Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1930

Mount Katahdin, at 5,269 feet, is the highest peak in Maine and the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The surrounding area features hundreds of lakes, streams, and waterfalls, wildlife are abundant, and prominent features of Ice Age glaciation are on display. While he was governor of Maine from 1921 to 1925, Percival Baxter tried to persuade legislators to conserve Katahdin. He failed. After leaving office, Baxter put his money where his mouth was—buying the peak and 6,000 surrounding acres in 1930, then making them a gift to the people of his state. Over the next 32 years he continued to purchase additional parcels, assembling what is now a state park of 210,000 acres, containing 40 peaks besides Katahdin. Baxter also left a trust fund of $7 million to ensure there would be money to manage the park properly without pressing on Maine taxpayers. Today about 75 percent of the Baxter State Park operates as a wildlife sanctuary, 53,000 acres are open to hunting and trapping, there are 215 miles of popular trails, and ten campgrounds. Baxter designated 30,000 acres to be managed as a showplace for timbering and sound commercial forestry. What the state refused to do, private initiative accomplished to great public benefit. In Baxter’s words, “Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes. But Katahdin in all its glory forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.”