The Penobscot Narrows Observatory caps of one the most impressive engineering structures in the world. It was built in conjunction with the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. OK, it is not really a Maine historic site but if you are looking to really see the Mid-coast region of Maine and even Mount Desert Island, then the Penobscot Narrows Observatory has everything that you want and more. The top of the tower is 42 stories above the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The Observation Tower can be accessed through the Fort Knox State Historic Site. Patrons are brought to the top by the tallest public bridge observatory in the entire world.
The view is impressive to say the least. Visitors are directly above a bridge that spans 2,120 feet over a steep, plummeting gorge and is a site within itself. The Observation Tower opened in 2007 and almost immediately became the most popular attraction in all of mid-coast Maine. This is largely because the glass tower on the top of the Penobscot Narrow Observatory gives visitors a 360 degree view of the entire region. On clear days, patrons can see more than 100 miles in any and every direction. This view spans from Camden Hills, which is where the mountains and sea collide, to Mount Katahdin, which is the highest mountain in Maine, and even the terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
The new Penobscot Narrows Bridge was built to replace the Waldo-Hancock Bridge, which was finished in 1931. It is one of only two bridges in the United States that uses a cradle system. With this system, the strands are carried within the stays from the bridge deck. This creates a continuous element and eliminates the need for anchorages into the pylons.
Each strand is composed of epoxy-coated steel and is inside a 1 inch tube. Since each strand may act independently, strands may be inspected, removed, and replaced on an individual basis instead of by groups of cables like most other bridges. The cable-stay system utilizes super-pressurized nitrogen gases that help to defend against corrosion.
The bridge is also being used to test carbon fiber strands, which are supposedly stronger and more durable than their steel counterparts. Six reference strands have been placed within the bridges cables and will be monitored to evaluate how effective they really are. Amazingly, the bridge was completely built within a 42 month period.
By stopping by the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, visitors get to see several marvels of engineering as well as breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding 100 miles of Maine landscape, which include thick forests, mountain, ocean views, and the busy Penobscot Bay.