Acadia National Park – Big Heath / Seawall Bog

Many of the adventures I find myself going on starts with map. I often browse field guides, topographic maps on a wall or in a travel pamphlet, or my favorite method: Google Maps on satellite imagery. Browsing around this way, zooming into random locations lets me discover all the nooks and crannies that I would have never heard of or found otherwise. This particular bog discovery, however, started by reading a section on Acadia National Park in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England (Alden 1998). I’ve had this book since I was in college and have taken it with me on a lot of trips. It’s been very useful in helping to acquaint myself with the flora, fauna, and recreational opportunities in the Northeast. If you live in this region or plan on visiting, I highly recommend this book!

In describing this bog, Alden writes, “Located at the southern end of the western lobe of Mount Desert Island along Rte. 102A, this area and the two woodlands in the next entry (Wonderland and Ship Harbor) are three highlights of any naturalist’s sojourn at Acadia. In the 420-acre Big Heath, Palm Warblers and Common Yellowthroats nest among Swamp Pink orchids, Bog-laurel, Bog-rosemary, and Labrador Tea. Carnivorous pitcher-plants and sundews are common on the spreading mats of Peat Moss. In order to minimize disturbance to the fragile plant life, please keep to the paths.”

This description peaked my curiosity, so I knew I had to incorporate a stop here in a trip I planned to take with my boyfriend in mid-June 2020. Disclaimer: I am very fortunate to live in Maine and had the incredibly unique opportunity to visit the Park while most of the country and world is cut off from travel and overnight visits due to state-mandated self-quarantine and social distancing measures during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During our visit, there were so few guests, it almost felt like we had the park to ourselves. There was not a minute that went by where I didn’t appreciate the truly unique opportunity we were experiencing.

So after reading this short entry in my field guide, I turned to the internet to find the trailhead for the bog as the field guide suggests one exists, but nothing that I found mentioned an actual path into the bog, just wildlife viewing from the road. This meant that my boyfriend and I would have to do some on-the-ground reconnaissance once in the park. We made our way to the West Lobe, found the Wonderland Trailhead and poked our heads into the woods across the street. The vegetation was pretty dense, but we could tell by looking at the map that it was also not a far walk to break through to the open vegetation of the bog, so we decided go for it… carefully. It got wet almost right away, so waterproof boots (short will do, but tall is better) and log pants to save your legs from the brush are a must. We bushwhacked for maybe 30 feet before we broke though. Once we got to the edge, we found that the bog itself was surprisingly high and dry, it was really just the initial forested wetland that was actually wet.

A rough outline of the Big Heath / Seawall Bog. The best access point is to park at the Wonderland Trailhead and walk across the street. Coordinates: 44.233723, -68.320180

Right away we could see a narrow game or social trail that followed the western edge of the bog heading north. We took to it, being careful not to create a new trail or to step on any fragile vegetation. This really was an impressive bog. It’s expansive, dotted with stunted black spruce throughout and provides a stunning view of the mountains of Acadia to the north.

Black spruce lines the edges of Big Heath / Seawall Bog while the peaks of Acadia National Park loom to the north.
Black spruce lines the edges of Big Heath / Seawall Bog while the peaks of Acadia National Park loom to the north.

I was hoping to find sundews, but I added a different plant to my life list instead: Dragon’s Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa). I also found a water lily and sedge species that I still need to ID (help is always appreciated!) Huckleberry and blueberry were abundant but were still flowering or had just been pollinated. I used the Plants of Acadia National Park (Mittelhauser, Gregory, Rooney, & Weber 2009) to look up all plants I found, but I’m no botany expert.

Dragon’s Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa).
Black Huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata)
Water lily species (Nymphaea) growing in saturated sphagnum
Sedge species (Carex)

If anyone has information to share on this location, please leave a comment! I want to visit again, but want to do so responsibly!

Categories BogventuresTags , , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Acadia National Park – Big Heath / Seawall Bog

  1. Enjoy your insights to bogs and the formation of bogs. If I am in the area would you be available to provide a guided tour of a bog? Thanks for the location maps and tips to enter.


    1. Of course, any time!


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