The Bridge to Beautiful
Crossing Eggemoggin Reach to Maine’s Deer Isle
An old metal bridge can tug on your heartstrings, and a fetch of ocean water can take your breath away. Just ask anyone who has crossed the Deer Isle Bridge over Eggemoggin Reach..
Eggemoggin Reach is a long, wide waterway running along the Downeast Maine coast. “The Reach,” as it’s called, separates the mainland from a linked pair of rugged islands, Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle. A two-lane mint green bridge gracefully spans the Reach. Without a boat, the narrow steel suspension bridge is the only way to go from the mainland to Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle.
Eggemoggin Reach’s relatively protected waters carry boats from Penobscot Bay to Jericho Bay and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. On the north side of Eggemoggin Reach lie Cape Rosier and Sedgewick and Brooklin, all on the Blue Hill Peninsula. On the south side of Eggemoggin Reach lie Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle.
Boaters who ply these waters know Deer Isle as a large island complex of peninsulas and points. You’ll find it on a chart just southwest of Mount Desert Island, which itself is home to the wildly popular Acadia National Park. These large islands are among the three thousand islands that are strung like beads and charms from one end of Downeast Maine to the other.
The arching Deer Isle Bridge was built in 1938, which–in Deer Isle time–is not very long ago at all. Drive south on Route 15 across the bridge from the mainland, and you’ll soon see this proud hand-painted sign: Welcome to Our Beautiful Island. You’ve arrived on Little Deer Isle, which Route 15 then connects to the larger Deer Isle via a long curving causeway that swoops across open water nearly at sea level.
It is indeed beautiful here—refreshingly remote, perhaps a bit rustic, and maybe still up and coming—but simply beautiful, always. The islanders know what they have, and the artists who flock here for the clear light and thick fog see it too. Deer Isle is graced by pine and fern covered hillocks, granite outcroppings, and oceanfront nooks and coves at the end of every long narrow road. Whiffs of salty seaweed and fishing and needled forests meet you at every turn. This place is pure, unadulterated Maine coast.
Add in two Victorian-era villages, the Town of Deer Isle, which anchor the island’s midpoint, and the Town of Stonington, which tumbles down to the harbor at the island’s southern tip. Stir in hundreds of colorful working lobster boats bobbing on moorings, toss in a handful of walkable nature preserves, spice it all up with gorgeous sunsets painted over the water and hills, and you’ve really got something here.
As with every rural community, the local folks have a few things left to figure out. Many fishermen’s homes have transitioned to become seasonal second homes. Education, employment, healthcare, and technology pose problems in search of solutions. Oh, and it can be pretty darn chilly here. Still, tourism injects itself into the local economy, people try to help, and the municipal governments do a good job at balancing things.
The bones of this place are exceptional. The primeval granite underlying the entire island (and protruding from every possible crevice) is just about the toughest stuff known to man. Folks here will tell you it takes a unique individual, a tough and gritty person, to get oneself to this place.
Once on Deer Isle, you have a very limited menu of choices about where to go, who to see, and what to buy. Not for everyone, I know. It takes some gumption to live here and visit here. You most certainly are not in the big city anymore.
That’s the beauty of it, all of it put together—the hard rock granite, the drop-dead natural gorgeousness, the gritty human spirit, the limited connection to the big bad world. These are the tugs on the heartstrings, the breathtaking moments, the mysterious lures that work their magic to bring you here to this place—this rugged island that lies here beyond the Bridge to Beautiful.