Mount Desert Island (dĭzûrtˈ) [key], c.100 sq mi (260 sq km), largest island off the coast of Maine; separated from the mainland by Frenchman Bay, Mt. Desert Narrows, and Western Bay. The island's rugged topography is a result of glacial action. It is almost equally divided into east and west halves by Somes Sound. A chain of rounded granite peaks dominates the island, culminating in Cadillac Mt. (1,532 ft/467 m high). The peaks were named Monts Deserts, meaning "wilderness mountains," by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who landed on the island in 1604. The first French Jesuit mission and colony in America was established there in 1613; the first permanent English settlement began in 1762. The island developed as a fishing and lumbering center, and by the end of the 19th cent. it had become a famous resort area. A forest fire in 1947 damaged much of the eastern half of the island. The main towns are Bar Harbor, whose downtown and coastline homes were spared by the fire; Southwest Harbor, which manufactures yachts; Northeast Harbor; and Bass Harbor, a fishing community. The major part of the island is in Acadia National Park.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.