Almost five years ago, my family bought a boat yard on the Penobscot River just south of Bangor. At one time the place was thriving, but the yard had become a backwater sanctuary for a few hardy do-it-your self types fixing up their boats.
The sad part was that the yard sat on a beautiful section of river with roots steeped in history. Right where our marina sits was the site of the worst U.S. Naval defeat on record. See for yourself at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hampden
This was way back during the War of 1812. To this day, there are hulks of battleships blanketed by fine silt along the river bottom. In a way, that naval defeat signaled the decline of boating on the Penobscot River. After that, the river became a working river whose banks swelled with timber for the sawmills. In the winter, it was harvested for huge blocks of ice to send all over the country.
The Industrial Revolution was not kind to our lovely river. Factories from Bangor to Bucksport dumped byproducts of manufacturing right into the river. The worst was coal tar which sank to the bottom of the river and slowly bubbled up like a witches brew.
I am told that by the Oldtimers around here that the mighty Penobscot River was an open sewer back in the 50s and 60s. Nobody cared to recreate on the river, and folks built their homes far away from the foul smelling waters.
It's hard for me to image the scene sitting in my office overlooking a particularly scenic bend in the Penobcot. The river is pristine now. Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, harbor seals, bald eagles, and even fresh water loons make this place their home. Even in the few years I've been here, I've seen the river continue to heal itself with the ebb and flow of the tide and the heavy spring runoff. Groups like the Penobscot River Restoration Trust (http://www.penobscotriver.org/) are helping this beautiful lady back on her feet.
Lot's of folks may feel guilty about the scars we've left on our landscape and our surroundings, but the Penobcot River has actually been preserved by our past abuses. The stinking waters stunted any of the of the development experienced by other bodies of water. A trip down the Penobscot delivers a unique experience. You'll have glimpse of what life was during the War of 1812 without the cannonballs, looting, and blood curdling screams. Plus, you can always shoot over to the Marshall Wharf in Belfast for a handcrafted brew from Three Tides!