Down East’s Top 10 Longreads of 2021

From a rabid-fox tale to a fisherman's elegy to a mystery of an enigmatic author, these are the Maine stories you read and shared most this year.

Deeply reported, elegantly told stories about Maine’s personalities and history, its towns and landscapes, and the trends shaping our state and culture — these are why readers have come to Down East since 1954. This year, the most-read and most-shared stories on our site captured the aspirations and anxieties of a state in transition, weighing the promises and costs of new development, considering the future of Maine’s marine industries, and exploring frontiers in agriculture and conservation. (Also: rabid foxes and great white sharks.)

To be the first to read another year of great Maine storytelling in 2022, sign up for the Down East Extra e-newsletter and subscribe to the print magazine.

10. The Maine Microplastics Researcher Reenvisioning Aquaculture

By Brian Kevin | Photographed by Greta Rybus

From our September 2021 issue: Stonington’s Abby Barrows dialed back a globetrotting research career to take over an oyster farm in her hometown. Now, she’s out to refashion the equipment of her new profession, to keep Maine’s booming aquaculture sector from fouling the waters it relies upon.

9. The Secrets of New England’s Last Great Old-Growth Forest

By Will Grunewald | Photographed by Brian Kelley

From our October 2021 issue: The woodland preserve around Big Reed Pond has become a quiet monument to what we’ve lost and a potent reminder of what we might recover.

8. Rabies Sunk Its Teeth Into Midcoast Maine. How To Loosen Its Grip?

By Jaed Coffin | Illustration by David Plunkert

From our February 2021 issue: A spate of attacks by rabid animals has residents of Bath and nearby towns on high alert — and choosing sides in an escalating fracas.

7. The Last of the Port Clyde Groundfishermen

By Susan Conley | Photographed by Ryan David Brown

From our May 2021 issue: Once robust, Maine’s groundfishery is on the ropes, leaving the future uncertain for even the most dedicated fishermen — and the harbor towns that give the Maine coast its character.

6. Is Saddleback’s Future Finally Bright?

By Will Grunewald | Photographed by Jamie Walter

From our February 2021 issue: Big terrain, deep snow, and frigid air at Saddleback Mountain make the resort one of New England skidom’s undisputed greats. But that wasn’t enough to keep it from closing five years ago. Now, Saddleback is back, with a fresh drop of investment — and some lofty ideas.

5. What’s Next for America’s Crown Jewel?

By Virginia M. Wright | Photographed by Benjamin Williamson

From our October 2021 issue: Reassessing its future, the Moosehead region balances growth and livability with mossiness and moosiness.

4. Changing Kittery to Save It

By Will Grunewald | Photographed by Jason Frank

From our May 2021 issue: Residents have long enjoyed Kittery’s livable, leafy vibe, but some worry that tourists and house hunters are eroding the town’s character and pricing out all but the well-heeled. So they’ve hatched an ambitious plan.

3. How a Maine Fisherman Became Margaret Wise Brown’s Alter Ego

By Kate Ver Ploeg

From our August 2021 issue: Golden MacDonald was the celebrated “author” of The Little Island and other classics.

2. Maine’s Somali Bantus Are Reenvisioning American Farming

By Katy Kelleher | Photographed by Greta Rybus

From our August 2021 issue: On 104 acres in Wales, the farmers of the Little Jubba agrarian commons are demonstrating another model for American agriculture — and replanting what was once uprooted.

1. Shark Attacks in Maine Were Unthinkable — Until Last Summer

By Kathryn Miles | Photograph by Tristan Spinksi

From our June 2021 issue: Last year’s first-ever fatal shark attack jolted Mainers into acknowledging that great whites regularly swim off the state’s shores — and that there’s plenty about them we don’t know.

Happy New Year from all of us at Down East!

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