Wild Blueberry Barrens

Wild Blueberry Barrens

Down East Maine


The vast wild blueberry barrens are found in the foggy coastal region of Down East Maine in the United States and the Canadian Maritimes. While there is no formal, concerted effort to protect them, a disparate collection of public agencies, private organizations, and Native American tribes are committed to their environmental stewardship. 


The blueberry barrens have been tended since the last ice age, initially by First Peoples and later by European settlers. The 60,000 acres of treeless plains contrast with the surrounding Acadian forest. Traditionally burned and hand-harvested every two years, portions of the wild blueberry barrens of Down East Maine continue to be harvested by members of the Micmac and Passamaquoddy tribes.   


Down East Maine is the least developed region remaining on the East Coast of the United States. With the exception of sand and gravel mining, there is little development threat to the more inland core of the barrens. Greater concerns have been raised regarding pesticide use, labor issues, and fair prices paid to growers. Conservation groups are somewhat active in promoting the barrens for heritage tourism, and small acreages of barrens have come under protection, especially near the coast where modest development pressure does exist. The annual Machias Wild Blueberry Festival is internationally known celebration, and educates the visiting public about the important cultural geography of the barrens.


Examples of preservation efforts include: 


Beech Hill Preserve: Coastal Mountains Land Trust

Bog Brook Cove: Main Coast Heritage Trust

Blueberry Ledge: Coastal Mountains Land Trust

Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land



For more information, click on the following links:











Wild Blueberry Barrens of Down East Maine. This map depicts the general distribution of wild blueberry barrens in Maine. The sandy soils and fog that frequently blanket the region on August mornings are believed to result in the high quality of wild blueberries. Retrieved from: http://teachmefoodandfarms.org/wp/wpcontent/uploads/WB_History_and_Geo.pdf on 4/3/2014.


Historic Wild Blueberry Barren Infrastructure.

European Americans brought an industrial sensibility to the barrens. Here an old winnowing unit (used to separate leaves and twigs from the berries) lies next to a weathered shingled shed on the Pineo Ridge barrens.

Wild Blueberry Barrens Close Up.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe owns this undulating section of the barrens. The unevenness of this particular ravine precludes machine harvesting and ensures that traditional hand-harvesting with rakes will continue. Like their ancestors, many Native Americans convene each year to help with the harvest, living in "camps" on the barrens during the harvest.

The Core of Maine's Blueberry Barrens.

From an elevation of 18,000 feet, the Pineo, Debois, and Cherryfield wild blueberry barrens present distinct patterns of ancient outwash beaches. As the Laurentian Ice Sheet receded, the land sprang up and is now several miles inland. The barrens in the lower half of this image are about 8 miles long and constitute the longest stretch of flat land in the state of Maine. The three light structures at the upper right are inactive radar stations, vestiges of the Cold War.


By Duncan Hilchey


Member of the World Rural Landscape - North America Committee.

Agricultural consultant and Editor in Chief of the Journal

of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development.