The Desert of Maine – Freeport, Maine - Atlas Obscura
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Freeport, Maine

The Desert of Maine

This tiny patch of arid sand sits in one of the greenest states in the union. 

Despite slowly encroaching vegetation and a great deal of yearly rainfall, the so-called Desert of Maine remains a strange reverse-oasis among the verdant Maine pines.

The small, 40-acre plot of land now known as the Desert of Maine was actually began as a successful farming plot. As early as the late 1700’s, the land was being farmed by the Tuttle family who used the acreage to grow potatoes. Unfortunately by the late 1800’s the family had neglected to rotate the crops and combined with overgrazing by their flock of sheep, the land had been turned into a useless sandy silt. In truth the poor land use had simply exposed glacial silt that had been laying in wait under the top soil for thousands of years. The family abandoned the plot in 1919 and thanks to the land’s desert-like appearance it was turned into a tourist oddity in 1925.

The Desert of Maine has been attracting curious visitors ever since, adorning the dunes with desert-worn debris and even a fiberglass camel. A gift shop and “sand museum” have also been erected where visitors can bottle and take home some sand from one of the most unlikely deserts in the world. 

Know Before You Go

The Desert of Maine is two miles off I-295. Take Exit 20 and turn west to Dead End. The current admission prices are: Adults $12.50, teens (ages 13 to 16) $7.75, and children (ages four to 12) $6.75.