DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT: Quoddy Head State Park
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“The passage through all of the rocky galleries of the Pine Tree Coast culminates at Quoddy Bay in a masterpiece.” -Samual Adams Drake, The Pine Tree Coast.
If you follow Route 1 up the coast of Maine you’ll eventually, though maybe briefly, find yourself in a little village called Whiting. At this juncture the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to turn right on 189 and before long you’ll be in the town of Lubec, and approaching land’s end. Land’s end happens to be Quoddy Head State Park.
‘Quoddy’ comes from Passamaquoddy, the name of the local Native American tribe, and means ‘a fertile and beautiful place’. The cliffs and rocky coastline date back about 400 million years and are the remnants of ancient lava flows. Of particular interest to geography buffs is Sail Rock, just east of the park’s coastline, which has the distinction of being the easternmost point of land in the continental United States.
We visit mostly for the birds, of course, as many of Maine’s most-wanted species can be found within the park. These include Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Spruce Grouse, and Boreal Chickadee – all of which nest within the 541 acres that make up this beautiful and rugged reserve.
Additionally, the park hosts five miles of hiking trails through gorgeous coastal spruce and hemlock habitat; plus the beautiful lighthouse, the most striking manmade feature of the park. The lighthouse greets you as you drive down the entrance road. The peppermint-striped Quoddy Lighthouse enjoys a long and storied history, especially among maritime fans and lighthouse aficionados, of which I am one. So please excuse me for a moment while I geek out about this lighthouse, which has been making local maritime navigation safe for over 200 years.
The original ‘West Passmaquoddy Head Light’ was commissioned by president Thomas Jefferson and authorized by Congress in 1806, and completed in April of 1808 at a cost of $5,000, about $80,000 today. Due to it’s remote location, especially in the early days, it was considered a tough outpost and the light keepers, who often had large families to support, were among the best paid in their line of work. It was made of wood. Later, in 1820, one of the nation’s first fog bells was installed. The brick and mortar light was completed in 1858. It is 49 feet in height and 83 feet above sea level at the center of the lantern, which still utilizes it’s original third-order Fresnel lens, one of the last of its kind on the eastern seaboard. The light is visible up to 18 miles offshore. It’s light pattern is a two second flash, two seconds of darkness, a two second flash, and nine seconds of darkness.
Quoddy Head is well worth the visit for both the human history and natural history and whether you visit on a Wildside tour or on your own it should not be missed!