When you think of Maine, images of rugged coastlines, lighthouses, and lobster boats likely come to mind. But nestled in the heart of Freeport, a small town known for its outlet shopping and the world-famous L.L. Bean flagship store, lies a geological wonder that defies these typical New England stereotypes. The Desert of Maine, a 40-acre expanse of glacial silt, is a unique and enigmatic beauty that attracts thousands of visitors each year. This unexpected desert, surrounded by pine forests, is a testament to the power of nature and the resilience of the land. It’s a place where the unexpected becomes the norm, and where the beauty of the desert landscape merges with the charm of New England in a way that is truly unforgettable.

The History of the Desert of Maine

The Desert of Maine wasn’t always a desert. In fact, it was once a thriving farm owned by the Tuttle family in the late 18th century. The Tuttles made the mistake of over-farming and not rotating their crops, which led to soil erosion. Over time, a patch of sand began to appear, which quickly spread and eventually swallowed the entire farm. Despite their best efforts to halt the desertification process, the Tuttles were forced to abandon their farm in 1919. The land was purchased by Henry Goldrup in 1925, who turned it into a tourist attraction.

Geological Significance

Despite its name, the Desert of Maine is not a true desert. It’s actually a glacial silt deposit, also known as “sand.” Around 11,000 years ago, glaciers covered much of North America. As they retreated, they left behind large deposits of sand and silt. The sand at the Desert of Maine is incredibly fine, often compared to the consistency of brown sugar. This unique geological feature provides a fascinating glimpse into the Earth’s past and the powerful forces that shape our landscapes.

Visiting the Desert of Maine

Visiting the Desert of Maine is like stepping into another world. The contrast between the lush green forests of Maine and the stark, sandy landscape of the desert is striking. The desert offers a variety of activities for visitors. You can take a guided tour, hike the trails, explore the sand dunes, or even search for gemstones. The desert is also home to a butterfly house and a farm museum, providing fun and educational experiences for all ages.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are a popular way to explore the Desert of Maine. These tours provide a wealth of information about the desert’s history, geology, and ecology. You’ll learn about the desertification process, the unique plant and animal life that inhabit the desert, and the efforts to preserve this unique landscape. The tours are both informative and entertaining, making them a must-do for any visitor.

Hiking and Exploration

For those who prefer a more hands-on experience, the Desert of Maine offers several hiking trails. These trails wind through the sand dunes, offering stunning views of the desert landscape. Along the way, you’ll see a variety of plant and animal life, including the desert’s famous “sand trees.” These trees have been completely engulfed by the shifting sands, leaving only their tops visible.

Butterfly House and Farm Museum

The Butterfly House is a favorite among younger visitors. Here, you can observe a variety of butterfly species in a lush, tropical setting. The Farm Museum, on the other hand, offers a glimpse into the desert’s past. The museum is housed in the original Tuttle barn and contains a collection of antique farm equipment and artifacts from the desert’s farming days.

Preservation Efforts

Despite its popularity as a tourist attraction, the Desert of Maine is also a site of important conservation efforts. The current owners are committed to preserving the desert and educating visitors about the importance of sustainable farming practices. They have implemented a number of conservation measures, including planting grasses and shrubs to stabilize the sand and prevent further erosion.


The Desert of Maine is a testament to the power of nature and the resilience of the land. It’s a place where the unexpected becomes the norm, and where the beauty of the desert landscape merges with the charm of New England in a way that is truly unforgettable. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply looking for a unique adventure, the Desert of Maine is an unmissable gem.

TOWN OF WINSLOW, MAINE REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING & PUBLIC HEARINGS December 8, 2003 AGENDA 7:00 P. M.   PUBLIC HEARINGS: (Reconsider) Resolution No. 25-2003:   Authorization for the Kennebec Valley Council of                                                Governments to Apply on Behalf of the Town of Winslow                                                 for Participation in the Pine Tree Zones. Or...

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