Baxter State Park
|Baxter State Park|
Katahdin rises above Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter State Park.
|Location||Piscataquis County, Maine, United States|
|Area||209,501 acres (848 km2)|
|Established||March 3, 1931|
|Visitors||63,000 (in 2008)|
|Governing body||Baxter State Park Authority|
The park was established by 28 donations of land, in trust, from park donor Percival P. Baxter between the years of 1931 and 1962, eventually creating a park of over 200,000 acres (809 km2) in size. Baxter Park is not part of the Maine State Park system. Sole governance is provided by the Baxter State Park Authority, consisting of the Maine Attorney General, the Maine Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Director of the Maine Forest Service. The park is independently funded through a combination of revenues from trusts, user fees, and the sale of forest products from the park's Scientific Forest Management Area. The park is home to the state's highest peak, Mount Katahdin. The number of visitors to the park declined from 75,000 in 2000 to 55,000 in 2005, but since 2005 visitor use has been slowly increasing.
Geography and climate
Mount Katahdin consists of a cluster of mountains. The highest peak, Baxter Peak, is named after park donor and former Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter and rises up to 5,267 feet (1,605 m). The mountain is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
There are many bodies of water in the park. The three largest bodies of water are Grand Lake Matagamon, Webster Lake, and Nesowadnehunk Lake. There are also several smaller ponds, such as Hudson, Draper, Russell, Center and the South Branch ponds. Numerous streams and rivers connect these water bodies, most prominently Trout Brook (between Grand Lake Matagamon and Nesowadnehunk Lake) and Nesowadnehunk Stream (connecting Nesowadnehunk Lake and the small collection of ponds near Sentinel Mountain). Some of these have waterfalls; Nesowadnehunk Stream has Big and Little Niagara Falls, as well as Ledge Falls. Wassataquoik Stream has two waterfalls, Grand and Norway; another popular waterfall is Green Falls, tucked between Bald Mt. and South Pogy Mt. None of this water is potable, and the park advises that visitors bring or treat their water.
The climate of Baxter State Park lies within the Northern Forest Region of the American continent and experiences the cool, moist climate typical of this region. The annual mean temperature is 38.6 °F (3.7 °C); the record high temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 °C), and the record low stands at minus 45 °F (−43 °C). The average annual precipitation is 37 inches, which includes 100 inches (2,500 mm) per year of snow. Summer temperatures and conditions peak in the park in July and August; fall foliage colors begin to emerge in early September and peak in late September or early October. Leaf-fall in deciduous trees is complete by the end of October. Lasting snowfall usually begins in mid-to-late November, and lasts through April. Leaves emerge on deciduous trees around the last week of May. Weather in Baxter State Park can be characterized primarily by its variability; snowfall can occur any month of the year, and temperatures can and do fluctuate widely around the averages.
Baxter State Park has a diverse population of wildlife, the most common of which are the moose, the black bear, and the white-tailed deer. These animals are most active during the summer months and can sometimes be seen from the road. The many marshes and bogs of the park serve as habitats for such animals as beavers, muskrats, otters, and raccoons. There are several active beaver colonies within the park's perimeters. Wooded areas of the park support other types of wildlife, including bobcats, fishers, martens, weasels, chipmunks, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, coyotes, lemmings, and red foxes. There is also an avian population in the park; the most common birds are warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers as well as owls, hawks, eagles, and ducks and other wetland birds.
The park was a gift to the people of Maine from Governor Percival P. Baxter, who used his personal wealth over a 32-year period to purchase and donate the original 201,018 acres (813 km2) of the park starting with a 6,000 acres (24 km2) purchase in 1930 from the Great Northern Paper Company. Since Gov. Baxter's death in 1969 the park has been increased to a total of 209,501 acres (848 km2), including the 2006 addition of a parcel of 4,678 acres (19 km2) and spectacular Katahdin Lake. Park Headquarters is located over twenty miles (32 km) from the actual park in the small town of Millinocket. There are no stores or gas stations inside the park. Access and use are strictly regulated in accordance with Gov. Baxter's expressed desire to keep the park "forever wild." Baxter wrote of the area: "Man is born to die, his work short lived; buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes, but Katahdin, in all its glory, shall forever remain the mountain of the people of Maine. Throughout the ages it will stand as an inspiration to the men and women of the state."
Inside the park boundary there is no electricity, running water, or paved roads. In keeping with the "Forever Wild" philosophy expressed by Gov. Baxter, the park prohibits the use of audio or visual devices in any way that impairs the enjoyment of the park by others or that may disturb or harass wildlife. Winter hiking and camping regulations have been recently revised to provide more freedom for park visitors, coupled with a clear understanding that park visitors must take responsibility for their safety in the often unforgiving winter environment of the park.
The park is open to overnight summer camping from May 15 to October 15 and winter camping from December 1 to March 31. Only northbound long distance Appalachian Trail hikers can stay in the park without reservations; they are limited to one night's stay at The Birches camping area, which is limited to the first twelve hikers to sign in at an information kiosk several southbound trail miles away just inside the park's southern boundary.
In addition to hiking and camping, approximately 25% of the park is open to hunting and trapping (with the exception of moose hunting). Park ponds and streams are open to either fly fishing or general law fishing as determined by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Baxter State Park Authority. Snowmobiling is permitted on the Tote Road, the 46-mile (74 km) dirt road connecting the park's south gate at Togue Pond and the north gate at Matagamon. The park also includes a Scientific Forest Management Area of 29,587 acres (120 km2) located in its northwest corner. Park donor Percival Baxter directed that this area be managed for exemplary forest management. The area has been under active management for over 20 years and conducts sustainable, Forest Stewardship Council-certified management.
Police protection within the park is provided by the park's Law Enforcement Ranger staff and local Maine IF&W Wardens. Fire protection provided by the Maine Forest Service; waste disposal and recycling is addressed through the park's Carry-In, Carry-Out policy. Maintenance is done by the many volunteer workers and paid employees of the park. The current Park Director is Jensen Bissell.
- Katahdin Section, Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine, 7th Edition, Myron Avery, Helon Taylor, and Jean Stephenson
- Soares, Liz. All for Maine: The Story of Governor Percival P. Baxter. Windswept House Publishers (1996). ISBN 1-883650-17-8