Fort Cascade: An Easy Walk And a Little History
If you’re looking for an easy, scenic walk that ALSO includes a lot of Northwest history, Fort Cascade on the Washington side of the Gorge is a must see. It’s just past the very popular Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain Trailhead.
If you stop at the parking lot near the Bonneville Dam in Skamania County, there’s a trail you can take through the Fort Cascades Historic site. I had no idea it was there, I actually stopped because there’s a restroom, then noticed a path, and was very pleasantly surprised! There are a few very low key markers showing where the McNatt’s Hotel was, the blacksmith shop and even a couple of old pieces of military hardware. Plus, the dense forest and Columbia River are beautiful!
Fort Cascades was a United States Army fort constructed in 1855 to protect the portage road around the final section of the Cascades Rapids, known as the “lower cascades.” It’s between the present site of North Bonneville and the Bonneville Dam. It burned in 1856, was rebuilt, but abandoned in 1861. A small community, Cascades, formed around the fort, but the largest flood of the Columbia River in recorded history damaged the town and the fort in 1894. Cascades was the county seat of Skamania County prior to 1893, when the county records were moved to Stevenson.
Fort Cascades is now on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a self-guided tour through what remains of the fort and the townsite. Self guided means there aren’t a lot of details posted, so at first you could be confused. The first thing you come across is a replica of a rock covered with petroglyphs. The original rock is now in Stevenson. It literally seems to come out of nowhere if you don’t know the history of the site. The trail is 1.5 miles, completely flat, so it’s very easy walking .