Maine’s lone 40-acre patch of desert is a cautionary tale. The Desert of Maine was once a successful farm owned by the Tuttle family in the late 1800s. The Tuttle family failed to rotate their potato crops and allowed their sheep to graze unchecked. Massive soil erosion led to a total depletion of fertile topsoil that resulted in a swiftly growing “desert.” A savvy entrepreneur who saw a golden money making opportunity snapped up the former Tuttle family farm in 1925, and crafted a tourist destination known as The Desert of Maine – which remains popular to this day.
The Desert of Maine features tours, a gift shop that sells bottled sand, and a few stately fiber glass camels. The rolling sand dunes look as though they belong in the Sahara. The Desert of Maine is one of the most surreal patches of desert in the United States because it receives steady rainfall, and is surrounded on all sides by lush forests and healthy green plants. The conditions that led to the Desert of Maine are the same conditions that created the catastrophic Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Then, blinding black dust blizzards plagued much of American prairie. Thankfully, most farmers have learned better crop rotating techniques from the painful lessons of the past.
The Desert of Maine is both a fun oddity and an important testament to the lasting impact that human beings can have on the environment. It is a wonderful destination if you’re a desert dweller at heart and you crave a small taste of your favorite environment. A mini desert in an unlikely locale is a mysterious and magical road trip destination. You may have to pinch yourself to convince yourself that the Desert of Maine is not a strange mirage hidden among Maine’s robust greenery.