GET LOST IN THE DESERT
Yes, Maine has a desert-well, something that looks like a desert. It’s 40 acres of a sand in Freeport, deposited when the ice sheet that covered Maine 11,000 years ago retreated, grinding rocks and soil into glacial sill.
Maine USA Map World Photo Gallery
Topsoil covered lhe silt all over Maine. Forests grew and inhabitants as far back as the Abenaki tribes farmed the fertile soil. In the late 1700s, a farmer named Tuttle tailed to rotate his crops sufficiently to replenish the nutrients, then added the extra burden of cattle and sheep to further destroy the topsoil.
I he soil began to erode so badly that the glacial silt was revealed at first just a spot the size of a plate, but eventually 40 acres were laid bare. The sand covered farm equipment and even entire buildings. The Tuttle family abandoned the farm in the early 20 th century.
But this is America, where there’s always an entrepreneur. A man named Henry Coldrup bought the land and opened it as a tourist attraction starting in 1925.
To be a true desert, the land would have to receive a lot less rain, but the appearance of a desert is enough of an attraction to bring thousands of tourists to the site. Originally people walked the land, but now most visitors take a tram tour that lasts thirty minutes around the perimeter, during wrhich the history and geology of the land is explained.
Scientists say the Desert of Maine is an object lesson for what can happen when the land is not properly cared for. Meanwhile, the Desert has made it into Ripley’s Believe It or Not.1 From Mav to October vou can have picnics there, buy bags of mixed dirt and gemstones, and visit a farm museum.