A Trip to Fort Ross on the Penultimate Day of 2019


The corner blockhouse of the Fort Ross stockade is just visible on the left.

Last Monday I took a trip up the California coast to Fort Ross with some family members. Our #2 son and his family live in the Midwest; his wife was born in Russia. They were in California visiting us for the holidays. What better and more historical place to take a Russian than Fort Ross State Historic Park?

It was a beautiful sunny day, a perfect day for a drive along the coast. Fort Ross is rather remote — about 90 miles north of San Francisco — so it doesn’t get as many visitors as it deserves, but it is well worth the trip. The entrance fee is only $8 per car, so bring the whole family if you like. Bring a lunch too — there are picnic tables near the parking lot, or you can picnic near the shore with a rock for a table, as we did.


A drawing of Fort Ross, 1843

According to the State Parks website:

Fort Ross was a thriving Russian-American Company settlement from 1812 to 1841. This commercial company chartered by Russia’s tsarist government controlled all Russian exploration, trade and settlement in the North Pacific, and established permanent settlements in Alaska and California. Fort Ross was the southernmost settlement in the Russian colonization of the North American continent, and was established as an agricultural base to supply Alaska. It was the site of California’s first windmills and shipbuilding, and Russian scientists were among the first to record California’s cultural and natural history. Fort Ross was a successfully functioning multi-cultural settlement for some thirty years. Settlers included Russians, Native Alaskans and Californians, and Creoles (individuals of mixed Russian and native ancestry.)

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Posing in front of Rotchev House

Fort Ross is one of the oldest properties in the California State Parks system. When the state acquired it in 1906, the only original building still standing was the Rotchev House. The rest of the fort — the stockade, the bastions, the officials’ quarters, the magazin (for storage),  and the chapel — have been restored to make the fort look as it did in its heyday.

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The restored Fort Ross chapel

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Inside Kuskov House, with samovar, tea set, sextant, candlestck, and journal

For more information about Fort Ross, including events at the fort, check out the Fort Ross Conservancy website.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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