Baxter State Park –- One of
Maine's Great Natural Resources
By Cliff Calderwood
Baxter State Park in north-central Maine is a nature lover's delight. This great natural resource is home to a wealth of sights, sounds, and activities for the camping and hiking enthusiast to enjoy. At center stage is Mount Katahdin truly one of the great peaks in the Appalachian chain, and the northern terminus of the 2,167-mile Appalachian Trail. But as you'll discover in this destination article Baxter State Park is also a resource for many others outdoors adventures.
Baxter State Park is situated in Piscataquis County and deep in The Maine Highlands region. Its more than 200,000 acres of land offers a spacious spread of inspiring wilderness filled with an assortment of flora and fauna and an intoxicating breath of fresh air.
It's truly one of the last great wilderness areas in New England.
How One Man Made a Difference:
With a history that dates back to 1930, Baxter State Park exists thanks to the efforts of one man - Percival P. Baxter.
Baxter was Governor of Maine from 1921 to 1925. Over the course of 30 years, he personally granted or helped with the purchase of most of the land that currently lies within the park boundary.
Governor Baxter conditioned his gift to the state with the requirement it stay wild - a place where recreation would take a back seat to preservation of the resource. And so you won't find fancy lodging, stores or gas stations within the park - no electricity, paved roads, or running water.
Everything about Baxter State Park keeps the encroachment of man to a minimum. For example you can take in your cell phones and stereo but you're prohibited from turning them on, and the park strictly adopts a "carry-in carry-out" policy for waste.
Baxter State Park is foremost a mountain park, a place of 46 peaks and ridges, and hikes that offer expansive views of remote areas. Whether you hike the thrilling Knife Edge on Mount Katahdin itself, or choose a less dramatic trail in the Katahdin range, you'll discover nooks and crannies on route to stir your wonder. With a cluster of inviting peaks, you'll encounter dazzling sights of pink and white granite, interesting glacial features, and breathtaking valleys.
Your Front Row Seat to an Emporium of Wildlife:
But it's not just the mountain peaks that attract visitors. The landscape provides the perfect backdrop and surroundings for the activities of canoeing, fishing and swimming at any of the larger bodies of water such as Grand Lake Matagamon, Webster Lake, and Nesowadnehunk Lake.
Baxter foresaw the park supporting a rich diversity of wildlife, and a summer visit these days can include sightings of white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcats and the regal moose - sometimes, these creatures can be seen while traveling on the park roads. In addition, the state park's marshes and bogs shelter the habitats of critters, such as otters, muskrats, beavers, and raccoons, and insects such as colorful beetles and dancing dragonflies.
Where there's insects you'll find birds, and the treetops and skies of Baxter State Park are filled with the sound and display of many different birds, including warblers, hawks, owls, thrushes, flycatchers, ducks, and other birds that thrive about the wetlands. Additional Baxter State Park residents include coyotes, red foxes, lemmings, snowshoe hares, and martens.
A Hikers and Backpackers Paradise:
Baxter's climate is typical for its northern forest location - cool and moist and a short growing cycle. The park is always ready for whatever nature throws at, but many human visitors are not. It can snow anytime of the year, and a summer's day can be a raw 40 degrees or a sweltering 90 degrees. Many unprepared hikers are caught unaware of the changing weather patterns, and above timberline this can be life-threatening. Spring comes late to Baxter in May, and fall early in September.
This climate makes the peak time of the year to visit Baxter State Park the months of summer and fall. July and August can see long lines at the entrance gates to get in so plan to arrive early.
Visitors come to Baxter to get connected with nature, and so the park welcomes tent campers and backpackers. Overnight campsites are available from May 15th to October 15th. As for extended hiking stays, visitors with the intention to explore the Appalachian Trail in Maine are allowed to reside in the park without a reservation for one night when traveling to The Birches camping area. This privilege is limited to the first 12 hikers to grab a spot at the information kiosk located inside the southern boundary of the park – my advice is to get there early!
If you're considering a backpacking trip throughout Baxter, smaller outlying campsites near ponds such as those at Russell, Hudson and Chimney Pond, are scattered throughout the park and provide the bare minimum of shelter. Or you may prefer to pitch a tent at a campground close to one of the many streams and rivers in the park, such as the popular Trout Brook Farm, Roaring Brook, or Katahdin Stream Campground.
An important aside to remember about river and stream water is none of its deemed safe to drink; therefore overnight stays require an ample supply of bottled water.
Mount Katahdin - The Highest Point In Maine:
It's difficult not to succumb to the urge to climb mile-high Mount Katahdin once you see it. Towering over everything it's central to the Baxter Park experience, and the reason many visit. This is a climb not to be taken lightly though. The average round trip is a 10-mile trek of rugged terrain and a vertical rise of 4,000-feet, with much exposed above tree line. Ensure you're adequately prepared and know the weather forecast for climb day.
The most direct route up Katahdin is on the Abol Trail and so it tends to be popular. Other routes include the Hunt Trail – along the Appalachian Trail – and Chimney Pond Trail. The not-for-the-faint-of-heart Knife Edge connects the peaks of Pamola and Baxter – at 5,267-feet the highest point in Maine – yes, the view is stunning.
When climbing in the mountains, it's important to carry at least two quarts of water per person. As a safety measure, you should also bring along a flashlight. Additional essentials for hiking in the mountains and exploring other parts of the park include extra food and clothing, sturdy footwear, first aid, map, guidebook, matches, and compass.
Hiking at the lower elevations though less demanding on the body still excites the senses, and walks to waterfalls is always a popular pastime in Maine's backcountry. Baxter State Park doesn't disappoint with its own waterfall collection, providing "worth-the-trouble" viewpoints at Ledge Falls, as well as Big and Little Niagara Falls along Nesowadnehunk Stream, while Green Falls draws admirers to the Bald Mountain and South Pogy Mountain area.
Baxter State Park only reveals its hidden jewels to those willing to traverse its 200 miles of trails on foot. The roads get you to the starting points, but the real experience starts just a few steps from the car – ready for an adventure?
The official web site of the park is here. http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/
The nearest town with lodging if you need clean sheets is Millinocket. Millinocket lodging
I heartily recommend the AMC – Mountain Guide if you decide to visit Baxter State Park as it covers many of the trails in the park.
the AMC – Mountain Guide
TAGS: Baxter State Park, Percival P. Baxter,
Maine,Mount Katahdin,knife edge, Chimney Pond trail, Nesowadnehunk Stream, Bald Mountain, South Pogy Mountain, moose