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A Rugged Time Travel Through Layered Wonders at Fort Stevens, N. Oregon Coast

Published 07/17/020 at 5:24 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

A Rugged Time Travel Through Layered Wonders at Fort Stevens, N. Oregon Coast

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(Warrenton, Oregon) – It’s hard to find one single area so steeped in Oregon coast history. Lewis & Clark stayed here for a winter over two hundred years ago. There’s a crusty old shipwreck on this beach, and there’s an entire concrete fort that’s been around since the Civil War making striking impressions for generations.

Between the tiny town of Gearhart and Astoria sits Fort Stevens State Park and its numerous manmade - but abandoned - wonders. Yet there’s also intense natural pleasures here: from its long stretches of sand, hiking trails to its insanely chaotic jetty.

Especially notable is the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a schooner that smashed here in the early 1900s and is now known as the world's most photographed shipwreck. Its rusted, skeletal remains make for great climbing (tide permitting), although most of the time only its front tip is visible, with a few other higher objects sticking out to the south of it. Sometimes the sand is lower and even more of it is visible. Wrecking the Peter Iredale: How Oregon Coast History Played Out in 1906

Then, there are the numerous concrete battlements once used to guard the mouth of the Columbia, which housed huge guns and now look a little bit like an American version of an old castle. Here, enormous gunneries pointed out towards the sea, lodged in huge turrets which rested in sprawling concrete fortresses – all empty and abandoned now, with gaping holes. They're like sad, hollow eyes where guns, officers’ quarters and other war machinery once sat, except it's such a wonder what stays with you most is the amazement of wandering this place. Battery Russell, Staircases and Entrance of the N. Oregon Coast Fortress

The main attraction is Battery Russell and its enormous concrete bunkers, with spartan rooms that are labeled with such military purposes as "latrines" and "officer's lounge." Built around the turn of the last century, the gunnery eventually watched for invaders during World War II.

In 1942, a Japanese submarine fired shells at the battery, although none were fired back. This is one of the few times the continental U.S. was fired upon by during World War 2.

There’s a museum dedicated to the fort and a whole other section of Fort Stevens that’s open during the summers, showing off more World War II technology.

This long, long stretch of Clatsop Beach goes on for miles and there are sections where you can drive your vehicle, including around the wreck of the Iredale. A curious secret about these beaches: they didn’t exist before about 100 years ago. When the construction of the jetties at the Columbia River began, this drastically changed the sand distribution and created almost a mile worth of land and sand in some areas, spreading westward. Fort Stevens State Park: The Shocker Underneath This Oregon Coast Historical Site

So much of this area wasn’t around when Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery wandered here in 1805. They built Fort Clatsop at about where the living museum / attraction is right now a couple of miles to the east. It’s a fascinating place to visit. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. 92343 Fort Clatsop Road. Astoria, Oregon. (503) 861-2471.

That south jetty – that very northwestern tip of Oregon you can see on maps – is quite the stunner, especially in winter. Mammoth waves crash against the enormous boulders, exploding with ferocity. Find a day with not much wind and yet crazed waves and you’re in for a spectacle up on that viewing platform (and it’s more comfortable than the shredding winds it’s known for). Even on almost calm days it’s unbelievable.

Nearby Fort Steven State Park sit some intriguing lodging possibilities.

Beach House Vacation Rentals, Inc. Dozens of homes between Seaside and Warrenton; some pet friendly. All non-smoking; some offer specials even in summer. One home was featured in a paranormal TV show (although it’s not really haunted – just famous now.) Many are beachfront or within a couple blocks of beach, in lovely, quiet neighborhoods. You’ll find them in Gearhart as well. Numerous lakefront lovelies near Warrenton and right next to Fort Stevens. Office in Seaside. 1-800-995-2796.

Clementine's Guest House in Astoria. Here’s a true plunge into an historic experience. A stately Victorian with a mix of Asian and European furnishings, including flowers from their private garden. There's even a vacation rental available next door that has its own history. Look for luxury linens and some rooms with fireplaces or Jacuzzi tubs. Free wi-fi, cable TV. Large open gourmet kitchen. 847 Exchange Street. Astoria, Oregon. 503-325-2005. Website.

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