The tour rims the north bank of the Columbia, nearly four miles wide at this point. The highway enters a tunnel under a steep promontory, on the top of which is Fort Columbia, one of the many guardians of the river entrance, unobservable from the road.
When Captain Robert Gray landed near here May 12, 1792, thousands of Native Americans from near-by villages flocked to the river to see his great winged ship, the Columbia, enter the mouth of the Columbia River—the first entry of which there is record.
It originally had three full batteries of coast artillery located on 720 acres of ground. On July, 1899, it was named by army officers for the river which it guarded.
The fort today is home to an excellent collection of neatly preserved military structures, including barracks, officers’ quarters, commanding officer’s residence, and artillery batteries. Cared for and maintained under the watchful eye of Wash. State Parks, the museum at Fort Columbia interprets the military presence here, which lasted through three wars. Two of the historic structures on site are available as vacation rentals; while Gun Battery 246, an underground venue with a 200-person capacity, is available for events.
Just past Fort Columbia along US 101 is Station Camp where, on November 15, 1805, the Lewis & Clark expedition camped for 10 days. The site is marked by interpretive signage and is immediately adjacent to St. Mary’s Church, completed in 1904 to serve the residents of nearby McGowan.