GPS Coordinates: 46.1982204, -123.9797348
EXPERIENCE > LANDMARK PLACES
The sprawling military complex of Fort Stevens was built during the American Civil War and went into full operation just as the war was ending in 1865. It was one of three forts to make up the Three Fort Harbor Defense System which was designed to protect the mouth of the Columbia River.
In the mid-nineteenth century, as with today, the Columbia was a very important route from transportation and commerce. An enemy gaining entrance to the Columbia could wreck havoc on towns from Astoria to Portland. During those first years, the facility was a series of earthen ramparts, defensive trenches and large cannons meant to fight off an attack from the sea. Over the next few decades, the primitive earthen works were replaced by thick concrete bunkers and numerous gun emplacements dug into the shoreline.
Fort Stevens’ guns watched over the mouth of the Columbia through World War I and World War II before they were finally dismantled and the complex was decommissioned.
Explore the Old Fort:
Although built for war, today the fort's purpose is entirely peaceful. The largest park in the Oregon State Parks system, it offers year-round camping, hiking, horseback and biking trails, freshwater lakes for fishing and boating, and much more. Annually, the park hosts over a quart of a million visitors every year.
Additionally, the park has a military museum packed with artifacts from the fort's history. This is a great place to orient yourself and start your tour.
By far, the most alluring feature is to explore the extensive ruins of the old military complex. Please be aware that doing so has some inherent risks due to the age and condition of the ruins, so review the outdoor safety guidelines before you go.
To learn more about exploring the fort and how it is being reclaimed by nature, see Life In Ruins: The West Battery.
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