sonoma coast
Fort Ross

Fort Ross was founded in 1812 as a Russian settlement, and continued until 1841 when the Russians let the colony go. The people who lived there were Russians and Aleuts, who hunted sea otters and seals for fur, grew food to feed themselves and provide for the Alaskan Russian colony, and traded with ships that docked in the cove. Far removed from Spanish California to the south, Fort Ross is a unique outpost.

Fort Ross is comprised of weathered redwood buildings, enclosed in a wooden stockade. The 14 ft stockade has two blockhouses (watchtowers) at each corner. Kids will want to climb up the blockhouses, check out the cannons and peer through the slits (for shooting rifles). In the center of the stockade are more cannons, the well, and a flagpole (once a ship's mast).
The first floor of the Kuskov House is an armory chock-full of rifles and gun powder, upstairs there's a trading store with stocked pelts, cloth, candles, rope, and bedrooms with painted beds. Don't miss the trapdoor over the stairs.
Before you go into the wooden chapel at the corner of the fort, ring the bell outside (it has a great tone). Inside the chapel, there's a characteristic high round dome and altar. (Unlike the Spanish in California, the church did not have central importance in the Russian settlement.)
The Officials' Barracks was where unmarried Russians slept and took their meals. Check out the bedrooms (with blankets and pelts), kitchen and dining area, which has wooden handmade chairs, benches and tables, and the always-present samovar.
Check out the outside of the Rotchev House, it's made of original hand-hewn logs. In the 1830's, the interior of the house was quite elegant, this was the family home of Alexander Rotchev, commander of the settlement, and his wife and daughters.
Visitor Center - The visitor center has exhibits about native Kashaya Indians, history of Fort Ross, how the Aleuts hunted for fur, a model of California's first windmill (which was here at Fort Ross). In front of the center are picnic tables.
After you've seen the fort, go out to the southern gate, and take a look at Sandy Cove. Kids can imagine sailing ships who stopped here to trade their goods and pick up furs.


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