Quoddy Head Light, Maine’s easternmost lighthouse, visitors can look out over Quoddy Channel (which divides the U.S. and Canada) to the towering red cliffs of Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick.
Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, West Quoddy Head Light was first built in 1808. The present tower and house, which date back to 1858, were staffed by resident lightkeepers until 1988 when the U.S. Coast Guard automated the light.
The park affords some of Maine’s best wildlife-watching. Visitors in summer may spot humpback, minke and finback whales offshore, along with rafts of eider, scoter and old squaw ducks. Kittiwakes, gannets, black-bellied plovers, ruddy turnstones, and purple sandpipers all can be seen at times roosting on Sail Rock. During spring and fall migration periods, hundreds of shorebirds congregate near the park’s western boundary at Lubec Flats and Carrying Place Cove (named for a canoe portage site that Native Americans used). Birding opportunities continue into winter, with sea ducks, murres, and razorbills offshore and frequent bald eagles.
An easy, one-mile round-trip walk leads to an unusual coastal plateau bog (also known as a heath) with sub-arctic and arctic plants rarely seen south of Canada. Shrubs predominate, mainly black crowberry, baked Appleberry, and Labrador tea, along with carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants and sundew. A second bog at the property’s western boundary, Carrying Place Cove Bog, is a National Natural Landmark.
Roque Bluffs State Park
A popular destiantion, the park provides visitors with a great diversity of coastal landscapes to enjoy in 274 acres on Schoppee Point, south of Machias. A beautiful, half-mile crescent of sand and pebbles along Englishman Bay is backed by the shallow waters of 60-acre Simpson Pond – allowing for bracing saltwater swims and much warmer freshwater soaks. Between the beach and the pond are several picnic areas and a children’s play area adjoining the parking area. A 6-mile trail network just inland from the shore leads through old orchards, fields, and woods, with paths that follow the rocky shores of Great Cove and Pond Cove.
The diverse habitats at Roque Bluffs State Park support abundant wildlife, and bird watchers enjoy unusual sightings. Bald eagles frequent the area year-round, and many migrant species stopovers during spring and fall. Birders occasionally spot less-common waterfowl, such as Barrow’s Goldeneye, Redhead and Gadwall Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers. During summer months, pipers, plovers, and interesting gull, like ring-billed, frequent the beach.
Both Englishman Bay and Simpson Pond can be explored by canoe or kayak (with rental kayaks available for use on Simpson Pond). The pond is stocked so anglers can fish for brook trout in the spring and brown trout through much of the summer. Bait fishermen use the pond in fall and winter.
Shakford Head State Park
Shackford Head State Park encompasses 90 acres on Moose Island, overlooking Cobscook Bay and Eastport. Several miles of trail rises from the parking area through woods to a rocky headland 173 feet above sea level, passing several pocket beaches and protected coves. Views from the top include Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, the town of Lubec, the Eastport cargo pier on Estes Head, and aquaculture pens where Atlantic salmon are raised. The park is known for wildlife watching. Lucky visitors may spot warblers and hermit thrushes in the woodland areas and bald eagles, common terns, and spotted sandpipers along the shore. Ornithologists have documented 28 different bird species nesting on the headland.
Visitor Resources: Maine Birding Trail | Cobscook Bay State Park | Roque Bluffs State Park | Shackford Head State Park | Quoddy Head State Park | Maine State Parks
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