From rusticators to Rockefellers, the people who created this Maine park are as colorful as its fall foliage.
Different trees lend different tones to the fall show at Acadia National Park in Maine. Crimson hues are the contribution of maples. Yellow tumbles from aspen. Birch and beech add gold to the park's palette. The chemical compounds that produce these splashy shades-anthocyanins, betacarotenes, tannins-come to light as the familiar green chlorophyll fades.
Surf kicked up by storms in the Gulf of Maine sledge-hammered the coast while photographer Michael Melford was working in Acadia. "You really understand the phrase 'wrath of nature' when you hear the boom of those waves on granite," Melford says. "The sound is spectacular." This elemental experience was preserved for the people of the United States by a group of philanthropists who donated land that became a national monument in 1916. Three years later Congress turned this coastal jewel into a national park-the first established east of the Mississippi River.
Water-loving cedars flourish near streams like this one tumbling down a slope on Mount Desert Island. Evergreens-including cedars, spruces, firs, and pines-provide the cool, dark backdrop for Acadia's autumn color display.
Thousands of years of grinding glacial action sculpted the granite hilltops and coastal cliffs of Mount Desert Island. The glaciers retreated long ago but seem to have left their chill behind: Even at the height of summer, the water temperature here rarely exceeds 60°F.
Darkness had only just settled over Jordan Pond when the northern lights swirled above photographer Michael Melford. "It was my last night in Acadia and I was setting up for a long exposure of starlight in the night sky," he recalls, "and this brilliant red aurora appeared. I was in a panic to make sure I caught it."