Exploring Fort Stevens

For our one and only camping trip this year, Fort Stevens State Park had everything, including 3,700 acres of wetland, forest and dunes, and even a shipwreck! The campground is one of the largest in the Western United States with over 9 miles of paved trails connecting all areas of the park.

We crossed the Columbia River from Washington to Astoria, Oregon and set up camp;

then we unloaded our bikes and hit the trails.

Our first stop was at the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel bark built in Maryport, England, in 1890, which ran aground in 1906. We’d come back here later for sunset.

The historic area of the park protects portions of the the Fort Stevens Military Reservation which guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through World War II. We visited Battery Russell where the only attack on a mainland American military site during World War II occurred on June 21, 1942.

According to History.com, “After trailing American fishing vessels to bypass minefields, the Japanese submarine I-25 made its way to the mouth of the Columbia River. It surfaced near Fort Stevens, an antiquated Army base that dated back to the Civil War. Just before midnight, I-25 used its 140-millimeter deck gun to fire 17 shells at the fort. Believing that the muzzle flashes of the fort’s guns would only serve to more clearly reveal their position, the commander of Fort Stevens ordered his men not to return fire. The plan worked, and the bombardment was almost totally unsuccessful—a nearby baseball field bore the brunt of the damage.”

There were more batteries on the Columbia River side of the park and we rode our books over to see them too.

After we’d had enough of the military, we exchanged our bikes for the truck and drove to the South Jetty.

South Jetty is one of three jetties built on the mouth of the Columbia between 1885 and 1939  to help contain the shifting sand deposits at the mouth of the river and ensure a more stable shipping channel.

After climbing the Observation Tower and watching the waves roll in, there was still enough time to head back and watch the sunset over the Peter Iredale, a perfect end to the day.

~ Susanne

24 Comments on “Exploring Fort Stevens

  1. You have some beautifully pics here. I love the path through the forest and the sunsets the best! Sounds like a great trip.

  2. My worst Fort Stevens memory is when one of my friends lost the car keys in the sand. We all looked for a very long time and actually found them, but it came back to me when I read your post! I am impressed that the ship wreck is still there. It was there when I was a kid and I figured it would have been hauled away piece by piece by visitors.

    • Wow, they couldn’t have been easy to find in that soft gray sand! And I’m also happy that the wreck of the Peter Iredale is still there for all to enjoy!

  3. Nice photos, and if you’re only going to camp one time, that’s a pretty good place for it. Pretty much everywhere around the mouth of the Columbia River has something going for it in one way or another.

  4. Looks like a beautiful area. I should put it on our “to visit” list if we ever go anywhere again.

  5. What a wonderful day! I had no idea there was an attack on American soil in WWII. Beautiful photos!

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