Once home to both fur traders and fighter pilots, Fort Vancouver offers an authentic look at life in the Pacific Northwest through the past 200 years. Located just across the Columbia River from Portland in Vancouver, Wash., the region’s only national historic site is centered around a complete replica of Fort Vancouver, the fur-trading camp founded by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1825.
The fort served as the company’s headquarters west of the Rockies and housed the Northwest’s first hospital, school, saw mill, shipyard and more. Today, visitors can see authentic demonstrations of period blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking and baking.
Begin your visit to the 366-acre campus with a stop at the visitor center, where National Park Service staff launch group tours and offer tips on exploring the site on your own. The center’s short introductory film, “One Place Across Time,” also provides great context for enjoying the area’s rich history.
The site includes the Pearson Air Museum, dedicated to the location’s military history, from the establishment of the Vancouver Barracks in 1849 to the shipyards of WWII. Round out your trip with a stroll along Officer’s Row, a stretch of 21 fully restored 19th-century homes. Stop for lunch at the Grant House, the barracks’ oldest existing building, now an excellent restaurant.
Every summer, Fort Vancouver hosts a star-spangled Independence Day fireworks display — the largest one west of the Mississippi.