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The desert of maine 6594a58c

The Desert of Maine

Maine is the country’s most forested state, so it may come as a surprise to some that nestled within our lush forests is an expansive desert. The Desert of Maine is located just outside downtown Freeport and has been a popular tourist attraction for nearly 100 years. You can explore the dunes on foot or hop on the tram and enjoy an educational tour as you ride around the 40-acre desert. If you visit now, all you’re going to see is snow, but it’s never too early to start planning your spring or summer excursions.


If we’re going to be technical, the Desert of Maine is not a real desert. It receives too much rainfall to be classified as such. It is actually a deposit of glacial silt. Thousands of years ago, Maine was covered in glaciers, which is why we have so many mountains and such a rugged coastline. As these glaciers moved, they scraped against rocks creating small pebbles, which then eroded even further, creating glacial silt. Maine is actually covered in this sand-like silt, but most of it is hidden by a layer of topsoil.

How the Desert was Discovered

Maine’s agricultural market was expanding in the early 1800s. A man named William Tuttle wanted in on this lucrative market, so in 1821, he bought a 300-acre plot of land in Freeport. He and his family grew crops and raised sheep on their farm and were initially very successful. However, Mr. Tuttle did not properly rotate his crops as a skilled farmer should. Because of this mistake, the soil was depleted of its nutrients and eventually eroded away, revealing the glacial silt beneath. What started as a small patch of sand eventually grew into 40 acres, and the Tuttles were forced to give up their farming business. In 1919, Henry Goldrup purchased the land for a mere $300 and turned it into the tourist attraction it is today.

The Barn

William Tuttle’s original barn bearing the family name is still standing on the property. Visitors can visit the centuries-old structure and imagine what life was like all those years ago. Unfortunately, the barn has seen better days which is why Arron Sturgis from Preservation Timber Framing is going to give the building a makeover while still preserving as much of the original timber and metal as possible. Once completed, the barn will house community events, concerts and provide shelter for visitors. The people at the Desert of Maine hope you will come by and check out all their hard work when they are done.

The Desert of Maine is surrounded by a beautiful and quiet forest that is available for camping. They have 23 campsites that can be booked at a very reasonable price, and you can even bring your furry friends because the campground is pet-friendly. If you have kids, they will love playing on the new, interactive playground. All the equipment was crafted by local artisan Steve Smith of Renaissance Timber. The structures are made from hand-hewn, local wood, including some reclaimed trees removed from the property. 

-Written by Stacy Oswald & Photo by Pavel Lukovic