This early 20th Century military fort will take you back 100 years, to a bustling time when young soldiers lived in its barracks and young women came in for weekend dances.
Kids and military buffs will find endless entertainment exploring Fort Columbia’s artillery batteries and the 6-inch, rapid fire disappearing guns from the World War II era. Maritime fans will find out about early exploration and navigation. Hikers can explore 5 miles of trails behind the fort, and beach lovers can hang out on the mossy rocks of Chinook Point. Birders will spot sea, shore and forest birds on this wide stretch of the mighty Columbia. Indeed, this park has something for everyone!
Stroll amidst officers’ homes, and stop in the park’s interpretive center to learn of its military past. Built between 1896 and 1904, the fort remained active during World War I and II before it was decommissioned in 1947. Outside of training, guns were never fired from Fort Columbia; the soldiers almost saw action once during World War II, when a Japanese submarine fired nine shots at nearby Fort Stevens.
The park lies within the traditional territory of the Chinook Indian Nation, whose people conducted a rich fur trade with European mariners. Robert Gray, the first explorer to enter the mouth of the river in 1792, named the waterway for his ship, the Columbia Redviva. British seaman James Scarborough was the first European to settle the land in the 1840s, and two park features, Scarborough Hill and Chinook Point, became navigational points for seafarers crossing the Columbia River Bar.
The park offers two lovely homes for rent. The Steward’s House, which sleeps four, sits on the fort’s highest point and offers great river views from its porch. The home has retained many original features, including hardwood floors, wooden staircase, potbellied stove and tin pressed ceilings, but it also has modern kitchen appliances and a TV/DVD player. The larger 1902 Scarborough House sleeps 12 and features a comfortable living room, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large modern kitchen and generous porch, perfect for retreats with colleagues, family and friends. The two houses can be rented together for larger gatherings. The best part: Fort Columbia is a day-use park, so overnight guests will have the place all to themselves after dusk.
Spending the weekend? Cape Disappointment State Park, at the mouth of the Columbia, is a 20-minute drive from the fort and offers days of discovery, from scenic beaches and iconic viewpoints to wooded hikes, lighthouse tours and an interpretive center detailing the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Also a 20-minute drive, the town of Astoria in neighboring Oregon has local shopping and scrumptious dining opportunities.
The ultimate active getaway, this little-known park and its surroundings will delight modern-day explorers of all ages and interests.
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