Although Fort Stevens State Park is Oregon’s largest campground, its attributes go way beyond 400+ campsites, miles of clean ocean beaches, nature trails, and freshwater lakes. There’s a lot of history here, too. Just wander onto the beach to see the skeletal ruins of the Peter Iredale shipwreck— a British 4-masted barque that ran aground in 1906. No lives were lost, but the ship was destroyed and its hull has been rusting away ever since. And the Fort Stevens Historic Area and Military Museum is a real treat for military history buffs.
Originally commissioned as a Civil War fortification in 1863, Fort Stevens was deactivated shortly after World War II. It is the only military installation in the continental United States to be fired upon by a foreign enemy since the War of 1812. As the story goes, on the night of June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens, but the Fort’s Commander did not return fire, citing that he did not want to give away the exact location of the batteries and that the Japanese sub was too far out of range for the fort’s guns to reach anyway. The full story in detail can be found inside the museum, along with a wide variety of military artifacts, historic photos, dioramas, and interpretive displays.
Although the guns are long gone, it’s fun to explore the abandoned batteries and climb to the commander’s station for a scenic view of the Columbia River and South Jetty. During the summer, the Park Service offers motorized tours of the entire military site aboard a 2-1/2 ton U.S. Army truck, but self-guided walking tours are available year-round. Pick up a map from inside the museum and take a look at the bunkers, remains of the barracks and other military buildings, the rifle range, the fort’s earthworks that date to the Civil War, and a Clatsop Indian longhouse. The replica longhouse was built according to pre-Civil War maps on the site where an original Clatsop Indian longhouse once stood.
Fort Stevens State Park
100 Peter Iredale Rd.
Hammond, OR 97121
Camping reservations (800) 452-5687
Fort Stevens State Park is off US 101, ten miles west of Astoria, Oregon. $3 daily day-use fee (increasing to $5 January 1, 2010) or buy a $25 annual permit (increasing to $30 January 1, 2010) for access to all Oregon state park day-use areas. During Discovery Season (October 1 to April 30), Fort Stevens has a limited amount of campsites available through the reservation system, but all campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. In total you’ll find 174 full hookup sites ($18 per night in the Discovery Season), 303 electrical sites (also $18), plus tent sites and yurts.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com