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Acadia's Eagle Lake

Publisher Partner DownEast Magazine

We periodically publish content from DownEast Magazine, The Magazine of Maine. Dedicated to evoking and illuminating the spirit and culture of Maine at its best.

Size: 437 acres
Maximum depth: 110 feet
Water visibility: 36 feet

If there is one word that describes Eagle Lake, it would have to be pristine. Located just a couple of miles up Route 233 from Bar Harbor this particular pond has served for more than a century as the source of the tourist town's drinking water. And as such, it has come to represent the delicate d6tente that has emerged between developers and conservationists on Mount Desert Island. Even as rusticators' estates and, later, hotels and camps spread across the island during the nineteenth century, Eagle Lake – named by artists of the Hudson River School for the eagles spotted soaring overhead – remained relatively pristine, save for the Lake House and Curran House, two small hotels. The small steamer Wauwinnet brought guests across the lake to the Green Mountain Cog Railroad, which briefly made a run up Cadillac Mountain.

By the turn of the century, however, the railroad was gone and the Wauwinnet lay at the bottom of the lake. In 1910, though, rusticator Philip Livingston's proposal to build a cottage on the lake's east shore caused local conservationists such as George B. Dorr to take note. "While the threat might be small in and of itself, they feared it was a harbinger of other cottages that would soon follow," wrote a National Park Service report in 2005. Dorr, considered the father of Sieur de Monts National Monument and later Acadia National Park, joined the Bar Harbor Water Company and helped it buy up all of the land surrounding the lake, eventually including Livingston's property, as a way to safeguard against a typhoid outbreak like the one that hit Bar Harbor wells in 1873.

The only man-made incursion near the lake in the past three-quarters of a century has been the construction of Rockefeller's carriage roads, an alteration that has proven to provide access without intrusion, as some 30 percent of all users of the carriage roads enter through the Eagle Lake gate. (A third gate lodge, in addition to the one at Jordan Pond and Brown Mountain Gate Lodge, near Northeast Harbor, was planned for this spot but was never built.) Because the lake continues to provide municipal drinking water swimming is prohibited, though anglers may fish for the togue, landlocked salmon, and brook trout stocked regularly.

Excerpted from the article by Joshua F. Moore in the June 2008 issue of DownEast Magazine.

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