Maine, the northeasternmost U.S. state, is known for its rocky coastline, maritime history and nature areas like the granite and spruce islands of Acadia National Park. Moose are plentiful in Baxter State Park, home to Mt. Katahdin, endpoint of the Appalachian Trail. Lighthouses such as the candy-striped beacon at West Quoddy Head, dot the coast, as do lobster shacks and sandy beaches like Ogunquit and Old Orchard.
Maine is the 39th most extensive and the 41st most populous of the U.S. states and territories. It is bordered by New Hampshire to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec to the north. Maine is the easternmost state in the contiguous United States, and the northernmost east of the Great Lakes. It is known for its jagged, rocky coastline; low, rolling mountains; heavily forested interior, and picturesque waterways; and also its seafood cuisine, especially clams and lobster. There is a continental climate throughout the state, even in coastal areas such as its most populous city of Portland.
For thousands of years, indigenous peoples were the only inhabitants of the territory that is now Maine. At the time of European arrival in what is now Maine, several Algonquian-speaking peoples inhabited the area. The first European settlement in the area was by the French in 1604 on Saint Croix Island, by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons. The first English settlement was the short-lived Popham Colony, established by the Plymouth Company in 1607. A number of English settlements were established along the coast of Maine in the 1620s, although the rugged climate, deprivations, and conflict with the local peoples caused many to fail over the years.
As Maine entered the 18th century, only a half dozen European settlements had survived. Loyalist and Patriot forces contended for Maine’s territory during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. At the close of the War of 1812, it was occupied by British forces, but the territory of Maine was returned to the United States as part of a peace treaty that was to include dedicated land on the Michigan peninsula for Native American peoples. Maine was part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until 1820, when it voted to secede from Massachusetts to become an independent state. On March 15, 1820, it was admitted to the Union as the 23rd state under the Missouri Compromise.
No one knows exactly how Maine got its name; its etymology is something of a mystery. Some believe it was shorthand for the “mainland,” used by sailors differentiating it from islands off the state’s coast. Others believe it was named for the French province of Maine.
As the crow flies, the Maine coastline stretches an already-impressive 250 miles. But recent satellite images measuring the contours of its convoluted and craggy coast have shown that the Maine coastline actually stretches around 3500 miles. And that number jumps up to 5500 miles when islands are included.
Maine is nicknamed “The Pine Tree State.” The tree appears on the state flag, and, as of 2012, a full 83 percent of the state was covered in forest, making it the second most tree-covered state in the lower 48 states (New Hampshire was first with 89 percent).
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