Military and maritime history buffs, take note! Fort Columbia State Park is considered one of the most intact historic coastal defense sites in the U.S.
Constructed between 1896 and 1903, renovated during World War II and de-commissioned in 1947, this day-use park on Chinook Point near the mouth of the Columbia River will take you back to the early 20th Century.
Fort Columbia’s small size and the historic integrity of its buildings give visitors an intimate feel for what life must have been like during its active years. Stroll amidst officers’ homes, artillery batteries and two 6-inch, rapid-fire, World War II-era disappearing guns that are among six still in existence. The guns were transferred to the park in 1993 from a U.S. Navy facility in Newfoundland. Peruse the park’s interpretive center for artifacts, photos and stories about exploration, the fur trade and the military community on the Columbia.
In addition to its historical significance, the area offers bird watching, miles of forested hiking trails and secluded beaches. Two of the restored buildings are available for rent; these vacation houses are perfect for family reunions and retreats.
Fort Columbia Historical State Park is a 618-acre, day-use historical park located within Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Park. The park sits along 6,400 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Columbia River. Chinook Point, the setting of this historic fort, is within the accustomed territory of the Chinook Indian Nation and is designated as a National Historic Landmark for its historical significance over three centuries.
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Picnic & day-use facilities
The park has 25 unsheltered picnic tables, available first come, first served.
5 miles of hiking trails
Other activities & features
The park offers a self-guided interpretive historic walk with information on various fort features and site history. Interpretive panels near the gun batteries include historic photos and blueprints.
The Interpretive Center focuses on Fort Columbia's history, including the topics of early exploration, fur trade and westward settlement. The Fort Columbia Interpretive Center is open daily July 1 - Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Commanding Officer’s Historic House is filled with era-appropriate furnishings and provides interpretation on the history related to the former house occupants. The house is currently closed.
A World War II gun emplacement, Battery 246 at Fort Columbia, served as a Washington State Department of Civil Defense Emergency Operating Center from
1960 to 1970. Tours at no charge are offered during July and August, Friday through Sunday, from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Tours are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, with a capacity of 10 per tour. Tours are offered at the beginning of the hour and half-hour, with the last tour starting at 3:30 p.m. For additional information, please call (360) 642-3029.
Current-day Fort Columbia Historical State Park lies within the cultural territory of the Chinook Indian Nation, whose people traditionally engaged in a rich fur trade and still live in the area today.
In 1792, American explorer and fur trader Robert Gray became the first Euro-American to enter the mouth of the Columbia River. He anchored at Chinook Point, and he named the river for his ship, The Columbia Rediviva.
Two land features, Scarborough Hill and Chinook Point, became useful navigational points for mariners crossing the Columbia River Bar, until navigational equipment advanced in the 1850s and the two landmarks became less relevant.
Captain James Scarborough, a British sailor and employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was the first Euro-American to settle the land. He established a productive farm in the 1840s, but passed away in 1855.
The U.S. military purchased the property in 1864, though it was not developed until the turn of the century. In 1895, the War Department decided to strengthen and modernize the coastal defenses at the mouth of the Columbia. Construction began in 1897, the first garrison of soldiers arrived in 1903, and the fort was completed in 1904.
Fort Columbia remained operational through World War I and II, though it never fired a shot outside of training in all those years. The fort almost saw action once during World War II, when a Japanese submarine fired nine shots at nearby Fort Stevens.
In 1947, Fort Columbia was declared surplus by the military. It was acquired by Washington State Parks in 1950 and opened as a park in 1951.