Unlike many of the other old fortifications around western Washington, there are two of the old guns that have been left in place to show how they could be lifted and collapsed down into the fortress and hidden.
There are several signs showing how the fortress looked in the days when it was operational.
Other than the spectacular views that are available of the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range when the weather is clear, and the many empty concrete rooms and surviving hardware in cases are all that are here.
Just don't fall while you are exploring the many sharp dropoffs around the various structures. The fortress was dug into the hillside so that it could not be seen from the water. in some locations these structures have been severely undercut by erosion, and death or injury probably awaits anyone who ventures out on the unstable structures.
The big difference betwee the ruins on this side as opposed to the Fort Worden fortress ruins across Admiralty Inlet is that at Fort Worden many trees have grown up in places to cover the ruins, but here they are left reasonably open.
There are several interpretive signs scattered around the main part of the ruins that describe the purpose of the various structures and the history of the fortifications. However, it is easy to overlook these signs as in the vastness of the concrete ruins they blend into the background structures.
There is some preserved forest at Fort Casey, and the area is a reasonably popular wintering ground for some species of salt water duck. Bald eagles are also reasonably common. Crockett Lake is a freshwater lake that is basically at sea level, and located on the inland side of the park. The closest part of the lake to the coastline is at the ferry terminal and behind the restaurant called the Keystone Cafe. There is a bird viewing platform on the lake side of the road east of the ferry terminal on highway 20 quite some distance.
There is a preserved wildlife area on the north side of Fort Casey, and some of the sea birds do congregate there.
However, also be prepared for the quiet little bits of wildlife that may appear from time to time in the shrubs along the cliff and other areas of the park that don't attract the larger birds. For example, see the very difficult to see Bewick's wren in photo 2, hidden among the drift wood.
Watch for bald eagles in the trees of the forest behind the open space around the fort.
There are deer that visit regularly as well, as you can see in my photos of the Picnic Area by the Fort.
There are two sections of beaches at Fort Casey: those located near the main part of the park, and those located by the ferry terminal. This tip covers those by the main part of the park, as the ones by the ferry terminal are quite different in terms of access and facilities.
The beaches along the main part of the park are separated from the mainland by a steep bluff that does act as a barrier of sorts between the beach and the rest of the park. The only exception is the campground, which is at beach level near the ferry terminal, and to get to the main beach area from it all one has to do is walk on a fairly short trail.
There are several steeply sloping trails that connect the beaches along the base of the bluff to the main day use areas above.
The beaches are a mixture of sand and stones, with a few very large rocks thrown in, and quite a lot of driftwood and other debris that have accumulated here.
Tidal fluctuation here tends to be in the 5 to 8 foot (1.5 to 2.4 meter) range, though there are days with a larger and lesser fluctuation. At the higher tide points, the beaches will be quite narrow. Don't get yourself into a situation at low tide you can't get yourself out of at high tide.
The area to the north and south of the ferry termianal connecting Fort Casey State Park to Port Townsend have a number of picnic tables. The area on the south side is the most extensive, has a parking area and restrooms, and has a small beach that faces the diving area.
Immediately north of the ferry terminal, there is a small grassy area between the vehicle waiting area for the ferry and the small beach along the water. When I visited this grassy area had one or two picnic tables in it.
Both of these aras have views out to the south and west, though the area on the north side of the ferry terminal has a more limited view due to the presence of the ferry terminal and the hillside on the immediate north.
The park camp ground is directly north of the ferry terminal as well, though it is not open for picnic or other day use, with the possible exception of walking through to get to the trail up the side of the hill.
The State Parks web site says that the picnic area of this park is closed during the winter months. However, there are three picnic areas in this park, and I am not exactly certain which areas are closed in winter. It is quite possible they close the gates of the parking area for the picnic area just south of the ferry terminal, and most likely they also close the restrooms that are there as well if they do so. However, I am also of the impression that the area that is closed in winter is the picnic area at the top of the hill in the forested area behind the light house, and that the rest of the park remains open during the winter.
The State Parks web site says that the picnic area of this park is closed during the winter months. However, there are three picnic areas in this park, and I am not exactly certain which areas are closed in winter. It does not seem as though this area would be easily closed, as the fortress area is a primary reason for visiting the state park.
Where once extensive activities were ongoing to support the operations of the fort, there is now a very large open grass area. There are a few scattered picnic tables scattered through this area, and off in the distance it is possible to get a view of the surrounding area. However, as most of this area is hidden behind the fortifications, the view isn't that spectacular, though it is sheltered from the wind a bit.
If it is a clear day, you would be better off picnicing at the top of the fortress as the view is better, but that also means more wind exposure.
There are deer that browse in the grass, and watch for bald eagles in the forest behind the open space.
The State Parks web site says that the picnic area of this park is closed during the winter months. However, there are three picnic areas in this park, and I am not exactly certain which areas are closed in winter.
However, I am quite certain this picnic area is one of the ones that is closed during those months.
The area is sheltered by trees, and has a restroom facility near the middle. There are many cooking stands throughout this area of the park, and quite a number of picnic tables.
Unfortunately, it also is positioned back in the woods, so that the wonderful view that makes this park special is not possible from this picnic spot.
However, if you happen to visit on a quiet day (ie, few or no people around, as I managed to do, by visiting on a weekday just before the winter closure) you will find some wildlife in the surrounding forest. Bald eagles for one are reasonably common in this area.
The Admiralty Head lighthouse sits fairly high above the water, and fairly far back from the edge of the hill above Admiralty Inlet. Today, this lighthouse serves as an interpretive center and historic landmark.
The current lighthouse was built in 1903, as the original lighthouse had to be removed during the construction of the military fortress whose remains now occupy the majority of the grounds at this state park.
The interpretive center inside the lighthouse is only open on weekends in the off season.
I am no diver, and don't know much about what makes a good diving place and a bad diving place. However, I can tell you that there is a reserved scuba diving area in the waters off of Fort Casey State Park.
This area is to the east (left, when looking towards Port Townsend) of the ferry terminal.
The picnic area on this side of the ferry terminal features restrooms and picnic tables, but also has several signs that indicate the safe reserved diving locations, as well as locations that are off limits to diving.
In 1858 this land was purchased by the US government and the Admiralty Head lighthouse was constructed. In 1890 it was taken over by the army and named “Fort Casey” in honor of Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey. This fort was built to protect the Puget Sound from would be naval attacks. In conjunction with the other members of the “triangle of death” no attack was ever launched against the area.
As for the fort now, it’s a maze of dark rooms that are often wet and not so fresh smelling. However, these forts bring back great memories for me as a kid running around the area. Pack a flashlight if you are interested in exploring.
I found these deer wandering around in the park, they are not alone. The park has many other animals including otters, raccoons, foxes, coyotes as well as many versions of waterfowl and in the water several marine species. Octopus, crabs, seals, cod, eel, and other sea life is accessible through the underwater extension of the park.
In the late 1800’s the importance of defending Admiralty inlet was so important that three forts were built. Fort Casey, Fort Flagler and Fort Worden were built and constituted the “triangle of fire” which was considered adequate enough to thwart any threats by sea to the Puget Sound.
The guns at Fort Casey are mounted on disappearing carriages, which can be raised from their emplacements to fire then tuck back behind again to protect them from damage in the event of attack. These weapons became obsolete when battleships were fitted with similar firepower that was mobile. The ammunition for these guns was shipped off to Europe for WWI and used in the war effort.
Admiralty Head lighthouse and Point Wilson lighthouse across the Admiralty Inlet make up two points which helped to guide ships into the Puget Sound. The turn from wind powered to steam power allowed ships to follow a path which only needed the reference point that was Point Wilson, so in 1922 the lighthouse was decommissioned.
The light was moved 5 years later to the top of another lighthouse (the New Dungeness Lighthouse) and it has since served as a gift shop and museum and is found within the Fort Casey State Park Boundry.