The character of Baxter State Park and the great mountain at its heart can be powerfully conveyed through two words: forever wild. The mountain was known as Ktaadn, or “the greatest mountain,” to native peoples who first frequented Maine’s interior northern forest. They were followed by colonial adventurers who explored its cirques and massive granite walls, by those who studied its geology and flora and fauna, and later by loggers who came to extract the virgin timber from nearby valleys.
Finally, recreational climbing and camping led to an effort to protect the rugged beauty of these mountains, lakes, and valleys. When calls for preservation went unheeded, former governor Percival P. Baxter, beginning in the 1930s, purchased some 201,000 acres over a period of 30 years and gifted them to the state.
Today, Baxter State Park is the guardian of this vast wilderness area for all to enjoy. Baxter State Park and Katahdin draws on rich collections of archival images dating back to the 19th century.
John W. Neff, a Katahdin historian, has served as president of both the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Friends of Baxter State Park. Howard R. Whitcomb, a retired professor, is a published authority on Governor Baxter and the park’s creation.
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