Close to Home: Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows

Warmer weather is slowly coming to Vacationland! That means it’s time to plan some day trips! One of the best parts of living at Dirigo Pines is the location – we’re centrally located, meaning Maine’s amazing attractions are within a short drive. People travel far and wide to get to Maine – so take advantage of having places like Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory so close by!

Fort Knox is located in Prospect, which is just 40 minutes from Dirigo Pines. Click here for driving directions. 

Located on the west bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine, in an area known as the Penobscot Narrows, Fort Knox is one of the best preserved fortifications on the New England seacoast. Fort Knox is open May 1 to Oct. 31, from 9 a.m. to sunset. The grounds are open year round. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge boasts an observation tower, rising 420 feet above sea level, which may only be accessed through the Fort. 

Friends of Fort Knox created a “Drone’s eye view” of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory – click here to check it out.

Seniors can tour the fort at no charge and enjoy the observation tower for just $2.50. The fee for adults (ages 12 to 64) is $6 for the combination pass. Kids ages 5-11 are only $4.

Here are some other fun facts about Fort Knox and what not to miss:

  • The observation tower of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge that opened to the public in May 2007.
  • A one minute ride on the fastest elevator in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will take you to the top of the tallest public bridge-observatory in the world.
  • Maine was repeatedly involved in northeast border disputes with British Canada. The area between Castine and the rich lumber city of Bangor was invaded and occupied by the British during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Fort Knox was established in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River valley against a possible future British naval incursion.
  • There are picnic facilities on the Fort grounds, including BBQ grills, picnic tables and a covered pavilion. Guests with wheelchairs will find the Fort’s Gift Shop, Visitor’s Center, Picnic Area and Restrooms accessible, and you can access the inner fort (parade ground) with a wheelchair. The original granite steps and stairways in other parts of the Fort (a National Historic Site) will limit the access of anyone who is mobility impaired.
  • The Penobscot River is the largest river in Maine and the second largest in New England (after the Connecticut River). Its name is believed to be derived from the Native American word penobskeag, meaning “rocky place,” or “river of rocks.
  • In searching for a “historical” design for the bridge, the Maine DOT decided on modeling the main support towers of the new bridge after the obelisk shape of the Washington Monument, and like the Washington Monument, include a visitor’s observatory at the top. The choice of modeling the new towers after the Washington Monument was relevant for a number of reasons, including that some of the granite used in the construction of the Washington Monument came from nearby Mount Waldo – which also where the granite for Fort Knox’s construction came from.
  • The construction of Fort Knox began in 1844 and continued (with numerous work stoppages due to funding problems) until 1869. Funding from Congress was intermittent, and the fort’s design was never fully completed despite an expenditure of $1,000,000.
  • The only times there were soldiers in any number residing at the fort were during the periods of the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Troops were sent to Fort Knox in 1863 to help protect the area from Confederate raiders who were terrorizing the Maine coast. During that year these raiders had burned or captured 20 vessels including the Tacony, which was seized near Mount Desert Island.
  • Fort Knox was named after Henry Knox, George Washington’s Secretary of War. General Knox was also the Commander of Artillery during the American Revolutionary War, and at the end of his life lived not far away in Thomaston. America’s other Fort Knox, which is located in Kentucky, was also named after him.
  • The Fort is reportedly haunted. Ghost Hunters TV program and many others have researched the paranormal activity in and around Fort Knox. The Friends of Fort Knox website offers a whole page of “haunted news” about reported ghosts and strange happenings – click here to check it out.

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