Maine's Other National Park Sites

A view of St. Croix Island from Devil's Head Conservation Area
            When you think of national park sites in Maine, you are most likely going to think of Acadia National Park, and if not Acadia, then the Appalachian Trail.  However, if you look long enough through the woods and shorelines of Maine, you will find two other, lesser-known national park sites.  I was able to visit both of them on my trip to Maine last month.  

My visit here marked my 100th national park site
            The first of these sites I visited was St. Croix Island International Historic Site, which you will have to go all the way up the Maine coast to the Canadian border to find.  St. Croix Island International Historic Site honors France’s first attempt at colonizing the New World.  The actual park site isn’t much as it’s located on the mainland rather than on the island.  There’s a small visitor center and an even smaller trail that gives you a brief history of the island as well as a close up view of it.  All the websites I read about the area pretty much said that although kayaking to the island isn’t outlawed, it is not encouraged in order to preserve the island.  That being said there is a boat lunch area at the site as well.  We didn’t bring kayaks go and had no intention of renting any.  If you do plan on taking the five-minute drive over the border into Canada, Parks Canada also has a national park site for the island.  To get the most of this area, though, you will want to go to Devil’s Head Conservation Area, which is a really short drive up Route 1 from the historic site. Here you get some nice northern Maine terrain to hike on as well as two different viewing areas (one up on a forested hill and the other on a coastal outlook) of St. Croix Island.

Maine coastline with St. Croix Island in the far distance
            The next day on our trip in Maine, my father and I traveled to Millinocket, which is the gateway town to Baxter State Park.  It is here that the National Park Service has set up a visitor center for one of the newest sites in the system, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.  The monument was only established in the last summer of Barack Obama’s presidency, and you can definitely feel that in ways more bad than good.  For starters, the monument is really off the beaten path. While the visitor center is easily accessible, the actual parkland and the monument’s major feature at this point (a gravel road that circles on section of the park) are an almost hour drive away from the visitor center.  As we made our way onto the nine-mile gravel road that began the final leg of our journey to the park loop road, we noticed a lot of anti-national park signs as well as road signs that made it clear that logging trucks had the right of way in every single situation on the road.  It made the journey a bit eerie.  We also had a long journey to our hotel for that night so the long ride to the monument killed our chances of staying for long.  We briefly enjoyed the nice scenery of Mount Katahdin and the Penobscot River on the park loop road and then made our way back to civilization. 

Maine wilderness with Mount Katahdin in the distance
            The future of this Katahdin Woods and Waters will be really interesting because it can either be preserved as one of the last true rustic experiences in the Northeast or be turned into a park as big, and maybe even as commercial, as Acadia or Shenandoah.  I would really like to see the place once more as the former before it becomes (if it ever does) the later.  That being said there has been a lot of political rhetoric and misleading information about this park’s creation (mostly from former Maine governor Paul LePage) that has made this an almost unwelcome place to visit as a hiker.  So this park’s future will clearly be something to watch.

The entrance to one of America's newest national park sites
            Neither of these parks delivered unforgettable experiences, but they certainly add to a nice tapestry of parks within Maine.

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