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The New Portland Wire Bridge: A Unique Piece of Maine History

Photo by: Heather Niemann Worster

The New Portland Wire Bridge, located in New Portland, Maine, is remarkable in engineering history. Built-in 1866, this suspension bridge spans the Carrabassett River and is one of the few remaining examples of its kind in the United States. In this article, we will explore the history and unique features of the New Portland Wire Bridge, a hidden gem nestled in the picturesque landscape of rural Maine.

History of the New Portland Wire Bridge:

The New Portland Wire Bridge was constructed in 1866 by David Elder and Captain Charles B. Clark, who were local bridge builders. The bridge replaced an earlier wooden bridge destroyed by a flood in 1863. The new bridge was designed as a suspension bridge using wire cables, an innovative approach at the time.

In 1961, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2000, it underwent a significant restoration project to preserve its structural integrity and historical appearance.

Unique Features:

The New Portland Wire Bridge is a single-span suspension bridge with a length of 198 feet. Its most striking feature is wire cables, woven by hand on-site during construction. The bridge has two main cables on each side, from which suspenders hold the wooden deck. The cables are anchored to large granite blocks on either side of the river.

The bridge’s towers are wood, with diagonal bracing for added stability. The wooden deck comprises planks laid side by side, providing a surface for vehicles and pedestrians to cross. Although the bridge is no longer used for heavy traffic, it remains open for pedestrians and light vehicles, such as bicycles and ATVs.

Visiting the New Portland Wire Bridge:

The New Portland Wire Bridge is on Wire Bridge Road, just off Route 146 in New Portland, Maine. It is easily accessible and has a small parking area near the bridge. Visitors can walk across the bridge and enjoy the scenic views of the Carrabassett River and the surrounding countryside.

While visiting the bridge, please take the opportunity to explore the town of New Portland and its surrounding area, which offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching.

The New Portland Wire Bridge is a testament to the ingenuity of its builders and an essential part of Maine’s engineering heritage. Its unique design and picturesque setting make it a must-see destination for history enthusiasts, engineering aficionados, and those looking to explore the natural beauty of rural Maine.