There’s something enchanting about ruins and abandoned buildings. Whether you enjoy the history behind it or the intrigue of decay, these echoes from the past are downright fun to explore. Here in Pacific County, there are numerous opportunities to step back in time. All you need is a Discover Pass and curiosity to explore these abandoned forts at two of our beautiful, timeless state parks.
Fort Columbia State Park
One of the most intact coastal defense sites in the US, Fort Columbia State Park is a treasure trove of military history. The US military purchased the land in 1864 but didn’t start building Fort Columbia until 1896.
They built this fort to help defend the Columbia River along with Fort Canby and Fort Stevens. The strategic hilltop location provided the military with a great vantage point, but it also means visitors can enjoy sweeping views of the Columbia River today.
The fort operated much like a small town. The soldiers stationed there took on whatever jobs were needed, acting as barbers, gardeners, and cooks. Dotting the hillside are more than just officers’ quarters and gun batteries. Because of their remote location, they had their own jail, powerhouses, a hospital, a fire station, and even a theater where you can still catch performances by the Peninsula Association of Performing Artists.
The US military declared the fort surplus in 1950, and Fort Columbia became a state park. Now, visitors can explore the batteries, two six-inch disappearing shore guns (only 6 similar guns are left in the world), and other structures left behind.
The officers’ quarters and other wood frame buildings are beautifully maintained. During the summer months, some of these can be rented out for overnight stays.
Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment State Park
Fort Canby is located in Cape D. The fort was originally built during the Civil War to defend the mouth of the Columbia River. It was officially deactivated in 1947 after the end of WWII.
You can visit Battery Harvey Allen right outside the Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center. Visitors can walk through the gun and powder rooms and view the old gun mounts.
Find Battery 247 after an uphill climb on the McKenzie Head Trail. The views of McKenzie Lagoon and the North Jetty are also worth the effort on this short hike.
Part of a “triangle of fire” along with Battery 246 at Fort Columbia and Battery 245 at Fort Stevens, this battery protected the mouth of the Columbia River. The site once had two coastal guns like the ones found at Fort Columbia. Now, only the mount rings remain.
Find a bunker and an old water tower along Bell’s View Trail. This short walk takes you to another amazing view. On a clear day, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
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