Walking into History at Fort Ross

Sunday, the ocean was calm – hardly a breeze – truly pacific. We made our way up the winding Hwy 1 to Fort Ross.

In addition to the new construction at the Fort and new places seen – the Call House was open and the Russian Cemetery was easily found – we had a marvelous afternoon. (We were last here in 2010.)

Windmill Ft Ross
Fort Ross Windmill

As part of the 200th anniversary of Fort Ross (established in 1812), a windmill was built in Russia and assembled on the site near the original location of a windmill. Fort Ross was an outpost for the Russians, first to establish a settlement and then to provide resources for exploration and trade.

Ft Ross headlands
Fort Ross headlands

We checked the entrance to the meadow trail (I was more fact-checking than out for a walk). In spring and summer near the cliff’s edge bush lupines thrive. Through this meadow is a path fisherman use to go down to the beach. When it rains and during a normal rainy season, this can be a soggy meadow.

We then walked down to the Call House and one of the handicap accesses to the fort.

Ft Ross Cove
View down to Fort Ross Cove
Ft Ross Coast looking South
View to another clifftop at Fort Ross

After John Sutter purchased the site in 1841 from the Russian-American Co, he removed the cattle and sheep and took them to his own fort in the Sacramento Valley.

Call House at Fort Ross
Call House Fort Ross

In 1873, George Call purchased 8,000 acres and started a ranch. (The park is now about 3,400 acres.) Their home has recently been restored with great care and enthusiasm. It is open the first weekend of the month, with hopes for every weekend. A docent gave a rousing tour of the house packed with items found in the attic and sent from the Call family in San Francisco.

Call House parlor at Ft Ross
Call House parlor at Ft Ross

One could easily imagine living here. In fact, someone does live in a nearby building that was the schoolhouse for the Call’s many children.

Call House view at Ft Ross
Call House ocean view at Ft Ross

After our tour, we walked out on the bluff between the two beaches. Fort Ross Cove had been used with a chute to move wood, apples and dairy products onto ships. It was used by the Russians and the Calls for movement of goods. The Calls could take their second faster boat to San Francisco – in 8 hours.

Sandy Cove at Fort Ross
Sandy Cove at Fort Ross
Ft Ross clifftop
Ft Ross clifftop between coves

If you go down this road, you can access the beach and then climb to the next cliff-top to proceed to the Reef Campground or go uphill to the cemetery.

Fort Ross Path to Sandy
Fort Ross Path to Sandy

We entered the fort. All of the buildings, except the Rotchev house are re-creations. The Rotchev house was sporting a new roof. Since we were last here, a stunning warehouse has been built in the methods of the time without nail.

Fort Ross Warehouse
Fort Ross Warehouse
Church at Fort Ross
Church at Fort Ross

On a new concrete path, we walked up to the Visitor Center. Not sure what you do in a wheelchair with the uneven terrain inside the fort, but you can get to the fort more easily now.

Ft Ross Garden
Garden view back to the Fort

Following the path back to the center, you can take the stairs or continue on the path to the left. The Visitor Center has displays chronicling the history of the area from the Native People to the Russians to the farmers. Fort Ross was one of the state’s first parks  in 1906. The modern era of the park started in 1972 when it sought the input of the native people, locals and Russian Americans on how the park would be presented.

Fort Ross Cove
Fort Ross Cove

Fort Ross was a park slated by the State of California to be closed in 2012, but it remains open weekends. With all the improvements and additions to the park, I’d say it has a very active volunteer group and the state has spent its money well.

When we left the park, we went south on Hwy 1 until we found a pullout by the Russian Cemetery. This is the easy way – but you could take a path from Sandy Cove to reach the cemetery.

Russian Cemetery at Fort Ross

Cross at Russian Cemetery at Fort Ross
Cross at Russian Cemetery at Fort Ross

For more information, click on the following links: the Ft Ross State Historic Park, Ft Ross Interpretation and Education , or Fort Ross Conservancy (including more information on the Call House.) Watch for special events and historical recreations.

For direction and the latest information on hours, click Fort Ross State Historic Park  Hours and days change due to season, holidays and budget. Museum and Fort open 10 to 4:30. Park open sunrise to sunset.

For our previous visit, click on Fort Ross in a wet winter.

Directions: 11 miles north of Jenner on Hwy 1.

Cost: State Park pass or $8/car. $7 for seniors (age 62+)

Distance: If you walk both the headlands, and the clifftop between the coves and through the fort (all pictured here) it’s about 2 miles.

Dogs & Bikes: As with most state area, not by the ocean.

Museum: Comes with entrance/parking fee. History of area in text, displays and videos. Gift shop. Hours 10 to 4:30 for museum and fort.

Picnic: Near the museum and by the Call home, closer to the ocean are many picnic tables.

Bathroom: Just outside the museum. Also one in the northwest corner of the fort.

Camping at Reef Campground is currently closed.

Warning: Beware the cliff edges for crumbling, the water’s edge for waves and if it every rains again the meadows can be soggy with water draining from the nearby mountains. Also, be aware that Hwy 1 is fragile and often has road closures. This trip there was only one lane open near River’s End.

Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

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