740 Fort Knox Road, Prospect
A Hancock County journey begins and ends with a traverse across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. Take a one-minute ride to the top of the tallest public bridge-observatory in the world. The beauty of the Penobscot River and Bay and surrounding countryside is immediately apparent as the elevator door slides open to a dizzying view. Downeast Maine’s fisheries heritage is cast against this backdrop of river, bay, mountains, lakes, towns, and Fort Knox State Historic Site, a massive granite seacoast fortification. Visitors may explore every nook and cranny of the 19th Century fort, which features interpretive panels and educational displays.
The site is available for rent for events such as weddings, picnics, company outings. There is a covered pavilion with several picnic tables, gas grills and outside sinks with counter space.
May 1 – October 1 daily 9-5. Fee. Parking. Restrooms. Accessible. Picnic area. Trails. Interpretive sign.
The Penobscot Narrows Bridge crosses the Penobscot River where it divides around Verona Island and turns into Penobscot Bay. To the north, the river (once called “the Rhine of Maine”) is a tidal estuary lined with alternating steep bluffs, mud flats, and salt marshes all the way to head of tide at Bangor, one-time lumber capital of Maine and the third-largest city in the state. To the south, the river opens wide into Penobscot Bay, one of the largest embayments on the East Coast and a historically productive fishing area.
This region bristled with fish weirs, fences of woven sticks and brush that trapped fish as they migrated between the river and bay. An 1873 map of weir and pound-net fisheries shows hundreds of fishing sites around the bay.
In 1938, author Henry Buxton recalled this encounter with a weir operator:
On beautiful Verona Island, located near the mouth of the Penobscot River, I met an 82-year-old fisherman and former selectman and town treasurer, who has sung his way through life, and still sings as he sits an invalid in his rocking chair by a window which commands a view of the old fishing grounds he loves so well.
For years this man sang as he pulled salmon, alewives, porgies, cod and pollock from his weir; he sang with full joyous heart as he peddled his salmon from a cart through the streets of Bangor; he sang on the long trek back home to Verona late at night, his heavy baritone awakening the echoes among the rocks and the spruce along the highway.
‘If the wind was right,’ his wife told me, ‘I knew he was coming when he was miles away, for I could hear him singing his way up the lonely road in the dead of night.’
This man is Stephen Decator Bridges, who lives in the house where he was born on Verona Island…He told me that singing had been a great comfort to him during his invalidism of the past few years.
‘Since I was a boy,’ he said, ‘I have sung to drive the blues away. Every time I feel the blues coming on I sing the old songs and I am happy again…I began fishing with my father 71 years ago. I was eleven years old then and sang all the time as I helped father on his two weirs. These waters were swarming with fish then, including salmon and lobsters. Fifty years ago on May 30 I took 132 salmon to Bangor in my cart, and I caught all of them in my weir. I ran a fish yard for the curing of cod caught by Captain T. M. Nicholson’s vessels off the Grand Banks, and I have had cod stacked up in my yard equal in measurement to sixty cords of wood.’
Sources & Links
Buxton, Henry. 1938. Assignment Down East. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Daye Press.