Glimpse unique and historic Russian and Native Alaskan influences on the Sonoma County Coast at Fort Ross, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2012.
From 1812 to 1841, Fort Ross was the hub of the southernmost Russian settlements along the west coast of North America. It was an outpost of the Russian American Company, a commercial hunting and trading operation chartered by the tsarist government, with shares in the company owned by the Tsar’s family, court nobility and high officials.
As the spot where the Russian expansion coming east across Siberia and the Pacific Ocean met the Spanish expansion west across the Atlantic Ocean and North America, Fort Ross is a California Historical Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, Fort Ross State Historic Park (19005 Coast Highway 1, Jenner, 707-847-3437) provides a peek into the past, primarily with reconstructed buildings that recall the once-thriving trading colony, including the stockade, a Russian chapel, a barracks, two blockhouses and the Kuskov House. The only surviving original structure is the Rotchev House, renovated in 1836 for the last manager of Fort Ross, Alexander Rotchev.
Fort Ross was the site of California’s first windmill, and a replica of this landmark structure was built in the park in 2012, as part of the bicentennial celebration. There is also a park museum offering details about the three main eras of Fort Ross — Kashaya Indian, Russian, and Spanish rancho. The park hosts an annual Cultural Heritage Day with candle making, musket and cannon firing, and other reenactments; and a Christmas bird count in December for kids.
Other activities along this scenic coastal region include wine tasting, beach walking, hiking, picnicking, and more. Nearby Stillwater Cove Regional Park (22455 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-847-3245) offers pleasant campsites with more than two miles of easy trails. And a few miles north of Fort Ross, the Timber Cove Resort (21780 Highway 1, Jenner, 707-847-3231) features a 93-foot obelisk sculpture by renowned artist Benny Bufano.
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