Why is There a US National Park in Canada?

The atlantic ocean surrounds an island and lighthouse that hold the only US National Park in Canada.

America’s national parks are truly among its greatest resources. Each year they provide incredible sightseeing opportunities and outdoor adventures for millions of people. The Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon are the most popular ones, but there are 62 others worth visiting in the United States and Canada.

Wait, There’s a US National Park in Canada? 

Yes, there certainly is a U.S. national park in Canada, and it has quite a story. It’s on a picturesque piece of oceanfront property that was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s favorite places.

Roosevelt Campobello International Park is located near the southern tip of Campobello Island. Though it’s just off Maine’s coast, it is actually located in New Brunswick, Canada.

About Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Address: 459 Route 774, Welshpool, NB E5E 1A4, Canada

Back in the late 1800s, Campobello Island was a popular place for vacations for the well-to-do. The prominent Roosevelt family maintained a Dutch Colonial-style house there. Meanwhile, they traveled by train from Hyde Park, New York for their summer retreats.

Their son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, loved to return to the island year after year. Upon his marriage to Eleanor in 1908, the family presented the Campobello Island “cottage” as a wedding gift.

(Although it is usually referred to as a cottage, it’s not precisely quaint. The striking three-story structure with its distinctive red shingles has 34 rooms, 18 bedrooms, and seven fireplaces.)

He, of course, went on to become the nation’s 32nd president. He served four terms, starting in 1933 until he died in 1945.

Roosevelt was quite active in his early years, and he loved swimming off the coast of Campobello. One day in 1921, he noticed his left leg was lagging. This turned out to be polio’s onset, which left him partially paralyzed for the rest of his life.

Image via the Maine Magazine. A red 'cottage' that FDR grew up going to in the summer off the coast of Maine. The cottage is actually very large with green shutters and doors, and roses line the walkway to the front door.
Image via The Maine Magazine

Why Do We Have an International Park in Canada? 

The cottage fell into disrepair after the president’s death. It was soon sold to wealthy businessman Armand Hammer and operated as an FDR museum for a while. Eventually, it was turned over to the federal government.

Joint ownership and operation of the property required a treaty between the United States and Canada. The park was officially opened on August 20, 1964. President Lyndon Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson were both on hand for the ceremony.

Almost 60 years later, this U.S. national park in Canada serves as a memorial to FDR’s legacy. It also shines as an example of a friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries.   

Things to Do at Roosevelt Campobello National Park

At the only U.S. national park in Canada, a tour of the Roosevelt cottage is the centerpiece. There are guides throughout to answer questions and point out interesting features. These include Mrs. Roosevelt’s writing room and the area that served as the president’s office during his visits.

There are other buildings on the premises, too. One of them, the Hubbard Cottage, is also open to the public.

You’ll also want to experience the surroundings that appealed so much to him and his family. Besides the extensive gardens on the old Roosevelt property, there are picnic areas with magnificent ocean views throughout the park.

There are 8.4 miles of roads within the park’s boundaries and eight miles of trails. The varied terrain includes bogs, forest, rocky shoreline, and beaches.

Dolphin breaches water with lighthouse and island in the background.

What is Campobello Island Known For? 

The island itself is about 9 miles long and 3 miles wide and is at Passamaquoddy Bay’s entrance.

It has several good harbors and another park beside the international one. Herring Cove Provincial Park, not far from the old Roosevelt place, has a golf course and more hiking opportunities.

The island population is around 900, and many of the residents work in fishing or are involved in the aquaculture industry.

By land, you have to go through Maine to get there. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge connects it to the U.S. mainland. By sea, there are ferries from Deer Island, New Brunswick.

There is one more thing to keep in mind: Even though it’s offshore, Campobello Island is in a different time zone than Maine. If you’re headed there, set your clock ahead an hour to Atlantic Time.

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Roosevelt Campobello National Park? 

If you’re planning a visit from the U.S., be sure and have your papers in order. You do have to go through customs on the bridge, so you’ll need to provide documentation.

Show your passport if you have one. If not, you can provide an original or certified copy of your birth certificate and photo identification such as a driver’s license. Naturalized citizens without passports should bring their naturalization certificates.

Conclusion

Make the trip to Campobello Island, and you’ll have the distinction of visiting the only U.S. national park in Canada.

Seeing the old Roosevelt summer home will give you some personal insight into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. A hike on the island will also give you a sense of why he loved to visit this unique area. 

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