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Easternmost Point in the Continental US or First to See the Sun Rise, Are They the Same Place?

My wife and I enjoy traveling and spending time at our camp on a lake in Maine. Sharing the beauty and wonders of Maine is our passion.

Maine is the easternmost state in the continental US.

As the easternmost state in the continental US does the sun rise first at the easternmost point in Maine? The answer is yes, no, and it depends.

Expanding beyond the continental US, even the easternmost point of the US is up for debate. It could technically be the furthest point west.

Some would argue that the honor should go to Pochnoi Point, Semisopochnoi Island, Alaska, since it is located just west of the 180 degree meridian (ignoring the westerly deviation of the international dateline). Accepting this argument, it would be the "first" to see the sunrise of a new day making it the furthest point "east" in the US.

If you include the US territories, the Wake Islands to the west of the international date line would see the sunrise the day before the rest of the US. In the east, the U.S. Virgin Islands would see the sunrise first.

Easternmost Point in the Continental U.S.

The easternmost point in the contiguous US is West Quoddy Head in Lubec, ME. Sail Rock, just offshore (and probably occasionally under water), is actually east of West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. Since it is offshore and not inhabitable, is it technically part of the contiguous US?

Eastport, ME is considered the eastern most city in the continental US and often reported as the first to see the sunrise. But, Eastport is north and west of Lubec and West Quoddy Head.

Are you following this? West is east and soon we'll see that the sun rises earlier west than east.

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First to See the Sunrise in the Continental US

So, now that we have decided that we can't decide where the easternmost point in the US is, can we at least determine where the sun rises first? According to the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department the answer to this question is no. The first to see the sunrise varies depending on the season.

According to an article in Yankee Magazine in January, 1972 by Blanton C. Wiggin the first place to see the sunrise in Maine:

  • October 7 to March 6 Cadillac Mountain, Maine
  • March 7 to March 24 West Quoddy Head Lighthouse Lubec, Maine
  • March 25 to September 18 Mars Hill, Maine
  • September 19 to October 6 West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Lubec, Maine

On New Year's Day, Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park sees the first sunlight of the year. In the winter, because the north pole is tilted away from the sun, the sun appears further south in the sky. This tilting away from the sun moves the place to see the first sunrise also further south. Cadillac Mountain is approximately 30 miles south and 60 miles west of West Quoddy Head.

Forty miles west and 120 miles north of West Quoddy Head, Mars Hill Mountain is only 2 miles east of the Canadian border. In the summer, the north pole is tilted toward the sun and the sun appears further north in the sky. This tilting toward the sun moves the first sunrise to a location further north. Being further north and at a higher elevation, Mars Hill Mountain sees the sunrise before West Quoddy Head.

West Quoddy Head may be the eastern mostpoint of the continental US, but it is the first to see the sunrise only 34 days a year! At the March and September Equinox, the sun is neither tilted away from nor toward the earth. The easternmost point of the continental US is the first to see the sunrise around these days.

Even more ironic, the highest point in Maine, Mount Katadhin is never the first to see the sunrise.

"Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, 2004" video posted on YouTube by mattartz October 18, 2007

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain - Acadia National Park, 2004

Where does this fit in the discussion?

Just east and north of West Quoddy Head is Campobello Island and the summer home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. While Campobello Island is part of Canada, the FDR summer home is part of the US National Park Service. You can drive to Campobello Island from the US, but from mainland Canada you have to take a ferry (actually 2 ferries).

Simple Question, No Simple Answers

As you can see, what started as a simple question has no simple answers. So, the next time you are cruising up U.S. Route 1 in Downeast Maine make a few stops and sort this out for yourself.

© 2012 Mark Shulkosky

Comments

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on November 30, 2019:

My favorite hikes are Gorge Path up to Cadillac Mtn or Flying Mtn overlooking Somes Sound on the quiet side near Causeway Golf course. But neither end by Jordan Pond House. To enjoy popovers and tea we ride a bike in the carriage trails from Eagle Lake or Bar Harbor. Jordon Pond is we’re we take a break.

Enjoy your hike and the popovers next year and for many more years.

Bill Leavenworth on November 29, 2019:

We have found that a traverse of Acadia's Penobscot Mountain offers rewarding views, and when you park at the Jordan Pond parking lot, you can reward yourself after the hike by having popovers and tea or coffee at the Jordan Pond House. We do that traverse nearly every year on my birthday, this year for the 76th. Hope to do it next year too, but maybe a lot more slowly.....

Tim Beeker on August 15, 2017:

Does Guam count as being part of the USofA? :-)

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on April 03, 2012:

DeborahNeyens23 Thanks for visiting. Beehive is not an easy hike. If you go back, try Gorge Path to get up to Cadillac Peak.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on April 03, 2012:

Interesting. When I was in ANP a couple of years ago, we were told that Cadillac Mountain was the place to go to see the first rays of sun in the continental U.S. We did not see the sunrise there; we drove to the top late one afternoon as the sun was starting to set. I'd be ashamed to admit that but for the fact we climbed the Beehive and one other mountain earlier in the day!

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on March 27, 2012:

I love ANP. One of my favorite hikes will get you to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Gorge Path starts from the Park Loop Road (once it becomes one-way). It is the second or third trail once the road becomes one-way.

The first part is basically flat. Then it climbs up a granite rock creek bed. Beautiful on a sunny day under the cool shade of the trees. May not want to take it in the spring or after a good rain. About 1/3 of the way up the creek bed, on a large rock, is a plaque. The trail is a memorial. The trail connects into another trail (I believe Dorr Mountain, but not sure) and you can take that to the top of Cadillac.

A lot of the trails in the Sieur de Monts area are memorial trails. They can be rather steep and aggressive.

My favorite hike on the quiet side (toward Southwest Harbor) is Flying Mountain. It is good for kids. It is a short uphill hike to 250 feet of elevation. From the top you see Somes Sound and the mansions of Northeast Harbor on the other side. You can also see out to the Cranberry Islands. Hike down the other side to a cove. At low tide, the kids can go out and explore tidepools. There is a fire road to get you back to the parking lot.

When I am in Maine this summer I want to take some pictures of these places so that I can write a few Hubs about them.

Happy trails.

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on March 27, 2012:

Great hub explaining a complex solar issue.

My wife and I climbed Cadillac Mountain a few years ago while we honeymooned in Acadia. It was a rather relaxing peaceful climb (before tourist season)and the views were fantastic. We didn't catch the sunrise though, as my wife isn't much of a night hiker and I refused to drive to the top.

Great links throughout!

LaThing from From a World Within, USA on March 10, 2012:

Great article! I will have my kids read this too. Thank you for the research, and all the information. Sharing it!

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