Fort Simcoe is one of the few remaining pre-Civil War forts in the west, and military history buffs should put it on their bucket lists.
You have to want to see Fort Simcoe Historical State Park to get there. Located on the Yakama Indian Reservation, between rolling hills, small farms and tiny towns, the fort has a unique sense of remoteness - and a beauty that makes it worth the drive.
Start at the interpretive center, where a ranger or self-guided tour tells the story of the property, once a Yakama Nation camping area. The rich, fertile region sparked discord between the tribes and Euro-American settlers, prompting the U.S Army to construct a fort there in 1856. Fort Simcoe’s military history was short-lived, however. Closed as a fort in 1859, the site was handed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under which it became a controversial boarding school for Yakama children.
After visiting the interpretive center, wander into the humble but elegant officers’ homes, the tribal jail and restored barracks. Hike a small hill to the original box house (defense lookout) and take in the golden valley below. Birders, try to spot a Lewis’s woodpecker, as Fort Simcoe Park is a haven for this bird of a different feather.
Relax under a shade tree, or have lunch in the picnic shelter near the playground. Keep an eye on your food, as bears have been known to enjoy the park too.
Fort Simcoe Historical State Park is a 200-acre, day-use heritage site and is primarily a historic preservation effort. Due to its historic significance, Fort Simcoe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1974. Camping is available at nearby Brooks Memorial and Yakima Sportsman state parks.
In 1956, Fort Simcoe was leased to Washington State Parks by the Yakama Nation on a 99-year lease, for preservation as a historic monument.
Discover Pass: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
The park provides four sheltered and 45 unsheltered picnic tables. Restrooms, running water, and ample parking are available.Tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
0.8 miles of hiking trails
Other activities & features
Two horseshoe pits
The park has an interpretive center and three officer's buildings that are open to the public from April 1 to Oct. 1, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The entire park is of interpretive value. Group tours are offered for a fee. Tours the rest of the year may be made by appointment, call (509) 874-2372.
Five original buildings are still standing at the fort, the commander's house, three captain's houses, and a blockhouse. Various other buildings have been recreated to appear original. Houses are filled with period furnishings.
Please check the calendar of events for Flag Day celebrations and interpretive events showcasing Fort Simcoe History. Events may include military re-enactors and living history specialists, traditional tribal dancers, flag raising ceremony, military displays, antique car shows, free cake and refreshments.
Fort Simcoe has large open grassy areas for baseball, football, softball and soccer.
Wildlife viewing is seasonal and bird watching is year round.
The tribes of the Yakama Nation long used the Fort Simcoe site as a camping area. Its cold springs, called "Mool Mool" (bubbling water) by the tribes, offered an abundance of water in the otherwise dry region. Timber was nearby, grassland was abundant and the weather in the valley was normally better than further north.
As conflicts increased between white settlers and tribes in the Washington Territory, the military needed a post further north than Fort Dalles, Oregon. The camping area of Mool Mool was chosen and Fort Simcoe construction began Aug. 8, 1856, by companies G and F, Ninth Infantry, led by Maj. Robert Seldon Garnett.
The fort served as an advance post of the Ninth Infantry Regiment, one of the two regular army posts established in the territory. The other was Fort Walla Walla.