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Guide to Oregon’s Best State Parks

Visit Fort Stevens State Park – an historic military site

Not far from Astoria, is Fort Stevens State Park. Although its Oregon’s largest campground, its attributes go way beyond 400+ campsites, miles of clean ocean beaches, nature trails, and freshwater lakes. The ruins of the Peter Iredale shipwreck are also here- just wander onto the beach to see the skeletal ruins of this 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. Did you also know about the Fort Stevens Historic Area and Military Museum? If not, history buffs should head over to the coast because you’re in for a real treat!

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 is off US 101, ten miles west of Astoria. There is a $3 day-use fee or buy a $25 annual permit for access to all state park day-use areas. Camping fees are additional. During Discovery Season (October 1 to April 30), Fort Stevens has a limited amount of campsites available through the reservation system, but in the summer, reserve your site early because all campgrounds on the Oregon coast fill up fast. Fort Stevens’ campground includes 174 full hookup sites for RVers, 303 electrical sites, 42 sites for tents, 15 yurts, and four areas set aside for larger groups.

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