Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine

Camden is a small town on the mid-west coast of the US state of Maine. Although the town has just a small permanent population, it is often packed with tourists, who enjoy the numerous attractions in and around it. Once primarily a shipping town, Camden grew to become a favorite destination for cottagers, retirees, and wealthy individuals. The town’s music and cultural scene has also attracted visitors, as have the myriad of outdoor activities that are available in the warm summer months, the cold winter months, and anywhere in between.

Geography Of Camden

Camden Harbor
Camden Harbor.

The town of Camden is located on West Penobscot Bay, in the mid-coastal region of Maine. West Penobscot Bay forms part of the Gulf of Maine, which itself is part of the Atlantic Ocean. The town covers an area of 69.2 sq. km, of which 47.24 sq. km is water. The east of Camden faces West Penobscot Bay. The city limits of Camden include most of the Bald Mountain Preserve and a small portion of the Ragged Mountain Preserve, both of which are located west of the town center. Between these preserves is a lake known as Hosmer Pond. The town of Rockport is located south of Camden, and is also situated on the coast.

To the northeast of Camden’s town center is Camden Hills State Park. The area surrounding Mt. Megunticook is located more directly to the north. To the northwest of downtown Camden, still within Camden’s city limits, is more than half of Megunticook Lake, in which Fernald’s Neck Preserve is situated. The Megunticook River flows southeast from Megunticook Lake, and drains into West Penobscot Bay. Before draining into the bay, however, it passes through the middle of downtown Camden.

Population And Economy Of Camden

Downtown Camden
A scene from downtown Camden.

The population of Camden is roughly 4,700, but this is just the permanent population. During the summer, the population triples as tourists and summer residents flock to the town. The overwhelming majority of the people in Camden, about 95%, are classified as white, and about 92% speak only English.

Camden is what is known as a Summer Colony, which is a term denoting a popular resort and/or upper class enclave, usually located near the mountains or ocean. As previously mentioned, the town’s population triples during the summer months, thus its economy is heavily reliant on tourism. Interestingly, however, the accommodations and food services sector is only the third largest employment sector in Camden. The top two sectors are Health Care & Social Assistance and Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services.


Camden, Maine
Stone tower at the peak of Mount Battie, Camden Hills State Park, Maine.

Before Europeans came to what is now Camden, the area was inhabited by the Native American Penobscots. The first European explorer to visit the area was a ship captain named George Weymouth, who sailed his ship, the Archangel, into Penobscot Bay in 1605. He eventually anchored close to what are now the Camden Hills, in present-day Camden Hills State Park. The first permanent European settlers would not arrive until 1769. At the time, the area that now encompasses Camden and the neighboring town of Rockport was called the Megunticook Plantation. In 1791, the state of Massachusetts, of which Maine was part at the time, incorporated Megunticook Plantation as Camden, naming it after Charles Pratt, whose title was Earl of Camden.

By 1870, the town of Camden had a population of 4,512, according to the census that was taken that year. Industries that set up shop in the town included ship-building, an anchor factory, and the lime industry, though the latter was located in what is now Camden’s neighbor Rockport. At the time, Rockport was called Goose River and was part of Camden. In 1891, however, Goose River separated from Camden and became Rockport. One year later, Camden’s entire business district burned down, though residents rebuilt quickly. By the end of the 19th century, Camden was more-or-less a shipping town, though several woolen mills began appearing as well. In fact, the Knox Woolen Company would become the biggest employer in Camden.

It was in the 20th century that Camden began its transition to a resort town. Wealthy families began building cottages and estates in the town and its vicinity. New amenities were built, including a public library, an amphitheatre, Harbor Park, the Village Green, the Camden Yacht Club, and the Camden Opera House. Music and culture in the town got a big boost when the world-famous Summer Harp Colony was established, and Bay Chamber Concerts was founded. Camden began attracting theater productions. In 1957, the first movie to be shot in Camden was released. Many more movies would be filmed in Camden later on. In the latter half the 20th century, Camden continued to be a favored destination for cottagers, retirees, and other visitors who marveled at the area’s scenic beauty. Other industries, including the aforementioned woolen mills, as well as the electronics industry, tannery, and boat yards also helped Camden prosper.

Tourist Attractions In Camden

Historic Buildings

Camden is home to a number of historic buildings. The two most famous of these are arguably the Camden Opera House and the Camden Public Library and Amphitheater. The Camden Opera House was built in 1894, and hosts 28,000 patrons per year. It is on the National Registrar of Historic Places. The Camden Public Library was built in 1927, about thirty years after the residents of Camden voted to establish a free public library in the town. Adjacent to the library is Camden Amphitheater. Together, the library and the amphitheater are considered a National Historic Monument.

Natural Attractions

Camden rock climbing
Rock climbing in Camden, Maine.

Perhaps the biggest attractions in Camden and its vicinity are its natural features. These include the Camden Snow Bowl, which offers both summer and winter activities, including skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. Cruises along Camden’s majestic coastline are offered on the town’s famous schooners. There is also the aforementioned Camden Hills State Park, which offers scenic views of the region atop Mt. Battie.

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