Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, Summer 2017

Ft Stevens State Park is at the far NW corner of Oregon right where the Columbia River goes into the Pacific Ocean. Not too far to the east is Astoria. Ft Stevens is a very large park. The campground has 174 full hookup sites, 302 water and electric sites, 6 tent sites, 15 yurts and 11 cabins and a hiker/biker camp. There are lots of good bike trails, a fishing lake, good beach access and lots of things to see and do.

There really is a Ft Stevens which started out as a Civil War Fort to protect the Columbia River from ourselves. It was modified in WWI to protect against the Germans I suppose and much more during WWII to protect us from the Japanese. It is all there to visit on walking tours. There is a twice a week tour in a WWII monster truck. Visitors ride in the back on benches. They have a small visitors center and of course a gift shop.

Near the site of the Civil War site – an enormous excavation (for a moat) and earth moving (for a huge raised area for cannon) activity for most stationed there – there was the remnants of a long house made by Native Americans long before any of this fort stuff was here. It was more than 100 ft long and maybe 30 ft wide and was used as a fishing camp when the salmon were coming up stream.

We went to visit the Fort. Lots of walking.

This is the Battery Russell, the best preserved of the WWII batteries. There were several of these batteries in various configurations over a couple miles along the coast. All of them were back from coast 1/4 to 1/2 mile. There were towers where spotters watched for targets and sent targeting information to the batteries.

These were mostly 10” pop up cannons. They were loaded and aiming instructions set and then the gun rotated and rose up and fired. The recoil pushed the cannon back into a crouched position. This is the only cannon that looks like this. Most of the rest have been removed or are in much worse shape.

One battery was built with three of these guns each in a recess that completely surrounded the gun. The one above is not even surrounded half way around. The battery with the completely surrounded guns was completed, guns installed, crews trained and in the first live fire training exercise six crew were killed from the concussion contained in the closed surround. The guns were removed and shipped to France after DDay and the battery was never used again.

Battery Russell was shelled by a Japanese submarine one night in 1942. 17 shells landed, none doing any real damage. It was cloudy and foggy so no one could see the submarine. The sub commander had no idea of the guns emplacements that could easily have sunk his boat if he had been seen. This is the only military installation in the continental US to come under fire during WWII. An oil field near Santa Barbara had been shelled earlier from a Japanese submarine. Did you read about that in grade school?

We also saw evidence and a display about Japanese Balloon Bombs. These were gas filled paper balloons launched from Japan into prevailing winds that brought them over the US from Alaska to southern California and as far east as Michigan. These had altitude controls and timing devices. They had incendiary bombs and anti-personnel bombs designed to start fires and injure civilians. More than 9,000 were built, perhaps 1,000 made it to the US. The actual number is hard to say. Some started fires. Six people were killed in rural eastern Oregon when they came upon a balloon bomb that had landed and disturbed it. It exploded and caused the only WWII US combat casualties in the lower 48 states.

We had a really nice campsite. But cell phone service was terrible. It was hard to figure since this park is very near an urban area. Our great great nephew (yikes! That means we are a great great aunt and uncle) (he is only 2 months old) lives with his mom and our great nephew and his Grandma in St Helens, OR about 2 hrs upriver. They came down for a visit one day.

A picnic with our cool picnic plates. Susan, Cyndi, Victoria (mom) , Ryan (the featured person) , Hunter (sitting) and Charles (dad).

Some great great auntie time.

And a bit of great great uncle time too. What a wee one.

We had a nice visit, lunch and a walk and then they were off. Fun!

Lots of beach to walk on here. All the way to the south jetty at the entrance to the Columbia River about five miles away.

You can drive over the dune and down onto the beach. Pretty neat. We did this on a couple days.

This park has it all. Even a shipwreck. The Peter Iredale from about 1906. This is all that is left, a bit of the bow.

Starting in 1885 the Army Corp of Engineers began building a railroad trestle across a bay and across the end of the peninsula and out eventually 4-1/2 miles into the ocean. And then trains began hauling huge rocks out along the tracks dumping their loads further and further out, millions and millions of tons of rock. The jetties – there is one on the north side as well – took 27 years to build and was finished for just 55% of the original budget.

At the south jetty which extends 4-1/2 miles out into the ocean, the sand has filled in along the shore and added almost 1/2 mile of new beach over the last 150 years since the jetty was built.


We went into Astoria a couple times. We visited the Astoria Column, it is on a 600 ft high hill and is 125 ft tall. 164 steps to the top. I climbed, Susan’s knee was sore so she cheered me on.

Tall! And a view.

And there is a big bridge too. About 4 miles long and almost 200 ft above the river.

We went to a canning museum. Tuna and salmon were the main thing that was canned here. Bumble Bee Tuna was a big one. The cannery is now part museum, part housing, part offices and food places.

We also went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This is another one of those museums that is much bigger inside than it appears from the outside. If focuses on the river, fishing industry, the Pilot boats which take Bar Pilots out to ships entering and exiting the river and River Pilots who guide the ships up the river as far as Portland.

This is an actual Coast Guard rescue boat now retired. Waves over the sand bar at the opening of the Columbia make this one of the most treacherous passages in the world.

This is the Pilot Station where pilot boats and Pilots are dispatched. There was a very nice restaurant nearby, Clemente’s, where we had a great lunch.

There was a Coast Guard ship at dock there too.

And a National Geographic cruise ship (small).

And a paddlewheel boat.

Down at the other end of the waterfront there was a cruise ship (big).

I like where they make mis-behavers walk the plank.

And the big stack of logs heading overseas to become something we buy here. This was just the first row of logs. There were a dozen more like this one.

We also went to see Fort Clatsop National Historic Site where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter. Pretty small quarters for almost 40 people. This is a reproduction of the buildings on the actual site.

This was the last stop on our best-of Oregon Beach Parks coastal adventure. While we were here Rich and Peggy Bowman from Ohio joined us for a few days in their Foretravel. It is always fun to see coach friends.

We are heading east towards home soon. The weather watch is on and it looks like a front is heading that way across Montana and if we get going we will be behind it.

More later,

Roger and Susan

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