Ten miles west of Astoria , in the far northwest corner of the state, the Civil War–era outpost of Fort Stevens (100 Peter Iredale Rd., Hammond, 503/861-1671 or 800/551-6949, www.oregonstateparks.org/park_179.php , $3 day use for historic military area and Coffenbury Lake, $18 tent camping, $22 RV camping) was one of three military installations (the others were Forts Canby  and Columbia  in Washington) built to safeguard the mouth of the Columbia River.
Established shortly before the Confederates surrendered on April 9, 1865, Fort Stevens served for 84 years, until just after the end of World War II. Today, the remaining fortifications and other buildings are preserved along with 3,700 acres of woodland, lakes, wetlands, miles of sand beaches, and three miles of Columbia River frontage.
The fort’s creation was not the only outgrowth of the Civil War on the West Coast. The year before, President Abraham Lincoln had founded the city of Port Angeles, Washington , for “lighthouse purposes.” Given the creation of Fort Stevens shortly thereafter, it’s a logical assumption that “lighthouse purposes” also meant watching out for Confederate ships and the British, whom the Union feared would ally with the South.
The remote northwest Oregon  coast may seem a world away from the bloody battles of the Civil War, until you consider that the last shots of the conflict were fired even farther away, in the Bering Strait. On June 5, 1865, the Shenandoah attacked a fleet of Yankee whalers because the Confederate skipper was unaware of the Appomattox Treaty, which had ended the war two months before.
Although Fort Stevens did not see action in the Civil War, it sustained an attack in a later conflict. On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired 17 shells on the gun emplacements at Battery Russell, making it the only U.S. fortification in the 48 states to be bombed by a foreign power since the War of 1812. No damage was incurred, and the Army didn’t return fire. Shortly after World War II, the fort was deactivated and the armaments were removed.
Today, the site features a Military Museum (10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily June–Sept., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily Oct.–May, $3 park day-use fee) with old photos, weapons exhibits, and maps, as well as seven different batteries (fortifications) and other structures left over from almost a century of service. Climbing to the commander’s station for a scenic view of the Columbia River and South Jetty are popular visitor activities.
The massive gun batteries, built of weathered gray concrete and rusting iron, eerily silent amid the thick woodlands, also invite exploration; small children should be closely supervised, as there are steep stairways, high ledges, and other hazards.
During the summer months, guided tours of the underground Battery Mishler and a narrated tour of the fort’s 37 acres on a two-ton U.S. Army truck are also available (503/861-1470 or 503/861-2000, 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., additional tours when volunteer staff are available, May 1–Sept. 30, $4 for each tour). The summer programs include Civil War reenactments and archaeological digs; consult the visitors center for schedules.
Nine miles of bike trails and five miles of hiking trails link the historic area to the rest of the park and provide access to Battery Russell and the 1906 wreck of the British schooner Peter Iredale . You can also bike to the campground one mile south of the Military Museum.
To get to Fort Stevens State Park from U.S. 101, drive west on Harbor Street through Warrenton on Highway 104 (Ft. Stevens Hwy.) to the suburb of Hammond, and follow the signs to Fort Stevens Historic Area and Military Museum.
Parking is available at four lots about a mile from one another at the foot of the dunes. The beach runs north to the Columbia River, where excellent surf fishing, bird-watching, and a view of the mouth of the river await. South of the campground (east of the Peter Iredale ) is a self-guided nature trail around part of the two-mile shoreline of Coffenbury Lake. The lake also has two swimming beaches with bathhouses and fishing for trout and perch.
Fort Stevens State Park is one of the most popular campgrounds (reservations 800/452-5687, year-round, $18 winter, $27 summer, $30–41 yurt, $4 hiker or biker) in Northwest Oregon. A shuttle bus service links Fort Stevens campground with Fort Clatsop  and the Fort to Sea Trailhead  at Sunset Beach  mid-June–Labor Day.