Milky Way over Acadia National Park
Starry, starry night

Acadia National Park, Maine

This striking photo lets us showcase two noteworthy events in one day, at no extra charge. (You’re welcome.) National Public Lands Day is observed on the fourth Saturday in September, and today’s also part of the Acadia Night Sky Festival, which celebrates the starlit skies over Maine’s gem of a national park.

It’s easy to take our national parks for granted. We certainly appreciate them and enjoy visiting, but today’s commemoration reminds us that they also need our help. National Public Lands Day turns the spotlight on parks and other public lands, inviting everyone to explore but also to volunteer to plant trees, work on trail-maintenance projects, and more. As a bonus: Admission is free today at national parks, monuments, and other participating federal sites.

Acadia is one of the smallest of the nation's 63 national parks, though it attracts an impressive 3 million visitors a year. Aside from its natural beauty, Acadia has some of the most spectacular star-filled night skies in the eastern United States. The natural darkness is protected, with restrictions on outdoor lighting in the park and surrounding areas. The Acadia Night Sky Festival, which started on September 21 and continues through tomorrow, celebrates the natural darkness and the celestial star show. A favorite way to mark the occasion is by kayaking in Castine's harbor, where bioluminescent phytoplankton illuminate the water with a swirling, unearthly glow. With sparkling waters below and out-of-this-world stargazing above, it's been called Acadia's 'Floating Planetarium.'