Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fort Stevens State Park, 6/19/2016

Fort Stevens was a military installation that guarded the mouth of the Columbia River. It was built in 1864 and decommissioned in 1947. It was named for General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, the first governor of Washington. He died as a war hero during the Civil War.

There is a large campground with RV sites, tent sites, yurts, and deluxe cabins. Miles of broad sandy beach, nine miles of bike trails, and five miles of hiking trails provides lots to see and do in addition to exploring the abandoned military sites and visiting the Military Museum

Our first stop was to see a well-known landmark in the park, the Peter Iredale shipwreck. Built in 1890, it was a four-masted bark constructed of steel plates over iron frames with steel masts. It was 287' long, 30' wide, and 23' deep. In October, 1906, with the cargo hold empty, the Peter Iredale ran aground due to a strong storm that caused navigational problems. Fortunately, no hands were lost. The wreck was sold to Pacific Iron Works as scrap and all by the forward section was removed. 

Construction began at Battery Russell in 1903 by the US Army Corp of Engineers. One of nine concrete gun batteries built at Fort Stevens, it could conceal and protect mounted guns from enemy ships. It faced the ocean to the south of the Columbia River expanding the network of artilley that guarded the entrance. 

Throughout the 1930s, Battery Russell was the practice battery for an artillery regiment of the Oregon National Guard. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the battery was manned on a regular basis. Our doggy, Sadie, enjoyed being on duty at the lookout tower.

Its 10-inch "disappearing guns" had barrels that could retract from view in the gun pits (shown below) to provide cover while soldiers reloaded. A team of 35 men manned each gun and could fire a 600-pound shell every minute with a range of 8 miles.

Check out this army bicycle from the WWII era with a rifle scabbard attached to the front.

Our next stop in the park was the Wildlife Viewing Bunker on a point that overlooks Trestle Bay. 

On the other side of the point is the Columbia River with beautiful white sandy beaches.

Long jetties were built between 1885 and 1895 to stabilize the mouth of the Columbia River and keep it from moving around (to improve navigation through the Columbia Bar). This observation deck provides views of the South Jetty.  

You can also see the coast of Washington from the observation tower and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on the point.

Our last stop was the Fort Stevens Military Museum

Below is a scale model of the guns used at Battery Russell.

Displays here tell of the surprise attack in June, 1942, on Fort Stevens by a Japanese Navy submarine. It was the I-25, a long-range submarine in the Pacific with orders to go after military targets and naval vessels along the western coast of the US. It apparently surfaced 10 miles offshore and fired shells from their 5.5" deck gun in the direction of the fort for about 15 minutes. The soldiers located the submarine by the gun flashes but orders were given to hold their fire. It was the first time a foreign power had fired upon the continental US since the War of 1812. 

Submarine mines were deployed from Fort Stevens at the entrance of the Columbia River during WWII. Cables ran to the fort where detonation could be initiated (although none ever were). 

Battery Pratt is located next to the museum. Below is a replica of the 6" rifles installed here during WWII. 

We climbed the steep concrete steps to the lookout bunker. The Columbia River can be seen in the distance.

Tours are available of the area on Army trucks that are no longer in use by the military.  

There is a lovely memorial rose garden behind the Museum. 

The admission fee to Fort Stevens State Park is $5/vehicle. We enjoyed learning more about our nation's military history here in the Pacific Northwest. 

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