America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Housing at Fort Columbia

Harbor Defenses of the Columbia River, Oregon

Before we get too far afield in thinking that these forts, now state parks, only tell the story of local forts that saw limited action in battles with the local tribes or to safeguard the passage of the river, there is a lot more to the stories than that. Even though that is important and interesting on their own. But what amazes us about these three forts that protected the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Columbia River and the commerce that would use its waters, is that Fort Stevens, Fort Columbia, and Fort Disappointment (Fort Canby) had their own stories of an international scale. And perhaps the most important, perhaps because its the most recent, is the 1942 attack by a Japanese submarine against Fort Stevens, one year after Pearl Harbor, the first continental USA attack during World War II, as well as previous use during the unique Pig War on the San Juan Islands. We'll cover that and more as we submit the importantance and history of all three forts.

Photo above: Historic homes used by service members during the eras when Fort Columbia was a commissioned military installation. Now part of Fort Columbia State Parks, 2010, Werewombat. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons C.C. 3.0.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Fort Stevens 1900

Harbor Defenses of the Columbia River, Oregon

And today you can visit all three fortresses as state parks. Each has history, interpretive centers, including one about Lewis and Clark, as well as the beautiful North End Lighthouse, recently refurbished, history soldier housing, and parts of the remaining forts themselves, each in a different state of repair. Overall, the story here begins with Lewis and Clark, which should not be a surprise. They arrived at Cape Disappointment in 1805, but even that was only after two men tried to cross the river bar, a failure by English Captain John Meares in 1788 and a success by American Captain Robert Gray in 1792. Fast forward to the times of the Civil War, and a Post at Cape Disappointment was built in 1862 to thwart Confederate and foreign raiders; in 1863, Fort Stevens was built to protect the inlet on the south bank. Fort Columbia was built later, from 1896 to 1904, on the Washington side of the river, and served until after World War II.

Image above: Historic photo of Fort Stevens, 1900, H. Ambrose Kiehl Photograph Collection, via Wikipedia Commons. Below: Cape Disappointment, ares that would become Fort Canby, with lighthouse in the background, 2013, Adbar. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons C.C. 3.0.

Cape Disappointment

Where Is It

Fort Columbia State Park is lcoated on the Washington side of the river, 475 State Route 101, Chinook, WA 98614. Fort Stevens is located at 1100 NW Ridge Rd, Hammond, OR 97121. The address of Fort Disappointment State Park is 244 Robert Gray Drive, Ilwaco, WA 98624.

What is There Now

Three Forts

Fort Columbia has an interpretive center that is open July 1 to September 5, a Commanding Officers House (closed right now), an interpretive walking tour with waysides, restrooms, picnic tables, two historic houses to rent, campsites, beach walking, boating, and great views. Fort Stevens, beyond its historic footprint, is part of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, and includes one of the largest public campgrounds in the United States amid over four thousand acres. There are kayak tours, the oldest Civil War era earthworks on the west coast, and an underground World War II era command center, and batteries. The museum and infomation center round out only some of its features. Cape Disappointment State Park. at over two thousand acres, has camping (including cabins and yurts), picnic areas, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Fort Canby, and the North Head Lighthouse which is open May to September, plus more. Hiking trails take you through forests, around lakes, and onto the beach.

When Open and How Much

Fort Columbia and Cape Disappointment $10 day fee. Day fee at Fort Stevens in $5 per day.

Fees and hours are subject to change.

Fort Columbia State Park
Fort Stevens State Park
Cape Disappointment State Park

History Nearby

Of course, we think of the trails that brought Lewis and Clark and many others over the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Coast here, as well as other forts, commercial with the Hudson Bay Company, and other natural wonders. Don't miss Fort Vancouver or Lewis and Clark, they are National Park Service Sites, as is Oregon Caves National Monument, a bit further away. But there are so many historic sites here, both natural and man oriented, leave yourself plenty of time to wander.

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