The Tarn as it looked last week, left, and in the early 1900s, when it was known as Little Meadow. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Weed-free Tarn only temporary

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The lack of vegetation clogging the waters of the Tarn this spring led some people to wonder if the park had decided to keep the pond beside Route 3 at the base of Dorr Mountain clear instead of letting it revert to marsh.

The answer is no.

And now, the grasses that have flourished increasingly in the Tarn over the past several years can be seen poking up through the water again.

Some area residents had urged the park to maintain the Tarn as an open, pristine body of water in which Dorr Mountain and the sky above it are reflected.

Others said that, while that was nice, it wasn’t natural and that nature should be allowed to take its course.



One thing that isn’t in dispute is that in the early years of the 20th century, the shallow depression in the valley between Dorr Mountain and Huguenot Head was a meadow with a small stream flowing through it. In fact, it was called Little Meadow.

One reason for the Tarn’s status as an iconic feature of Acadia may be its association with George Dorr, one of the park’s founders and its first superintendent.

“It may or may not have been Dorr who built a dam at the northern end of Little Meadow, but it was Dorr who called it ‘the Tarn,’” wrote Aimee Beal Church in a 2010 article about the Tarn for the “Friends of Acadia (FOA) Journal.”

She noted that, about 15 years ago, a group of longtime local residents became concerned that the Tarn was being taken over by grasses and reeds. The group asked park officials and FOA to take action “to bring back the reflecting pool they grew up with,” Church wrote.

“If the Tarn continues its reversion to meadow, its more recent history – the perfect reflection of Dorr’s golden cliffs in the morning, the fishing derbies, even the grade-school tales of Loch Ness monsters lurking in its depths – will be lost.”

To keep that from happening, the park would have had to determine that the Tarn met the criteria for designation as a culturally or historically significant landscape, and not just an attractive natural resource. To help make that determination, park officials commissioned a study by a cultural anthropologist of the relationship of local residents to the Tarn. The conclusion was that the park should not intervene.

Judy Hazen Connery, Acadia’s current natural resource specialist, said beaver activity or sedimentation or other non-human factors might alter the nature of the Tarn. But the park’s policy is not to interfere. So, it is likely that the Tarn will continue to fill in and, over time, to become a marsh and perhaps a meadow again eventually.

“That’s what [lakes and ponds] have always done, and without human intervention, that’s what they’ll continue to do,” Church observed.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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