The Adventure: Veterans Day at State Parks

Fort Flagler Battery
November 5, 2015

Looking for a great way to celebrate service men and women while you enjoy the Veteran’s Day holiday?

 

Your state parks are a great place to do just that! Veteran’s Day is the last Washington State Parks free day of the year! You won’t need a Discover Pass for day-use visits.
The Adventure...
Many of your state parks enjoy a rich military history. From coastal batteries to battlegrounds, you’ll find parks statewide where you can recreate and reflect.

Looking for some great parks to explore on Veterans Day? A number of your Western Washington parks were once a part of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps. In their day these forts represented a national shift in American military might as we expanded from a Civil War-weary nation to a global super power.

Fort Casey, Fort Flagler and Fort Worden Historical State Parks



During the Spanish-American War of 1898, Admiralty Inlet was considered so strategic to the security of the Puget Sound, Seattle and Bremerton Naval Yard, three heavily-armed Army coastal artillery forts were built to fortify the entrance.
These forts today serve as state parks, great places to play, stay, explore military history, enjoy the beauty of Washington’s north coast and reflect on those who served to protect it.
Fort Casey Gun barrel

Fort Casey Historical State Park

 
Named in honor of Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey, this former Army fort and site of Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Built between 1897 and 1901 on Whidbey Island nearCoupeville, Fort Casey was equipped with formidable “disappearing guns” – some with 10-inc diameter barrels — which were raised and lowered for the purposes of strategy and to be hidden from fire during reloading.

The fort was quickly outmoded by the advent of World War I and aircraft warfare. Explore the circular pits where these weapons were housed and then head over to the turn-of-the-century lighthouse. For a time the Admiralty Head Lighthouse not only protected incoming ships from disaster but served as a military dog training center. For lighthouse tours, call 360-678-1186.

Fort Flagler Historical State Park

 
At the north end of Marrowstone Island near Nordland, Fort Flagler was an active part of our nation’s defense in 1899. Named for Civil War Veteran Daniel W. Flagler, this fort is the smaller and more off-the-beaten path of the three forts. In its day, the fort was primarily used for training. Stay at the Victorian-era Non-Commissioned Officer’s quarters for the weekend and visit the museum and gift shop. Or rent the Engineer’s House overlooking the old Army parade grounds.

Fort Worden Historical State Park 


The grand-daddy of the trinity, Fort Worden near Port Townsend is chock-a-block with things to see and do. Named after Rear Admiral John L. Worden, it was once an imposing battle station and home to hundreds of Army troops and officers.

Get a first-hand taste of 19th-Century Army life - stay at the Fort Worden Non Commissioned Officer&
Thanks to the Fort Worden Public Development Authority, the park is now a premier recreation mecca. There are conference centers, performance venues, wedding facilities, historic buildings, restaurant, a science center, vacation rentals and several museums. But the fort still exudes the pomp and hardship of Victorian-era Army life. Explore a few of the dozen batteries on the bluffs overlooking Admiralty Inlet and theStrait of Juan De Fuca. Check out Alexander’s Castle and the beautiful Point Wilson Lighthouse.

Glimpse back in time to the early days of Army life by visiting the two history museums or by staying in one of the historic residences. Marvel at some of the “innovative” experimental ideas launched at the park, such as the use of balloons as war aircraft! Start early! You’ll want a full day to enjoy this historic gem.

Other parks in the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps

 

Fort Columbia Historical State Park 


Built on the historic home of the Chinook Nation to guard the mouth of the Columbia River, this fort is a time capsule. Dive into America’s past at this stately fort near Chinook, manned and operational through three great wars. Take a walk through five miles of hiking trails and check out the dozen historic buildings.

Get immersed in history — rent and stay the night in the Steward’s or Scarborough Houses. The park offers a self-guided interpretive historic walk with information on various fort features and site history. Interpretive panels near the gun batteries include historic photos and blueprints. Visit the park museum for an in-depth look back at the history of the land, its people and the fort.
The brick bunker at Manchester State Park once housed mines to protect Rich Passage from invading sh

Fort Ebey State Park
Another coastal defense site, tiny Fort Ebey was built during the height of World War II. Explore the batteries—which once housed two six-inch guns—and enjoy a picnic at this peaceful park on Whidbey Island. Nineteen trails—with cool names like “Hokey-Ka-Dodo” and “Kyle’s Kettle” — meander through the park.

Camping here is closed for the season, but this is a great park for bird watching at any time of year. In good weather, you may even spot paragliders soaring above the beach.

Manchester State Park 


Only a few buildings are left of what was once Fort Middle Point near Port Orchard. It’s now a peaceful day-use park, with wide green lawns and excellent views of Rich Passage.

At the turn of the century it was the operations center for underwater mines (known then as torpedos) used to protect the Bremerton Naval Station. The ornate brick torpedo warehouse – now used as a picnic shelter – once housed the mines. Later it became an officers’ club and Remote operation of the weapons was conducted from the smaller concrete structure at the park.

The park also features a battery that was built but never used after Fort Ward was declared sufficient to guard the passage.

Want to learn more about the history of these parks and the National Coast Defense System?
Check out the book “Battle Ready” by David M. Hansen, which chronicles the building of Washington’s coast artillery forts. Hansen is a retired State Parks Historic Preservation Officer.

Did you or your family members serve at one of Washington’s coastal forts that is now a state park?
We’d love to hear about it! Share your story here!