Roque Bluffs State Park is home to 274 acres of sublime Downeast Maine scenery on Schoppee Point in the town of Roque Bluffs, 7 miles south of Machias as the crow, or perhaps more appropriately in this case, the seagull, fly. The park was established in 1969 using the proceeds of a public bond to protect property, and last year the state acquired Pond Cove Island just offshore, adding 50 acres to the park’s inventory.
The highlight of the mainland section of Roque Bluffs Park is the half-mile arc of sand and pebble beach along Englishman Bay. Just behind the beach is Simpson Pond, 60 acres of wildlife-rich freshwater wetland habitat. Beyond are beautiful meadows, an old apple orchard and a hill topped with mossy green spruce trees. Five trails provide hikers with 3 miles and several good hours of scenic strolling opportunities.
Stroll to the picnic table at the top of the hill to take in the tranquil beauty of the fragrant forest of mature trees, then descend the slope to the shoreline cliffs and Rose Ledge at the head of Pond Cove. Step out into the open on the reddish-colored rock to gaze across the bay to the island of Pond Cove and further afield to Jonesport on the opposite shore. Plans include making the island available for remote camping, hiking, and other recreational activities.
Roque Bluffs Beach is unusual along this part of the Maine coast that is most often characterized by rocky headlands and cobblestone shores. Sediment transported by erosion of the glacial moraine just to the east has accumulated here to form the magnificent crescent. Stroll the beach at will, but be sure to explore its eastern end, where a rocky outcrop features glacial streaks and grooves, clear evidence of the mighty action of the glacier eons ago.
The unusual beach outcrop is stop number 29 on the Maine Ice Age Trail, which leads to 46 interesting geological features – moraines, deltas, eskers and more – produced by the movement of the vast Laurentian Ice Sheet of the last period glacier, all over the coast. Southeast of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia to Quoddy Head in Lubec. Roadside sites combine for a fascinating tour along the retreating margin of the great glacier.
There’s a different sort of trail at Roque Bluffs State Park on the grassy boardwalk between the beach and the pond, marked by a pink granite sculpture titled “Warm Wind.” The piece is the work of artist Kazumi Hoshino, originally from Maine and Japan. Completed in 2011, the graceful creation is one of 34 outdoor exhibits along the Maine Sculpture Trail which stretches 273 miles along the Downeast Coast.
When you’re done hiking the pleasant trails of Roque Bluffs, it might be time to cool off. The choices are tough: the invigorating 60-degree waters of Englishman Bay or the warm, shallow waters of Simpson Pond. If you brought a kayak, you can continue the outdoor adventure from the boat launch at the end of Schoppee Point Road.
Just under 7 miles southeast of Roque Bluffs Beach is Libby Island, reputed to be one of the foggiest places in the United States. The 1823 Island Lighthouse – still an active lighthouse – marks the entrance to Machias Bay. Incredibly, somewhere in the vicinity of Libby Island is where the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place in June 1775.
In the tap room of Job Burnham’s Tavern in Machias, local patriots hatched a plan to capture the captain of the Margaretta, a British sloop that lay anchored in the harbor with its guns trained on the village. Urged on by Jeremiah O’Brien, Lt. James Moore’s kidnapping failed, but the situation quickly evolved into a skirmish on the Machias River, where the fleeing British ship was captured by two American merchant ships. Burnham Tavern in Machias and Fort O’Brien in Machiasport are both worth a visit to learn more about the area’s colorful history.
Roque Bluffs State Park is just one of many awesome hiking destinations in the greater Machias area. For more information on conservation lands and trails, explore the websites of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, The Nature Conservancy (Great Wass Island), and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Mount Desert Island’s Carey Kish is an award-winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England,” will be available early next spring. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish
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