Unique Natural Areas
With its spectacular coast and mountainous interior, Maine is something of a natural wonderland. Many states have coastlines. Many states have mountains and woods – few have them both in quite the way that Pine Tree State does. Scenic gorges, tall peaks, thundering sea caves, remote beaches, old growth woods, rare alpine gardens, whitewater canyons, precipitous island cliffs, puffin nesting areas, whale feeding grounds, cascading waterfalls – all can be found here. And thanks to the efforts of conservation groups and the State of Maine, many of these treasures have been preserved in perpetuity.
What does this mean to you? Fantastic opportunities to see a wide variety of rare and special natural sights. There are a number of places to start a search for unique natural areas. The state's park system was founded largely to protect – and make available – some of Maine's finest features. Where you find a state park, you'll likely find a unique natural treasure. At Grafton Notch State Park, for example, there are deep waterfalls and gorges that are, well, gorgeous, and unlike anyplace else in Maine. At Quoddy Head State Park are towering cliffs above the surf – and a bog of rare plants. The state's only national park – Acadia – is also world-renowned for its spectacular, and one-of-a-kind, natural sites.
The Maine Department of Conservation's Natural Areas Program is another great state resource. Not only does it help preserve sensitive places, it also oversees 84,000 acres of ecological reserves. Most are part of the Maine's public lands program. Think of these “units” as informal state parks. At Mount Abraham, east of Rangeley, you can see the largest alpine habitat outside Baxter State Park. In the bogs and ponds of Scraggly Lake you can find more than 200 of the state's indigenous species.. A free map and guide, highlighting the recreational features of all these areas, can be found at the following link.
The state also publishes a book entitled Natural Landscapes of Maine that thoroughly catalogs the state's biodiversity and unusual regions. Tuck a copy in your backpack and you're off to see some of the most memorable of Maine's natural features.
Don't forget to check with Registered Maine Guides in regions you plant to visit – many are specialists in these sorts of things – and also inquire at chambers of commerce. Several of the state's conservation organizations – like Maine Audubon and the Nature Conservancy – have their own networks of preserves and many of these are located on unique sites.