Nature of the Park

Winter Campers
Winter in Baxter

The Park is home to numerous mountains, the two most notable clusters being the peaks comprising and surrounding the Katahdin massif and the cluster of peaks in the northern part of the Park consisting of the Traveler Range. Pink and white Katahdin granite make up the rugged mountains on the southern end of the Park while the Traveler range further to the north is composed of Rhyolite with prominent columnar jointing visible in many places. The north end also features sedimentary rock in certain localities. Glacial features are abundantly evident throughout the Park in the form of kettle ponds, eskers, moraines, erratics, the Knife Edge arête, the glacial cirques of Katahdin and the splendid U-shaped valley running north to south from the Travelers to South Turner.

The mountains combine with a wide array of ponds, lakes, streams, waterfalls and bogs to create a varied and beautiful landscape. Favorite waterfalls include Katahdin Stream Falls, Big and Little Niagara Falls and the remote Green Falls. Two of the most significant streams are Nesowadnehunk Stream and Wassataquoik Stream. Ponds such as Kidney and Daicey Ponds, Grassy Pond, Rocky Pond and the Fowler Ponds, among many others, provide excellent fishing in most cases and the chance to canoe with friends and family with the scenic north woods as a backdrop. We have numerous bogs with the associated plants, birds and wildlife unique to such areas. In the forested areas, wildlife includes moose, deer, bear, otter, mink, marten, fisher, weasel, coyote, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, woodchucks, snowshoe hare, squirrels, chipmunks, flying squirrels, mice, and voles. Avid birders enjoy the variety of environments found in the Park, resulting in sightings of many different wood warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers as well as game birds, several species of owls and hawks, and many ducks and other wetland birds. Amphibians and reptiles are representative of freshwater habitats throughout northern New England and provide our young campers some engaging encounters. Insect life is abundant and diverse, including some beautiful beetles, dragonflies and butterflies, however, the insatiable black fly seems to have achieved the greatest notoriety in the memories of some of our campers!

Moose Cow with Calf
Moose Cow with Calf

The plant life in the Park is as varied as the terrain and wildlife. From wetland plants to woodland ferns and wildflowers to alpine plants, the regular Park visitor will find a plant guide to be very useful. However, the plants that are sure to be most popular with most summer visitors are the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Just remember to check the other side of the bush to find out if a resident black bear has prior claims on the bush!

Baxter State Park was originally conceived as a park "for those who love nature and are willing to walk and make an effort to get close to nature"³ Unlike some parks which are designed to display the area via auto access, with groomed viewpoints along the road and convenient travel by automobile, the features and diversity of Baxter State Park are best seen on foot. The Park was designed primarily to be a hiking park with vehicular access on the limited and very primitive road system intended not as a means to thoroughly experience the wilderness but only as a way for visitors to reach their starting point. There are over 200 miles of trail maintained by the Park. These trails range from the heavily-used boardwalks around Sandy Stream Pond to the remote and little traveled Freezeout and rugged Northwest Basin Trail. There are moderate trails around ponds, pleasant trails to waterfalls and challenging boulder-strewn pathways up many of our mountains. All these trails must be marked, brushed out and repaired regularly by BSP's Trail Crew. Each season roughly 10 people, usually volunteers from the Student Conservation Association, along with the Trail Supervisor and two BSP Trail Crew Leaders, undertake this task. They are joined each summer by dozens of individuals who volunteer either as a group or alone to contribute their time and effort to maintain quality trail access to this Park.

³ Words of Park donor former Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter.