That’s a common question among tourists and one that’s tough to answer. You can drive the Park Loop Road, walk around the top of Cadillac Mountain, relax on Sand Beach, and visit Thunderhole in two or three days. If you spend a week, you can see “inside” the island by biking its carriage roads and from the “outside” by taking a kayaking trip.
But if you have a little more time, bring your imagination along and see Acadia from the vantage point of its history.
I’m in my eighth summer now of walking and biking in the park. Although I’ve whizzed over the carriage roads and bridges many times, I recently constructed a little tour and saw them in a completely new way.
Acadia National Park boasts 17 stone bridges, 16 of which were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. between 1917 and 1933. He oversaw every element of their design and set the guiding principles for their construction: minimal disturbance to the surrounding areas, designs to take advantage of scenic vistas and conform to the natural landscape, and use of local materials with a commitment to restore the land after construction.
In this plan to relate to and respect the natural environment, Rockefeller demonstrated his considerable personal talent and foresight in landscape design. Rockefeller also directed granite be quarried for each bridge close to the site for cost efficiency. Each granite block was rough cut at the quarry and then re-shaped by a mason at the site. One stone per day per mason was the standard.
That’s just one of the things we were thinking about as we started our first of two days visiting Acadia’s bridges by bike. We could have covered more bridges the first day, but we combined it with a hike starting at Gatepost 22 to Long Pond in Seal Harbor to see the view that Charles Eliot, a key figure in the creation of the national park, called the most beautiful on the island.
All together we spent time at 11 of the 17 bridges in the areas of Upper Hadlock and Jordan Ponds, beginning both days at the Brown Mountain Gatehouse. The photos are in the sequence of our route in case you’d like to follow in our bike tracks.
And lest we get too carried away here with history and design, let’s remember that the purpose of a bridge is to get you from here to there by going over something. In Acadia National Park, those “somethings” are bound to be beautiful. Whether a charming little brook, steep ravine, or stunning waterfall, we took our time appreciating them.