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Maine's Ice Age Trail, Down East

The Maine landscape is made up of many interesting features created by vast sheets of glacial ice that covered Canada and the northern United States during the Ice Age.  The Ice Age Trail will take you through one of the finest and most accessible areas of glacial moraines, deltas and eskers. It is located along the coastal “Down East” section of Maine and follows the retreating margin of the last great North American continental glacier, called the Laurentide Ice Sheet. The trail consists of stops along highways and country roads. It will take you from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, across the spectacular and remote sand barrens that are home to some of the nation’s largest wild blueberry crops, and on to the easternmost tip of the United States.

Following the Ice Age Trail

You can visit many interesting sites along the Ice Age Trail in an afternoon, or explore larger sections of the trail in day or two. As you travel the Trail, please note that much of it crosses rural areas. There are few stores, gas stations or motels, except in the larger towns, as indicated on the map. Plan your needs accordingly. The season may affect your experience; for instance, many of the blueberry barrens are quite busy during harvest time, and some coastal sites are best viewed at low tide, but the Trail can be explored year-round.

Global changes during the Ice Age

Rapid, dramatic and extreme changes in global environments have occurred during the last 2.5 million years of Earth’s history, called the Ice Age. These changes caused glaciers of continental proportions (ice sheets) to repeatedly expand and contract across northern regions of North America, Europe and Asia. Global sea level dropped during each glacial episode, as great volumes of water were held in the ice sheets. At the same time, the weight of the thick continental ice sheets was so enormous that it depressed the Earth’s crust, which later rebounded to its former level when the ice melted away. The interaction of these fluctuating land and sea levels resulted in alternate flooding and emergence of coastal areas.

Some areas of the world that are now desert became fertile during the Ice Age and supported herds of animals. The cool, moist climate produced large lakes that have since dried up or greatly diminished. Huge Arctic fauna, including mammoth, rhinoceros, reindeer, musk ox and bison, lived on the tundra and grassland that covered most of Europe and parts of North America south of the ice sheets. And finally, the last 2.5 million years saw the evolution of modern humans.