Fort Columbia Historical State Park
One of many coastal defense sites in the United States is situated at the Columbia River estuary in Chinook, Washington. It is well intact with 12 historical fort buildings, including the officer's house, artillery batteries, and two coastal artillery guns. The site is one of the many associated to the Lewis and Clark National and State-Historical Parks in Washington and Oregon. Construction of the 643 acre original fort lasted between 1896 and 1903, with additional construction during World War II. The fort was fully manned and operational for approximately 18 years before being transferred to the state in 1950. Today the park provides three miles of trails, a museum, wildlife viewing opportunities, and two historic vacation houses for overnight stays.
Update 06/27/2016: There were some inaccuracies in the original post which have been updated. Thanks to Washington State Parks for reaching out to us!
Visiting Fort Columbia Historical State Park
It was a warm, clear day in mid April when we visited. The restored housing of the personnel who used to live here is indeed impressive, but the really intriguing parts for us were the old batteries. While the housing boasts the character and architectural details classic of a long passed time, the batteries display decay and ruin.
The curious lure of the dark, damp interiors of a maze of halls is pretty hard to resist. Crumbling concrete, water stained ceilings and walls, and rusted remnants are all around. There are no lights, at least none were in use when we were there, so bring a light source. There are stairs that descend into shadow that beckon you to follow. Darkened corridors lead to numerous rooms and connect to yet more corridors. There are openings periodically that allow for glimpses of blue sky. Iron tracks run along some of the ceilings and the remnants of unidentifiable equipment sparsely decorate these forgotten spaces.
It was a really lovely day, but the park had few visitors while we roamed its grounds. Whilst underground in these bunker like structures, the surroundings are silent. The occasional dripping of water the only sound accompanying us. The inner depths of these dens are rather intimidating. There are spaces where no exterior light reaches. Exploring these spaces in the silent blackness is all well and good until a cold drop of water suddenly hits the back of your neck and slides down your back! A bit chilling, to say the least.
Now, once you've gotten your curiosity satisfied, make your way over to the waterfront. There are trails that lead through wildflowers and grasses, around more remnants of old buildings, then eventually to the rocky shoreline. Climb along on the crags above the water. There are tide pools holding tiny ecosystems, beautiful views far off and the lapping of the water on the rocks. It's lovely and peaceful and would make a great spot to see a sunset.
Getting There & Nearby Attractions
The fort is located 2.5 miles west of Astoria Bridge, or 10.5 miles east of Cape Disappointment State Park, on the southern border of the state along U.S. 101. It's roughly a ~3 hour drive from the Seattle-Tacoma area. The views from Bay Center and south, along 101, are beautiful and include Willapa Bay and the Columbia River. If you're into photography you'll have some great opportunities on this route.
A few places that are worth a stop nearby the fort include Clarks' Dismal Nitch, Knappton Cove Heritage Center, Middle Village/Station Camp Park, and the above mentioned Cape Disappointment State Park. If you have enough time you may also want to cross the river into Oregon and visit Astoria Column. We've mapped all of these out for you right here.
We love history, especially the kind you can visit, see, touch and explore. Fort Columbia Historical State Park offers all of these and quenches the thirst of adventure. There are man made fortresses to explore, lovely architecture, nature and lovely, scenic views. You can picnic here, explore here you can even rent a place and stay here. Do plan a stop or a stay here, it's an intriguing spot you don't want to pass up!