A bridge with an observatory, and Fort Knox – Penobscot Narrows, ME
After experiencing and loving the natural beauty of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, we traveled only 20 miles south of our campground to be amazed by a man-made wonder and engineering feat. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge is a structural beauty spanning 2,120 feet over the Penobscot River. It connects the towns of Prospect and Verona Island, Maine, on highway 1. These are quaint, rural towns where you don’t expect to see a stunning structure such as this peeking out over the treetops.
The bridge is Maine’s first cable-stayed bridge, and one of only three bridges in the U.S. that are similarly constructed. The span consists of 181 segments like the one pictured below, suspended on cables from the 447-foot tall concrete pylons.
And the best part is we were able to enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding area from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory. It is the tallest bridge observatory in the world, and open to the public with access to the top deck, which sits 447 feet above the Penobscot River.
The observatory is accessible only through Fort Knox (not THE Fort Knox, more later), so after paying a very reasonable $7.00 per person to access the observatory AND the fort, up we went on our one-minute ride straight to the top. When the elevator doors slid open we were faced with a dizzying view of the Penobscot river. We climbed stairs two more levels and were faced with an awesome view of the surrounding countryside – mountains, hills and lots and lots of trees.
A beautiful inlaid bronze compass rose, taken from a 1613 map created by Samuel de Champlain, can be seen on the top deck floor of the observatory.
One last look at that bridge on the way across. We were surprised to learn that it took only 42 months from conception to opening day in 2006 to complete this bridge and observatory – practically unheard of these days! It had to be built quickly after it was discovered that the existing Waldo–Hancock Bridge was rapidly failing due to corrosion. The beautiful and graceful design also turned out to be the easiest and most economical to construct in a hurry, costing only $86 million. There’s not even a toll to cross this bridge – excellent!
After a dizzying time at the observatory, we swung by Fort Knox (not to be confused with the one in Kentucky storing all that gold) just a few hundred feet away. It is a military installation built in 1844 to protect the Penobscot Valley and one of the best preserved fortifications on the New England seacoast.
We’ve visited many forts during the past year and a half, yet we continue to enjoy checking out each one along our route. They all have their unique battery of cannon and neat architecture – this one is almost all solid granite, since the stone is plentiful in the nearby mountains. Of course, the story of each fort is different and interesting to learn.
The views were excellent despite the overcast sky, and in just a few hours we got to explore and be amazed by these man-made creations.