Fort Ross State Historic Park Travel Guide

  • Officer's Quarters View at Kuskov House
    Officer's Quarters View at Kuskov House
    by atufft
  • Perimeter Walls of Fort Ross
    Perimeter Walls of Fort Ross
    by atufft
  • View of Coast from Fort Ross Blockhouse
    View of Coast from Fort Ross Blockhouse
    by atufft

Fort Ross State Historic Park Things to Do

  • California's First Windmill

    I believe that this construction project may be an effort to rebuild California's first windmill, something which was destroyed so long ago that only faint sketches of it exist. However, Russian historians are working with American university personnel to build replicas of what once existed at Fort Ross.

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  • Restored Officer's Quarters Interior

    The name of this building is probably not correct because in fact there are a lot of demonstration craft activities inside. There's a wood burning bread oven, a blacksmith's room, fur tanners' room, and a cabinet makers room, among other things.

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  • Restored Officer's Quarters Exterior

    Adjacent to the Rotchev house is another building that is used as Fort Ross administrative offices, at least in part, because it is located at the entrance to the stockade. I don't know the name or origin of this restored structure, but it's worth a walk through. I believe it's a recreation of the officer's quarters, which was originally built...

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  • Rotchev House Interiors

    The interior construction of the house once had fine wall paper in the Russian style. There is also a nice central fireplace made of native stone. The furniture in the house now is a collection of antiques that resembles at least the lifestyle of the original occupants, the Rotchev Family.

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  • Rotchev House Exterior and History

    The only structure dating back to Russian occupation is the Rotchev House, which was built in 1836, and subsequently named after Alexander Rotchev, the last manager of Fort Ross. Rotchev was well educated, well traveled, and married to a woman belonging to Russia's titled nobility. When Rotchev was ordered to sell Fort Ross in 1841, he found that...

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  • General Location--Fort Ross Bluff

    The coast of California offers very few level places for farming, but the Russians managed to find one along this bluff that stands several hundred feet above the sea. The could have found better land near the mouth of the Russian River, but it appears that the Russians were very concerned about finding a defensible location. There is in fact a...

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  • Kuskov House Interiors--More in Store

    Here are extra images of the dry goods store and all the fascinating objects now obsolete as the buggy whip. A quartermaster kept records of what supplies were used and needed.

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  • Kuskov House Interiors--Second Floor

    The second floor and attic spaces were devoted to living quarters for the administrator, expedition scientist, and officers. A central staircase divides the living quarters into a south and north side of the building. On the north side, the science officer's quarters were the most fascinating, revealing to the visitor the contribution Russian...

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  • Kuskov House Interiors--First Floor

    The first floor of the Kuskov House is devoted to warehousing supplies brought by ship. On the southwest corner is a room storing rifles, canon balls, and so serves as an arsenal. On the northwest corner is a room with dry goods--wooded pitch forks, candles, and a whole lot of other junk necessary for life in those days. This was perhaps the most...

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  • Kuskov House Exteriors

    The Kuskov House was the main administrative building, named after Ivan Kuskov, the founder and first administrator from 1812 to 1821. This building was reconstructed in 1983. All aspects of this structure were salvaged from Russian records, drawings, and descriptions by visitors, as there is no mention nor photographs of the building from the...

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  • Russian Orthodox Chapel--Exterior Views

    The chapel had been repaired and modified prior to the collapse of the walls in the 1906 earthquake. Remaining sections of the stockade also fell during the earthquake Fortunately, the roof wasn't so damaged, providing important information for reproduction. At one point, the chapel was rebuilt in a modification to have four windows, rather than...

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  • Russian Orthodox Chapel--Interior Views

    The wide planking and barrel like wood dome are very impressive and appropriate for religious atmosphere. The chapel has been visited by Russian Orthodox clergy, making this structure an important symbolic structure for all the Russian Orthodox Christians in California and Russia.

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  • Blockhouse Views

    Needless to say, the blockhouses then and today serve mainly to provide a spectacular view of the California coastline, as well as a survey of the entire fortress complex. Barking sea lions can be heard if one listens carefully enough out the front windows, while settler conversations are easily discernible out the fortress side windows.

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  • Blockhouse Interior and Canon Fire Power

    The Russians brought off their ships enough canons to prevent assault by the Spanish. This was not an idle threat as the Spanish had overrun similar settlements owned by the British on Vancouver Island just a few years before, a conflict that resulted in the Nootka Convention of 1793. The southwest blockhouse has a pitched roof and two stories with...

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  • Main Entrance and Blockhouse...

    As mentioned, the excellent properties of the redwood was certainly a carpenters delight, so after digging the central well, labor was no doubt directed immediately to building the southwest blockhouse, and thereafter the stockade walls. The workmanship of these buildings far exceeds the traditional American fort stockade and log cabin elsewhere in...

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  • General Location--the Fort Ross Cove

    The cove of Fort Ross reveals the narrow geographical opportunity the Russians found for their settlement enterprise. Better bays and estuaries further south and to the north apparently were already locked up by the Spanish, Americans, or British. The rugged coast of Northern California affords few places where a ship can anchor and level land can...

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  • Visitors Center and Gift Shop

    After passing the usually empty entrance gate, where payment is made by envelope and drop box, parking and visitors center become immediately apparent. There's a good gift shop available there, but if the center is closed, only the bathrooms will remain open. Prepare to walk about a 1/3 of a mile through a thicket of trees and across the meadow....

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  • California poppy

    California poppy, Eschscholtzia californica, grows everywhere around the fort and deserves well its quality of California's State flower! The funny thing is that it was named after a Russian botanist, Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who, with his friend Adelbert von Chamisso described the still unknown plants they collected around Fort Ross.

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  • Russian Gulch State Park

    I have no photo of Russian Gulch State Park as on our way it was buried in the fog, though the weather was gorgeous in Point Reyes and fair in Fort Ross !It is 2 miles north to Mendocino and it is a place where the coastline makes a sharp indentation into the land. Russians from Fort Ross explored and chartered the place. The original charts are...

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  • Bodega Bay

    I have no photo of Bodega Bay as on our way it was buried in the fog, though the weather was gorgeous in Point Reyes and fair in Fort Ross !Bodega Bay is a very well sheltered mooring, almost landlocked. It is understandable that the Russian first landed in Bodega Bay, before they built Fort Ross, which has a weak shelter, usable only for unloading...

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  • Naked lady at Fort Ross

    Along the fence of fort Ross, I spotted a magnificent and wild Naked Lady. Don’t get me wrong, I mean a Naked Lady, not a naked Lady and it was only 2 feet high!Though introduced from South Africa, Amaryllis belladonna, aka Naked Lady or Belladona Lily grows wild in several places along the coast of California but this tuft was the most beautiful...

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  • The coast north to Fort Ross

    I took several photos north to Fort Ross. They give an accurate idea of the aspect of the coast (first photo) and show well that boats have better to stay well off the coast. However, as the fog can fast shroud the shoals (second photo), there has be innumerous wrecks along the coast.

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  • Trail to the ocean

    From the platform in front of the entrance into the fort, a narrow lane leads to the ocean. This is obviously not a place suitable for swimming but the sign suggests that some visitors might have had this weird idea! I did not give it a try!

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  • Fort Ross

    Unfortunately, when I visited Fort Ross, though in June, the weather was dull and I could not take many photos.The photo shows the chapel, which was rebuilt as the original after San Francisco earthquake. Rotchev house, built in 1836 is the only surviving structure, everything else (Kuskov House, Officials Barracks, and two corner blockhouses) has...

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Fort Ross State Historic Park Transportation

  • JLBG's Profile Photo

    by JLBG Written Mar 17, 2009

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    From San Francisco: drive northwards on 101 to Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Geyserville. In Geyserville, turn left on to Stewart point. This is the fastest and will take a 2 1/2 hours drive.

    Or
    From San Francisco: drive northwards on 101 to Santa Rosa. In Santa Rosa, turn left on Highway 116 to Sonoma Coast State Park. Turn right (northwards) on Coastal Highway 1. The drive from Santa Rosa is about 1 1/2 hour.

    Or
    From San Francisco: drive northwards on 101 to Sausalito and Marin City. Turn left on Coastal Highway 1. Follow the coastal highway. It will take more time but is the most scenic. That drive allows to pass at Muir Beach, Point Reyes; Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch on the way. This the one I followed. The driving time depends how many times and how long you stop for a photo!

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Fort Ross State Historic Park Local Customs

  • JLBG's Profile Photo

    by JLBG Updated Mar 18, 2009

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    I have given in the introduction of this page given a brief comment about the love story between Count Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov and María Concepción Argüello. It did not occur in Fort Ross but that was were Rezanov lived.

    In 2006, for the 200th anniversary of this love story, the Benicia Historical Museum organized an afternoon event
    More about this event and the love story on the following website under the title: Epic love in old California: Concha and the czar's courtier. How a 15-year-old Spanish beauty fell for Russian sea captain, 42, and waited forever

    Sergey (VT Kuznetsov_Sergey) wrote me the following (I quote)

    This touching story of Nikolai Resanov and Conchita Argüello is well-known in the USSR since 1981, when the musical play or the rock opera “Unona and Avos” (by Mark Zaharov with music by Alexei Rybnikov) was performed in one of the most popular Moscow theatre “Lencom”. It was almost impossible to get and see it there so it was popular. Young people knew all the songs among them:
    You will never forget me and Alleluia

    Thank you Sergey !

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    • Historical Travel
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Fort Ross State Historic Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Beautiful Thistle in Spring

    Watch your footing, but during the walk to the cove there are lovely wildflowers (don't pick them please) including the thistle pictured here.

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  • Point Reyes

    Point Reyes National Seashore, in Marin County, is, by official records, the windiest and foggiest place on the Pacific Coast. Point Reyes National Seashore is about 50 km south to Fort Ross. Both sites can be visited in the same day but as the weather on the Pacific coast can changes very fast, that does not mean that the weather will be the same...

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