A Travellerspoint blog

Day 46 (10.17.07) - Along the Maine Coast, then Inland

There is a lot of history along Penobscot Bay & River and history still being made

View (Re) Discovering America on jl98584's travel map.

Miles Driven: 140
Weather: Clear & Sunny, Warmer & no wind! (65 F)

Summary: Starting from Ellsworth, Maine, we visited: Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observation Tower, Fort Knox (Maine!, 1844 - 1869), Fort Point Lighthouse and Fort Pownall (1759), ending in Poland, Maine.

Sometimes, when you travel, you have to pause and take care of basic requirements. One of Mom's prescriptions ran out, so we paused some last night and this morning to try to get her doctor back home to renew it and fax it to Maine so she could get it filled. Of course, Lewis & Clark had to take a basic medicine chest with them (from the 1800's of course), and probably required that everyone in their party be young and in good health. Today many people can travel even though they are older and on medications, it just takes a little extra planning and management.

So finally, after getting that taken care of, we started heading south again. We both felt we had seen the Maine coast by now, so agreed to head inland to go to Poland, Maine where Mom's grandmother was born - still hoping to track down her grandfather. However, the first leg of the trip was down Hwy 1 & 3, which still followed the coast a bit. The first major town we came to was Buckport, which is on the Penobscot River. As we drove through the town, we could see an older looking but impressive fortification. We had to cross a bridge and lost sight of it going up the hill on the other side, so I pulled over and asked some local folks about it. We had stumbled onto Fort Knox, Maine. Not only that, but the locals said we should also go to the New Bridge Observation Tower, which was right there with the fort.

Right, I thought - so what's the big deal, there are bridges all over Maine. We drove on up the hill and Whoa! The 'New Bridge' was quite a big deal. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge was completed in 2006 as a 'cable-stayed' bridge. With the technology available today, a cable-stayed bridge is faster and cheaper to build over a medium length span such as the Penobscot River. The local community didn't want such a modern looking bridge plunked right down next to their historic Fort Knox, so the builders covered the bridge towers in the same granite as used in the fort. (The old bridge in the background is being removed as it is too decayed to reuse at all.)


Then, to top it all off they included an observation tower. This is visible on the west tower (left side) in the above photo - there are three, glass walled floors at the top - 420 feet above the rock base. There are only four bridge observation towers in the world, this one is the tallest and the only one in the US. Mom refused to go up it, but of course I jumped at the chance and really enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately, I forgot my filters (of course), so have decided not to upload the photo's I took from the top (long story there) - but the view is fantastic. The observation deck isn't very large, maybe 10 x 20, but if you ever get the chance - take the elevator and do go up. This is another view from the end of the bridge, it is currently only two lanes which makes it look kind of skinny, but I believe they can expand it later if needed. Here is also a view of the Penobscot Narrows that the bridge spans. This view is out towards the sea, away from the town of Buckport.


You can also view a live 'cam' of the bridge at the Maine DOT web site (probably of more interest while the bridge was being built, but it has some cool techie info):


Having declined the bridge observation tower, Mom did agree to go visit Fort Knox however.


This is NOT the Fort Knox with all the gold, that one is in Kentucky, but both fort's were named for General Henry Knox, America's first Secretary of War during the American Revolution. During both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the British sent ships up the Penobscot River and seized control of the river, claiming the surrounding land for the British crown. The British lost their claim when they lost those wars, but the US government felt a fort was needed on the river to prevent future attacks. The first plans for this fort were laid in 1825, but no money was appropriated. The site stayed in limbo until construction finally began in 1844 by placing the gun batteries near the river. At the lower left is a brick chimney. This is for a 'hot shot' furnace which was used to heat cannonballs red hot so they when they hit a wooden hulled ship, it would catch fire. These were made obsolete by metal hulls which were introduced during the civil war (Monitor vs Merrimac). The cannon in this picture is a 15 inch Rodman, which required 12 men to fire it, but could send a shell over a mile.


In 1853, work began on the granite foundations and walls. However, when the Army stationed troops at the fort during the Civil War, the barracks had still hadn't been built so the troops had to construct temporary buildings behind the fort. When work finally stopped on the fort in 1869, it still wasn't completed. Fortunately, no enemy ships attempted to attack up the Penobscot river during this period, so perhaps even a partially complete fort can provide some protection (the big guns were in place anyway, the troops had to make do).

Of course, Mom doesn't care for military stuff, but found the lichen interesting. We did go inside also and saw some impressive fortifications. The granite was quarried from Mt. Waldo, which is only five miles upriver from the fort.


The arched structure is called a casemate. This is a fortified room where cannon can be placed to shoot through openings in the wall. All US masonary forts built between 1816 and 1867 had at least one level of casemates. The cannon in the casemate were a little smaller than the ones outside by the river. These were 10 inch Rodman cannons that required eight men to fire them. These cannon shells weigh about 100 pounds each. The Rodman cannon is signficant in that they used an improved casting method that made them stronger and safer than previous models.

Finally we got back on the road, having only driven about 30 miles so far, and kept heading south (and west again). Mom saw a State Park (SP) on the map she wanted to see called Fort Point. I objected since I wanted to really make some time finally (we have been in Maine a long time), but this time Mom was right (or is that 'she was right again'?). Fort Point SP is way out on a point at the end of Penobscot Bay (or entrance to Penobscot River). It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive, so absent anything else, was probably a nice place to visit. Mom kept seeing tree's covered with Lichen and wanted to stop to take a picture of one. I saw this one with a red tree behind it, so tried to get down low to the ground and get them both (trying to be artistic, probably shouldn't have wasted the upload capacity, but I did so here goes).


Anyway when we got to Fort Point, we found quite a bit of history there. In 1759 the British built a Fort Pownall. They never used it in battle, but it's presence encouraged anglo settlement of the area. The American's burned it during the Revolutionary War to prevent the British from occupying it and using it against the American's, so there isn't any part of the wood fort left, but you can see some of the shape & foundations. If you can read it, I'll try to include a photo of one of the information signs. If you can't read this and really want to know more - let me know (I always have more details then I can include in these blogs):


Later, the site was used for a Lighthouse and Fog Bell. The lighthouse is still in use and, while the Fog Bell is still at the site, it is no longer in use as it was replaced by an automated foghorn lower on the cliff.


We ate lunch at Fort Point, then headed west again through at town called Searsport where there is a 'Penobscot Marine Museum'. It turned out to be a walking tour through several different buildings around the downtown which required a couple of hours, so we just toured the gift shop. Since they are planning to redo the gift shop over the winter, everything was 50% off - many things had already been sold, but they had several books left and I picked up a few.

I think we were both getting tired so by the time we left the coast in Belfast, I didn't even try to stop and take pictures. I don't know if you've noticed, but there seem to be a lot of towns in Maine that are named after other places, not 'New Belfast' (as in New York), but Belfast. We also saw (or saw signs for) Paris, Mexico, Rome, etc. I had no idea we'd traveled that far!

We drove through Augusta, the state capital, briefly - then on to Lewiston/Auburn, and finally found Poland, Maine. The significance of this is that my great grandmother (Mom's grandmother) was born in Poland, Maine in 1864. We are hoping that we can learn a little more about her (and maybe Charles Kingsbury Stinson) around here, maybe not but it seems worth a try. The town is quite small still, and certainly old enough.


All the campgrounds in this area are already closed. We have pulled over by the side of a side road, as long as nobody hassles us we should get a pretty good nights sleep (I filled the propane tank this morning). The internet signal is lousy, but seems to have gotten me through today's blog entry, so all is well with the world.

Posted by jl98584 19:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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I continue enjoying both the blog and the pictures. I don't know how much farther west you plan to go before going south again. But if you do get near Westmoreland, NH, remember that you have several Aldrich ancestors buried there, a 1600s log home built by one of them, plus his sugaring barn that may be the oldest in New England.

by msj

I'm glad you're enjoying them - I'd hate to think I'm doing all this typing just for me! Enjoyed your applesauce tonight by the way (finished the juice long ago of course). We only went as far as Augusta Maine, and are now in Portland. No plans to go back to NH at this time. Do you have any pic's you could send me?

by jl98584

LOVE Maine! I haven't been there since 2003 and I can't wait to go back. Thanks for the memories.

by Travel12

I had never been to Maine before, but really liked it. Parts of the coast look very much like western Washington, where I'm from. I think the winters are harsher here, but in fall it's certainly a very beautiful state.

by jl98584

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