The Sieur de Monts Nature Center in Acadia National Park is home to the Abbe Museum, the Wild Gardens of Acadia, and the Sieur de Monts Spring, all of which are free to access with a national parks pass. The nature center itself covers a wide variety of topics including the role of fires, wildlife, and air quality on Mount Desert Island. The Sieur De Monts Spring is just behind the nature center, a key historical factor in the foundation of the park. The Wild Gardens sit to the right of the building, harboring over 300 native plant species, each labeled. The Abbe Museum is dedicated to displaying the Native American culture that flourished on Mount Desert Island before the parks existence.
From the parking area, the most noticeable feature is the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Fenced in for protection from the many grazing creatures of Acadia, the gardens represent nine different habitats found throughout Mount Desert Island. The plants are labeled with small placards giving both their common and scientific names. The garden is maintained by the Bar Harbor Garden Club.
Immediately to the left of the garden, the Nature Center is housed in a small stone building. When it’s open, between mid-June and late September, the center is staffed by park rangers ready to answer any questions. Admission is free, and it’s located at one of the entrances to the Park Loop Road, making it a great place to begin your Acadia National Park experience.
A small pond and a network of several trails are found behind the nature center building, with the Sieur De Mont Spring clearly visible in a white shrine. The Sieur de Monts Spring was named by George B. Dorr, the father of Acadia, in honor of Pierre Du Gua de Monts, a Liuetenant Governor of New France, who had authority over much of North America in the early 1600s. De Monts was commissioned by King Henry IV to explore and settle the region. For his part, Dorr was an early admirer of the beauty of Mount Desert Island and later became the park’s first superintendent. Dorr built the spring house and carved “The Sweet Waters of Acadia” in the bedrock nearby. While many believe the spring house was built to preserve the purity of the water, it was actually built to capture the cold air surrounding the spring.
A bit further beyond the spring is the Abbe Museum. Founded in 1926, the Abbe Museum celebrates the Wabanaki culture. The museum illuminates over 12,000 years of tradition and historical events. Admission fees from May 25 to October are $3 for adults, $1 for children 11 through 17, and children 10 and under are free.
Many other paths are accessible from the Sieur De Monts Nature center, including the Jesup Path.