A forty acre desert in the middle of a pine forest in Maine? Yep, it actually exists. Let’s check it out.
Last year, my kids and I trekked up to Maine to visit Sarah and her kids. Although she moved to Maine a few years ago, we try and make an effort to see each other, and are actually fairly successful with 2-3 visits a year in various states. Because, have car, will travel.
My daughter, Madeline, had Maine in her sights and desperately wanted to visit, so it was the perfect opportunity to combine it with a social call on Sarah and her crew. Despite my sister going to college and getting married in Maine (and her and her family, and our parents making several annual visits to Maine), Maddie has never been. A wrong that surely must be righted.
And despite all my own visits to Maine while my sister was in college, I had actually never heard of the Desert of Maine, which is surprising because it’s actually a pretty popular attraction.
In the late 1700’s, the Tuttle family lived on a 300 acre farm. They were quite the farming family, and produced potatoes and hay for many years. Unfortunately they neglected to rotate crops, and with so much acreage, massive soil erosion became a problem, and ultimately exposed this hidden desert underneath. They tired, without success, to control the land and bring their farm back to its glory, but the spreading sand was out of control, and the Tuttle family eventually surrendered to nature … and the overwhelming amount of sand … and let the desert take over the property. One of their original buildings, the barn, still sits on the property to this day, and, over the years, the Desert of Maine has become a popular tourist attraction.
When you pull up into the quiet gravel parking lot, you honestly have no idea what lies in wait. Because all you really see is a small, unassuming gift shop. Once you go through the gift shop, and out the back door, is when you actually come in contact with the expansive desert. With its sweeping, rolling hills in the middle of the swaying pine trees, it really is quite an amazing sight. And even more amazing to think is that it’s all completely made by nature.
You can sign up for one of the thirty minute tours, which we did, and it was quite fun and educational. We were lucky enough to be the only ones on the tour when we went, so we had the guide all to ourselves, and he took us all over the property, and explained in great length the trials and tribulations that the Tuttle family had with it.
The picture below is where a spring house is actually buried. Like, legit, underneath this sand, there is an entire house completely buried. It was a house where visitors, after frolicking in the brook, would dry off and relax. Completely buried in the sand.
Beyond visitor tours, the Desert of Maine is also host to many camping trips, weddings, and even movie sets. It is open to visitors from May through October.
There is also a Butterfly Room that you can check out while you’re visiting, an area where you can “pan for gold,” and a Sand Museum, where there are hundreds of little bottles of sand that have been sent in from all over the world.
It’s kind of an amazing place, and if you happen to find yourself in Maine, it’s totally worth a visit.
Desert of Maine
95 Desert Rd. Freeport, Me. 04032
Tel. (207) 865-6962
Hungry for more in Maine?
Our visit to the Portland Head Lighthouse & Fort Williams Park made for another gorgeous day.