Things To Do On A Visit To Fort Vancouver

Visiting Fort Vancouver in Washington State is like stepping back in time to the days of the Hudson Bay Company.

And let’s face it, who doesn’t love exploring a good fort.

Sitting on the bank of the Columbia River, the Fort actually served as the headquarters for the Hudson Bay Company and their interior fur trade from 1825

In 1866 the fort burnt down so what we see today is a replica.

But there is so much more than just visiting Fort Vancouver to do in the area.

Read on for our guide on things to do at Fort Vancouver.

visiting Fort Vancouver

Explore Fort Vancouver

The Fort is a full-scale replica of the original which burnt down in 1866.

At its pinnacle, the Fort Vancouver watched over 34 outposts, 24 ports, 6 ships and over 600 employees.

It was a major centre for the fur trade which was hugely popular and the Hudson Bay’s main business.

Ships from London arrived every year with much-needed supplies and people as the fort grew in size.

Today you can see how the fort operated and explore the forts main areas.

visiting Fort Vancouver

Inside The Fort

The Chief Factors House

Also known as the “Big House” this was where the officers and gentlemen of the Hudson Bay Company met to discuss business and be entertained.

It was home to the top two ranking officers and their families and was the height of grandeur with its elaborate build and decoration.

The Blacksmiths Shop

Warm sooty air filled the Blacksmiths Shop as two volunteers worked.

They gave a great talk on the blacksmiths that worked in the original fort in the 1800s and what life was like for them.

visiting Fort Vancouver - The Blacksmiths Shop

Volunteers Display Thier Work In The Blacksmiths Shop

The Carpentry Shop

Every building in the fort is made from timber so you can imagine how busy the forts carpenters were.

A sawmill was constructed upstream from the fort to supply all the timber the fort needed.

Today volunteers can answer all your questions in each of the areas of the fort.

I talked with the carpenter for ages and it was really very interesting.

The Fur Warehouse

Annabel and I listened to a volunteer talk about the fur trade in the fur warehouse.

Back in the height of the fur trade, furs were transported all around the world.

As top hats became all the fashion in Europe, furs from the Hudson Bay Company were in high demand.

Trappers all over the Pacific Northwest brought their furs to the fort to be shipped overseas.

Furs of all kinds were in demand, bear, wolf, beaver and lots more besides.

Some were more highly sort after than others depending on the quality of the fur.

Although today we know that the fur trade resulted in certain animals being nearly hunted to extinction, the talk is very informative and interesting and gives you a glimpse into the life of the trapper and the fur trade back then.

visiting Fort Vancouver - The Fur Warehouse

The Fur Warehouse

Visiting Fort Vancouver and exploring all the buildings gave us a real sense of what life might have been like back in the 1800s working for the Hudson Bay Company.

There are lots of other areas within the fort to explore like the Kitchen, Jail, Counting House, Wash House and the Bastion with its cannons.

The volunteers really make the fort come alive with their displays and talks.

visiting Fort Vancouver - Bastion

Bastion, Complete With Canons

Vancouver Barracks And Officers Row

In 1849 the US army built a barracks on the land overlooking the British Fort Vancouver.

It was the first US army post in the Pacific Northwest and served as a major headquarters and supply depot during the American Civil War and Indian Wars

At one point in his military career, Ulysses S. Grant, who later led the Union Army to victory over the confederates and went on to become the 18th President of the USA, was stationed at Vancouver Barracks.

Today you can walk around the areas of the barracks with its tree-lined roads and open green spaces.

visiting Fort Vancouver - Vancouver Barracks

The Cavalry Barracks

visiting Fort Vancouver - Canon

Canon At Vancouver Barracks

The Grant House

As well as the barracks you can see officers row, a row of grand looking timber houses used by officers serving at the barracks.

The oldest original house and the first to be built as a headquarters for the barracks in 1849 is  The Grant House.

Although Grant is never have thought to have lived here ( he lived in an area of the barracks no longer standing ) it carries his name.

visiting Fort Vancouver - The Grant House

The Grant House

The Marshall House

Vancouver Barracks was a sought after and prestigious posting for anyone wanting to rise to prominence in the US military.

The barracks became known for its beautiful surroundings and opulent lifestyle.

In 1886 the Marshall house was built on officers row and reflected the architecture of the Victorian era in all its splendour.

visiting Fort Vancouver - The Marshall House

The Marshall House

The Pearson Air Museum

While you’re visiting Fort Vancouver a look around the Pearson Air Museum is a must.

Originally this area was the polo field for the Vancouver Barracks where aviation enthusiasts would gather and try out their aircraft.

In the early 1920s, it became known as the Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome and named Pearson Air Field.

The Observation Corps were stationed here through to 1940 but after the Second World War, the airfield was decommissioned and became a municipal airfield to this day.

Today you can explore the history of the airfield in the Pearson Air Museum with life-size replicas of some of the old aircraft that would have been stationed at the airfield.

visiting Fort Vancouver - Pearson Air Museum

The Pearson Air Museum

visiting Fort Vancouver - Pearson Air Museum

Replica Aircraft In The Pearson Air Museum

Our Thoughts

We had a great day out at Fort Vancouver and all really enjoyed it

There is so much history to learn about in the Fort, Barracks and Pearson Air Museum.

In fact, there was so much more to do there than we imagined and we probably could have spent longer visiting.

The Nitty Gritty

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is situated in Vancouver on the Northern Bank of the Columbia River in Washington State, just across the border from Portland, Oregon.

There are plenty of hotels and motels in the area as well as restaurants and cafes.

The Historic Site includes the Fort, Barracks and the Pearson Airfield.

A good idea is to stop off at the Visitors Center first of all to get a good understanding of the site.

The whole park is like driving around a small village so it’s easy to get from one attraction to the next.

There’s an entry fee for Fort Vancouver but Vancouver Barracks and Pearson Air Museum are free to look around.

You can get lots more information on the Fort Vancouver Website here

visiting Fort Vancouver - Pearson Air Museum