Over the past few summers, Josh Christie and I have written volumes about the natural wonders that abound in Maine. There are so many that we’ll probably never get to describing them all. But there are also some astounding man-made attractions that are well worth the trip.

Undoubtedly the most spectacular is the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

This 2,120-foot long, cable-stayed bridge over the Penobscot River connects Prospect to Verona Island as Routes 1 and 3 make their way east through Bucksport, and thence to Acadia, Downeast Maine and the Maritimes. It even serves, we noticed on a recent kayaking excursion to Deer Isle, an osprey family that has made its home on a welcoming perch.

The bridge employs a cradle system that carries the cable strands within the stays from one bridge deck to the next, as a continuous element. There are only three such bridges in the United States, the other two being the Zakim Bridge in Boston and the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo, Ohio.

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge opened to traffic, with much fanfare, on Dec.30, 2006. With a total construction cost of $85 million, the bridge’s unique engineering innovations were cited by Popular Science magazine as one of the 100 best innovations of that year.

The bridge also houses on its westerly end the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, the first bridge observation tower in the United States and the tallest bridge observation tower in the world. It is open daily through August, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and in September and October until 5 p.m. You can ride the elevator for just $5; children 5 to 11 are charged $3, and those 65 and older, $2.50. Kids 4 and under are free.

The views are spectacular, and a visit to neighboring Fort Knox (speaking of man-made wonders) is a must when you venture down that way.

No less impressive is 20,300-acre Flagstaff Lake, the fourth-largest lake in Maine. The lake is a result of the construction of Long Falls Dam, completed in 1950, that captures runoff from 520 square miles of the upper Dead River watershed.

The Dead River was once just a meandering stream working its way east through woodlands, and pastoral farmland and villages. It is now a recreational gem for hiking, paddling, fishing or lazing away an afternoon on an uncrowded sandy beach.

But hundreds of residents of what was once the town of Flagstaff paid a price so that we now enjoy the lake. Once the Legislature approved plans by Central Maine Power in 1924, the company started buying up farms and houses in the proposed flowage area. Cutting and burning commenced until the dam was closed and 12 billion cubic feet of water was retained behind the massive structure.

Today the level of the lake is mandated by downstream water requirements. In late spring it is customarily full, and by September it is typically drawn down 10 to 15 feet, exposing some wide margins of lake bottom.

Lake-level allowances are also made for recreational uses, with releases planned on summer weekends so rafters can enjoy 16 miles of continuous Class 2 whitewater from Spencer Stream all the way down to The Forks. Some 20 campsites have been established around the shoreline, and miles of hiking trails wind through the nearby woods and up majestic Bigelow Mountain.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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