The rugged, evergreen-capped Porcupine Islands lie just offshore from Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island in the waters of Frenchman Bay. The island archipelago consists of five islands: Bald, Long, Sheep, Burnt Porcupine, and Rum Key. Burnt Porcupine Island is privately owned, while the others are part of Acadia National Park.
Sheep Porcupine and the other islands in the group are good examples of roche moutonnées, or sheepbacks (also known as whalebacks), which describes their profile as shaped by powerful glacial action long ago. Sheep were grazed in the island in the late 1800s, when it was last inhabited and boasted several houses and a store.
The Porcupine Islands have a long history as a hiding place. During the French and Indian War, French gunboats often hid among the islands waiting to ambush British ships. It is thought that Frenchman Bay got its name from these early events. In Prohibition times, rum runners frequented Rum Key on their illegal liquor forays to and from Canada.
For a close-up look at Sheep Porcupine Island, walk across the sand bar from Bar Harbor to Bar Island, a fun jaunt of about a mile each way. Great views of Sheep Porcupine, Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and the mountains of Acadia National Park are possible from the high point of the island. Interestingly, Bar Island was once known as Bar Porcupine Island.
Get a closer look at Bald Porcupine Island by way of a sea kayak or tour boat, which will likely include sightings of eagles, herons, and a wide variety of sea birds, as well as porpoises and seals. The Porcupine Islands paddle is a popular 4-mile route of intermediate difficulty. And a number of private vessels operate charter sightseeing cruises to the islands.
Sheep Porcupine Island is an important nesting ground for bald eagles. Because of this the island is closed to visitation from mid-February until the end of August.
Visitor Resources: Southwest Harbor Library Digital - Porcupine Islands |