Leaf-peeping along the Penobscot River

The red metal roof of a North Bucksport building contrasts with the autumn hues in this photo taken from Water Street in Winterport.
The red metal roof of a North Bucksport building contrasts with the autumn hues in this photo taken from Water Street in Winterport.
Posted Nov. 13, 2012, at 11:35 a.m.
Marsh Stream flows past natural beauty and beneath the Brooklyn Road bridge in Frankfort in late October.
Marsh Stream flows past natural beauty and beneath the Brooklyn Road bridge in Frankfort in late October. Buy Photo
Rising above the South Branch of the Marsh Stream, late October foliage climbs Bowden Point in Prospect.
Rising above the South Branch of the Marsh Stream, late October foliage climbs Bowden Point in Prospect. Buy Photo
Viewed from Water Street in Winterport, the Penobscot River flows between the Winterport shore and the yellow-painted woods of North Bucksport.
Viewed from Water Street in Winterport, the Penobscot River flows between the Winterport shore and the yellow-painted woods of North Bucksport.
At Bald Hill Cove in Winterport, the Penobscot River flows past late October colors in Winterport (left) and Orrington (right).
At Bald Hill Cove in Winterport, the Penobscot River flows past late October colors in Winterport (left) and Orrington (right).

No tourist publication ever lists the Penobscot River as a leaf-peeping destination — but it should be, as I recently discovered.

From The Weekly offices on Main Street in Bangor, we can see the Penobscot River and foliage along the Bangor and Brewer shores. When the fall sun highlighted the cascading colors in Brewer one particular weekday in late October, I grabbed my camera and ventured downriver on Route 1A to find other places where beautiful hues abutted the water.

By this time, orange and yellow dominated the autumn color palette along the Penobscot River. Some reds still existed, primarily among trees planted in commercial and residential developments, but the “natural” reds of native maples had vanished with the calendar.

Their numbers obviously few post-Columbus Day, boaters could enjoy the riparian foliage. Unless they knew where to look, however, motorists could not.

But car-accessible sites do exist. Check out these places when the foliage starts to turn along the Penobscot River next fall:

• Bald Hill Cove on Route 1A in Winterport. Framed by headlands, the view opens east to South Orrington and a wide bend in the river. Although the road has wide shoulders, traffic moves fast along the cove; be careful when parking here.

• Water Street in Winterport. Although the Winterport Marine and Boatyard Services’ buildings block some views, leaf-peepers can see the North Bucksport shore from Water Street just north of the boatyard. From Main Street (Route 1A) in downtown Winterport, take Washington, Dean, Commercial, Willow, or Ferry streets to reach Water Street.

• The Winterport On The Run at the intersection of Main Street (Route 1A) and Whig Street (Route 69) in Winterport. Bring a lunch; a few picnic tables overlook the river’s wooded banks in Bucksport, Frankfort, and Prospect. The metal caps atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge towers glow like polished silver on a sunny day.

• The green-painted, steel-girder bridge that once carried Brooklyn Road over Marsh Stream. Pull into the gravel lot between the bridge and Route 1A and walk onto the bridge. On a sunny day, enjoy the bright oranges and yellows along the stream’s east bank.

• Route 1A along Marsh Bay in Frankfort. The north and south branches of Marsh Stream intersect in this mud-bottomed bay, which opens into the Penobscot River. Park in the gravel lot across from the Mt. Waldo Road intersection and spend a few minutes studying the mixed colors on Marsh Point in Frankfort and the dominant yellows girding Bowden Point in Prospect.

• Fort Point Lighthouse in Stockton Springs. Enjoy the foliage across the river along the Castine and Penobscot shores; I also recommend walking north to the shore, where the northerly view encompasses Sandy Point and Verona Island.

From Main Street in Stockton Springs, follow the signs to Fort Point State Park. Take Cape Jellison Road to East Cove Road, drive past the park’s shuttered gate, and turn left onto Lighthouse Road. Park in the paved or gravel lots at the end of the road.

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