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Shipwrecks and Batteries – Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Peter Iredale Shipwreck

One of the many things I love about Oregon is that they are very dog friendly. Most of their state parks allow dogs, which is handy because I travel with my dog. While planning my trip to Oregon I only had time for one park while in Astoria. It was between Fort Stevens State Park and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park.

I love to learn about history while on my trips and while Lewis and Clark may be the more obvious choice I picked the Fort Stevens State Park instead. Why you may ask?  Well because Boomer was welcome to join me at Fort Stevens, where as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, Boomer would spend his time waiting in the car.

Fort Stevens is a huge park, around 4200+ acres with plenty of activities to see and do. The history of Fort Stevens began around the American Civil War. Originally named Fort at Point Adams, the fort was built in 1863 to 1864 at the mouth of the Columbia River. The purpose of the fort was to protect the shoreline from a possible British invasion during the Pig War (1859 – 1870), a dispute that had escalated over the San Juan Islands and oddly enough began by the shooting of a pig, hence the name of the war. The fort also provided protection during the Alaska Boundary dispute of 1896 to 1903, again with the British.

The Fort was renamed to Fort Stevens in 1865 to honor the fallen territorial governor of Washington State, Isaac I. Stevens, who had been killed in action.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Peter Iredale Shipwreck

One of the main attractions in the Fort Stevens Park is the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. The ship ran around on October 25th, 1906 while en-route to Portland from Mexico. To navigate a ship into the mouth of the Columbia River is challenging enough, but on the night of the 25th it was even more so. High winds, rising tides and a heavy mist caused the ship to land on shore, resulting in another victim of the Graveyard of the Pacific.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Peter Iredale Shipwreck

All crew members survived the wreck and the ship was salvageable, however weather conditions trapped the ship in the sand and preventing the ship from being saved.  What could be salvaged was sold for scrap. The ship now sits on the shoreline, giving you a haunting, yet captivating look at the “bones” of the ship. As we approached the ship Boomer was terrified of the wreckage. It was not surprising as Boomer is terrified of most things. We walked over to the ship’s bow to get a closer look and I kept feeling a tug on the leash, pulling me away from the ship. It was cute that Boomer was looking out for my safety.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Be brave Boomer… you can’t let Brittany see you’re about to crap you pants from fear… even though you’re not wearing pants

I pulled Boomer closer to me and touched the bow of the ship, with him looking at me in sheer terror. It was then he realized he did not need to be afraid. In his typically curious way he started to sniff around the ship, even going inside the bow.  Fear had subsided.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Battery Russell

Our next spot while touring Fort Stevens was the Battery Russell. A battery is a huge concrete structure, built to defend a harbor. In this case, defending the Pacific coastline and the mouth of the Columbia River. There were not may visitors at this spot, in fact Boomer and I had the place to ourselves most of the time we spent there. It did give it an eerie feeling and creeped me out while walking inside the battery. Luckily for Boomer after the shipwreck he did not seem to be creeped out by anything anymore.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
It looks creepy, right?

The Battery Russell went down in the history books during World War II as the only military structure on the continental United States to be fired upon by a foreign enemy since the War of 1812. On the night of June 21, 1942, enemy ships fired upon the shoreline near the battery, but the enemy guns were out of range. The soldiers manning the battery decided not to fire back as a safety precaution. The fire from the guns would have signaled their location to the enemy ships, thus exposing of their location.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
West Battery at Fort Stevens State Park

Our final stop at Fort Stevens was the Battery Clark Museum, along with West Batteries, Battery 245 and Battery Clark. Aside from the Peter Iredale shipwreck, if you have limited time to spend at Fort Stevens, this would be the spot you want to visit as it is the most comprehensive part of the park.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
West Battery is so large I can’t fit it all in my camera frame… of course I could if I knew how to use panorama 🙂

The Batteries located at this site are HUGE and will take some time to walk around.  You can pick up a map at the museum or the ranger station that highlights the historic information about the area.  Numbered signs correspond with the information on the map which provides you with a brief explanation of what took place at each stop. I suggest at least 2 to 3 hours for this spot.

West Battery is the largest of the structures, it at one point had six 10 inch disappearing guns. The guns were later separated and renamed; guns 1 and 2 were renamed Battery Lewis, for Meriwether Lewis, guns 3-4 named Battery Walker, for Col. Leverett Walker who was a commanding officer at Fort Stevens from 1906 to 1907. Guns 5 and 6 were renamed in 1906 to Battery Mishler.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
The start of the reenactment

As you walk around the site you and learn about the different batteries and the several other buildings that make up the fort. Many of the buildings are still standing today along with some foundation outlines left behind, representing buildings that are no longer in existence.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
Pardon my blurry photo… Boomer yanked hard on the leash while I was taking this photo… One of the many joys of solo travel with a dog!

It is an interesting spot for sure, and we, well I, thoroughly enjoyed the historic reenactment.

Visiting Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria Oregon
I’m so scared – please get me out of here NOW!

Boomer, as you can see from his face, did not enjoy the guns being shot. Back to being a scaredy-cat.

If you would like to visit Fort Stevens State Park they are located at 100 Peter Iredale Rd in Hammond Oregon.

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