One of Acadia’s most unique features is the 57 miles of “carriage roads”, roads that wander throughout the park and are designated to be used only by hikers, bicyclists, horses, and in the winter cross-country skiers.
These roads were designed and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr., who also donated over 11,000 acres of his private property to help form the National Park. The roads were built between 1913 and 1940. At the time of their construction, many miles of the road were on his private land which was later donated to the park.
A typical look at one of Carriage Roads
I personally find it interesting that a man whose family made their fortune from oil (the Rockefellers owned Standard Oil Company), was so passionate about developing a system of roads prohibiting automobiles, roads that would enhance nature and afford easier enjoyment of the beauty of this place without the noise of the machine powered by gasoline.
Mr. Rockefeller’s approach was to reveal beauty, not make a beautiful arrangement. His granddaughter describes it as follows in her book ” Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads” :
“the grade of each segment, the degree of curvature, and the line of the road had to carry viewers so smoothly from one spot to another that they would not be aware of the transitions. The elements, bridges, gate houses, culverts, and the roadbeds themselves are appropriate to their particular function, each designed for its place. The reforestation and extensive roadside plantings were designed to let the roads blend back into the landscape.”
The entry way to one of the bridges
The views were of utmost importance in the design of the roads. For example, today I hiked a five-mile loop of the carriage roads known as “Sargent Mountain Road”. As I approached the crest of the hill, I could hear water, but could not see it. The crest of the road curved up and away to my left. When I reached the crest I was rewarded with a view of one of the beautiful bridges (man-made art) on my left and a beautiful 40 foot waterfall (natural art) on my right.
Hadlock Brook Waterfall
- Bridge over Hadlock Brook on Sargent Mountain Road
Some of the roads offer grand vistas overlooking mountains, lakes, and ocean. Others are more subtle, moving the hiker through woods and near streams and small ponds. Some combine both grand and humble elements.
Today, my hike took me over three bridges. The first pictures above was a large structure (note the size of the hiker in the yellow shirt for perspective). The last bridge I crossed was tiny by comparison, but equally impressive not for its grandeur but for its charm.
Small bridge of Hadlock Brook
Today the roads and bridges are maintained by the park service as well as various volunteer organizations, including the one where I am volunteering, Friends of Acadia (see link).
In part two of my discussion of the carriage roads, I will discuss the materials and manpower needed to achieve this unique element in Acadia National Park.
I should add that my walk today was enhanced by temperatures of 45 degrees, sunshine, blue sky and puffy white clouds, and the sighting of a hawk, most likely a redtail.
Upper Hadlock Pond
Source: “Mr Rockefeller’s Roads. The untold story of Acadia’s Carriage roads and their creator”. by Ann Rockefeller Roberts. Published by Down East Books, copyright, 1990.