Have you ever heard of a desert in Maine? Neither did we, and you can’t imagine what our faces looked like when Natalie stumbled across this hidden gem. I can still hear her high-pitched tone when she told me the title of our next destination. The misplaced desert is a rarity because of its location alone, and we weren’t going to let the opportunity slip through our fingers.
Located in a more secluded area of Freeport, Maine, the current desert wasn’t always a 40 acre stretch of sand. In 1797 William Tuttle purchased the grounds as farmland and moved his family there to raise livestock. The farm was successful for decades, but by the early 1900’s their crops died due to soil erosion from overgrazing sheep, and the growth of more and more sand. The Tuttles eventually abandoned their farm, and in 1919 Henry Goldup purchased it for $300. Goldup placed a donation jar near the entrance, and when people continued to fill it, he didn’t sleep on the possibilities the strange patch of land had to offer. The Desert Of Maine became an official tourist attraction by 1925, and in the 1950’s they even had a Camel. It unfortunately liked to spit and bite tourists, so it was sent to the zoo. A wise decision. I like the plastic ones better anyway.
Putting history aside, there are also a few attractions and fun things for kids (or big kids like myself) to do. During our tour of the desert, our guide encouraged the younger tourists to look for gem stones in the sand. I of course ignored her and dug for gems too. Other attractions were a butterfly garden, gift shop, and a farm museum located in the original Tuttle barn. Inside I was intrigued by all the old farm equipment, newspaper clippings and advertisements for the desert from yesteryear. Sand paintings of mountains, small towns, and birds were all made from the actual sand of the desert.
To this day, The Desert Of Maine continues to inform thousands of its abnormal history. As I write this post, I still can’t believe it’s there. If I didn’t live in New England, I wouldn’t believe that a desert in the northeast existed unless I saw it. Well, it does in fact exist. But if not believing will inspire you to visit, keep it up.
Nearby Attractions: Freeport USA