11 Pristine Facts About Acadia National Park

istock
istock

Maine’s Acadia National Park was the first national park east of the Mississippi River, and while it might not be as renowned as some of its Western brethren, it’s every bit as spectacular. 

1. Most of the Park Sits on Mount Desert Island. 

While the park extends to some surrounding islands and a peninsula, the bulk of the park is on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. While the park is known for its incredible, lush vegetation, the “desert” part of its name makes some sense when you know the history. Famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed by the island in 1604, noticed the bare, rocky tops of its mountains, and gave it the French name L'Isle des Monts Déserts, or “the island of barren mountains.” When this name migrated into English, it became Mount Desert Island. 

2. Two Men Helped Bring the Park to Life. 

In the 19th century, wealthy East Coast residents realized Mount Desert Island was an ideal vacation destination, and many of them started building opulent, mansion-like “cottages” on the island. Harvard president Charles W. Eliot was one of these “cottagers,” and his son, a landscape architect also named Charles, was a fan of the island as well. The younger Eliot passed away when he was just 38, but not before passionately advocating for the state of Maine to preserve its coastal areas against encroaching commercialism. 

Charles W. Eliot heeded his late son’s words and sprang into action in 1901 by forming the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to buy up local wilderness lands and maintain them for public use. One of Eliot’s key recruits was George Bucknam Dorr, an island resident who became so committed to the cause that he would later be known as “the father of Acadia National Park.” 

3. Almost All of the Land Came from Private Donations. 

In Dorr, Eliot found the perfect point man for preserving the island. Dorr spent decades buying up available parcels of land with his own money and convincing other wealthy landowners to donate their own tracts for preservation. By 1913 it was clear that in order to preserve their work, Dorr, Eliot, and their allies would need the help of the federal government, and in 1916 the land – which had become an irregularly shaped plot that wrapped around tracts that were still in private hands – became a national monument. 

Even after getting this monument status for the project, Dorr continued spending his inheritance and coaxing other landowners to donate property, and the park kept on growing. Eventually, the park would grow to over 35,000 acres with another 12,000 acres of private land managed by the National Park Service under conservation easements.

4. It Hasn’t Always Been Called Acadia. 

The park has had three official names, all of them sporting heavy French influences. When the park opened on July 8, 1916, it was called Sieur de Monts National Monument. This name reflected the impact of Pierre Dugua, Sieur du Monts, a French nobleman and colonist who served as the early 17th century lieutenant governor of New France. While Dugua’s title remains on a spring within the park, when the area became a national park on February 26, 1919, it took the name Lafayette National Park in a nod to the Marquis de Lafayette. On January 19, 1929, the name again switched to Acadia National Park, a callback to the 17th and 18th century French colony of the same name that included the park’s land. 

5. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Made a Lasting Contribution to the Park. 

Oil heir and philanthropist Rockefeller was one of the most generous donors to the park, eventually contributing 11,000 acres of land. His bigger impact, though, came from designing, funding, and overseeing the creation of an intricate system of carriage roads that crisscrossed the island. Rockefeller wanted to be able to traverse the island without interference from cars, and the 45 miles of carriage roads he helped create between 1913 and 1940 gave visitors an easy way to enjoy all the beauty the island had to offer. 

6. Rockefeller left his “teeth” on the island. 

Rockefeller’s meticulously designed and landscaped carriage roads contain several notable features, including cedar signposts and striking stone bridges. Perhaps the most memorable are the large coping stones that serve as the roads’ answer to guardrails. These massive, irregularly shaped and arranged blocks of granite are nicknamed “Rockefeller’s teeth.” 

7. The roads had to be reclaimed from the wilderness. 

Rockefeller maintained the roads until his death in 1960, at which point the National Park Service took on the massive task of keeping the network clear. As manpower and funding became tight, road maintenance fell by the wayside, and by the mid-1980s, Rockefeller’s byways had become overgrown. Luckily, Friends of Acadia and the park service teamed up for an $8 million restoration project, and today the roads are again enjoyed by horseback riders, hikers, and other outdoorsy types. 

8. A Fire Gutted the Park In 1947. 

Picturesque Mount Desert Island suffered a crushing blow in late October 1947 when a fire sparked following months of drought. The wildfire quickly spread, and by the time it was finally extinguished, it had engulfed 10,000 acres of Acadia and millions of dollars’ worth of local residences and businesses. Luckily for nature lovers, it takes more than fire to keep a good park down. Locals rebuilt their homes, and many of the sprawling estates of 19th century vacationers gave way to amenities for parkgoers. Nature took its course, and trees quickly began growing again. The National Park Service explains that while the island’s forests have seen their composition change with birch and aspen replacing pre-fire mainstays like spruce and fir, these evergreens will gradually work their way back into the mix. 

9. You Won’t Find a Higher View on the East Coast. 

One of the park’s peaks, Cadillac Mountain, is the East Coast’s tallest mountain. At 1,530 feet, it offers incredible views from its pink granite summit. As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, if you want to find a higher peak on the Atlantic coast, you’d have to trek all the way down to Rio de Janeiro. 

10. It’s a Great Place to Spot a Bird of Prey. 

Cadillac Mountain may be tall, but it’s not too tall for raptors that migrate south for the winter. From August through early October, birdwatchers, rangers, and volunteers team up for Hawk Watch to monitor and count the birds flying through the region. As Friends of Acadia notes, these watchers typically spot around 2,500 birds a year, so if you’ve been curious about what a peregrine looks like mid-flight, Acadia is the place for you. 

11. Now is the Perfect Time to Visit. 

Everyone from U.S. News & World Report to the National Park Service itself say that October is an ideal month to visit Acadia. The summer crowds have thinned out, but the fall foliage is becoming spectacular. The Park Service says the autumn leaves reach their zenith in mid-October, but if you’re in the leaf-viewing mood, you can always track the state of the local trees with the state of Maine’s official fall foliage website.

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

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iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

7 International Names for American Products

Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

While available around the world, American products aren't always called by their red-white-and-blue names. Companies have to adapt to various languages and cultures, and what works stateside doesn't always translate. Here are seven American goods with unfamiliar international names.

1. Hungry Jack's (Burger King in Australia)

A Hungry Jack's drive thru sign
A Hungry Jacks sign in Bathurst, New South Wales

In 1971, Jack Cowin bought the Australian franchise for Burger King from Pillsbury Company (which owned the chain at the time). But because the name was already registered in Australia, he used the name Hungry Jack—originally an American pancake mix—instead. In 1999, Burger King began opening restaurants under its own name in Australia, but they combined with Hungry Jack's in 2003.

2. Doritos Cool American (Doritos Cool Ranch in Europe)

Cool American Doritos on a shelf
Cool American Doritos in Iceland
Funky Tee, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Cool Ranch is one of the most popular Doritos flavors in the United States. However, in many parts of Europe, the flavor is known as Cool American because Europeans often call Ranch sauce "American" sauce. Very cool, indeed.

3. Coca-Cola Light (Diet Coke in Europe)

Diet Coke is called "Coca-Cola Light" throughout Europe. The soft drink is exactly the same as its American counterpart, but the word light is associated more with lower-calorie items in Europe than diet.

4. TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in Ireland)

A TK Maxx in London
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for TK Maxx

The American department store TJ Maxx is known as TK Maxx in Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Australia and parts of Europe. Its parent company, TJX Companies, re-named it so Irish and British customers wouldn't confuse the store with the established retailer TJ Hughes, which is quite popular in the UK.

5. Kraft Dinner (Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in Canada)

Boxes of Kraft Dinner wrapped in plastic
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Canada, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is known as Kraft Dinner or simply KD. Kraft introduced the product as Kraft Dinner in both Canada and the United States in 1937. However, in the late '50s, Kraft added the words macaroni & cheese to its packaging of Kraft Dinner when the term gained more prominence. It wasn't until the '70s that Kraft Canada started using bilingual labeling (French and English) on all of its packaging. As a result, Canadian Kraft products included the words Kraft Dinner in a bigger and bolder font on one side of the box with Díner Kraft on the other side. The words macaroni & cheese were in a smaller font, so Canadians adopted it as merely Kraft Dinner. (Americans can buy a box of the Canadian version for themselves on Amazon.)

6. Meister Proper (Mr. Clean in Germany)

Bottles of Meister Proper on store shelves
Alf van Beem, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
 

Procter & Gamble’s Mr. Clean is a global product, so its name has been translated into various languages, including Maestro Limpio in Mexico, Monsieur Propre in France, and Meister Proper in Germany. It’s the same product—with the same sailor mascot—as you can find in the United States.

7. Walkers Potato Crisps (Lay's Potato Chips in the UK)

Walkers potato chips on a shelf
Ben Babcock, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Founded in 1948, Walkers quickly became the United Kingdom’s leading potato crisps snack food company. However, Pepsi acquired Walkers and re-branded it with the Lay’s logo and products in 1989. The snack food is exactly the same, but PepsiCo decided to keep the Walkers name to ensure customer brand loyalty in the United Kingdom. Walkers also has more exotic flavors than its American counterpart, including American Cheeseburger, Lamb & Mint, and South African Sweet Chutney. Adventurous Americans can get some of them, including Prawn Cocktail, Tomato Ketchup, and Worcester Sauce as well as a variety of different meat flavors on Amazon.

A version of this article first ran in 2016.

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