Cape Disappointment State Park

Formerly Fort Canby State Park

I am a curious explorer and want to know more about Fort Canby and the Fort’s History!

  • Fort Canby was named after General Edward Canby.
  • Cape Disappointment State Park is a 1,882-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, fronted by the Pacific Ocean.
  • The park offers 27 miles of ocean beach, 2 lighthouses, an interpretive center, and hiking trails.

History of the Cape Disappointment Area

  • In 1788, while in search of the Columbia River, English Captain John Meares missed the passage over the river bar and named the nearby headland Cape Disappointment for his failure in finding the river.
  • In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully crossed the river bar and named the river “Columbia” after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva.
  • In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment.
  • In 1856, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as “the graveyard of the Pacific.”
  • In 1862, Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies (on the Washington side). The installation was expanded to become Fort Canby in 1875. The fort continued to be improved until the end of World War II.
  • In 1856, Fort Stevens was completed with a moat and drawbridge and established across the Columbia River on the Oregon side. In 1897, Fort Stevens was improved.
  • In 1875, Fort Canby came into existence to improve the defense of the Columbia River. Fort Canby was established in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War and activated in 1864 at Cape Disappointment. Fort Canby was deactivated in 1947.
  • In 1896, Fort Columbia was built. The mouth of the Columbia River was now protected with three forts.

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

In 1852 the War Department created a military reservation at Cape Disappointment to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. There were several frame garrison buildings erected and a fortification consisting of three earthwork batteries armed with smoothbore cannons. The engineer behind the building of the three batteries was George H. Elliot.

  • It was garrisoned by Company A, U.S. 9th Infantry Regiment and Company A, 8th Regiment California Volunteer Infantry in the District of Oregon.
  • The three batteries are known as “Lighthouse Battery”, “Left Battery” and “Center Battery”.
  • The Lighthouse Battery had a total of seven guns, two 8″, four 10″ and one huge 15″ Rodman smoothbore  mounted on a center pintle in front of the lighthouse. All three batteries were to meant house a total of 22 guns.
  • An 1870 report indicated that the post had a single two story barracks, 80 by 30 feet and 28 foot high, three small frame officers’ quarters, a guard house and a small eight bed hospital.
  • Between 1896 and 1908, after a long period of neglect during which the fort and its armament had become obsolete, the Army completely renovated them. New barracks and other buildings were constructed, and two batteries, Battery Harvey Allen and Battery O’Flying, with a total of five rifled guns in concrete emplacements were installed. Battery Harvey Allen’s Service Years were 1904, 1905, 1906, and 1945.

World War II (1941-1945)

  • Fort Canby remained in caretaker status from the end of WWI (1917-1918) to 1941 manned only by a sergeant and two enlisted men.
  • The fort was reactivated in 1941 and in 1944 Battery 247 was added on McKenzie Head.
  • In 1947 the fort was deactivated.
  • Present surviving structures date from the World War II period.

I really enjoyed exploring what remains of Fort Canby! I am pretty sure the fireplace in the photo below is in what was called the officers’ quarters. I now know why it is called Battery Harvey Allen (photos below).


The 3 Forts Established as The Harbor Defenses of the Columbia


(Photos by RSheridan)

Here’s to an Area Rich in Nature as well as in the History of It’s Past and Present and Future!!!

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About cravesadventure

I love to adventure to new places to create new life experiences. View all posts by cravesadventure

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