[Tweeters] Forting Around the Sound

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Mon Sep 29 04:09:27 PDT 2014

During my current strange stint as eldercare person here in Port Townsend, I have been spending a lot of my spare time forting around. Port Townsend is just the place for it.Actually, I've been forting around the Sound for decades now, not just lately.
You see, back in the mid, and late, 19th century, folks really got worried about defending Puget Sound from something, I'm not sure quite what. So the military built a bunch of forts at the entrance to the Sound. The first was Fort Townsend, which I've posted about, built to defend "settlers" from upset natives. Then some American guy shot an English guy's pig on San Juan Island - the pig was eating his potatoes apparently - and a war almost, but not quite, happened.
Then there was the Big Gun Period when forts Casey, Flagler, and Worden were built. These forts featured big concrete bunkers hiding giant cannons that could blow any "Hun's", "Jap's", Canadians - or whoever else was here to steal our stuff- right out of the water. Admiralty Inlet was covered. I read that these forts were soon obsolete - because the airplane was invented and those big ol' guns weren't nimble enough to shoot those. Oh well.
The great thing about all of this fort building, is that the above mentioned forts are now all State Parks, and the site of the almost Pig War, on San Juan Island, is now a National Historical Park.Good birding there too.
I've spent time in all these places. Here in Port Townsend, Fort Worden is a fine place to see all sorts of birds , plants, and sea creatures. Just outta town, Fort Townsend has a fine forest, and beach to check out. Years past, I've been to Fort Flagler on nearby Marrowstone Island - in my mind I can see fine groves of Grand Fir, and vernal forest ponds surrounded by evergreen sedges, and shorebirds on the beach. I plan to get over there soon to see how accurate my memories are.
Fort Casey is another great bird spot, over there on Whidbey Island - right next to Crockett Lake, that unusual brackish bit, good for unusual shorebirds etc.
There is one fort I especially like - Fort Whitman, "The Lost Fort" as I think of it. You see, when all this Sound fort building was going on, some military intelligence guys realized that Deception Pass was not covered. I mean, even that name - Deception - has trouble written all over it. And what about Swinomish Slough? Maybe Japanese women pearl divers, armed with extra sharp oyster knives, or raiding northern coast Indians in their cedar canoes, or wild hippy artists and poets from La Conner, might get to our cities through those treacherous waterways.
So Fort Whitman was built, on Goat Island, right at the south end of Swinomish slough, at the mouth of the Skagit River. It's a wonderful spot pretty much accessible only by small boat. Now part of the Skagit WRA, that most tweeters are familiar with.
When I first was introduced to Goat Island back in 1980, I would've thought twice about telling too many folks about it.Fort Whitman is like a Northwest Ankor Wat, or Tikal, - sorta - an overgrown bit of old ways. Unlike the tidy Forts of Casey, Worden, or Flagler, the old fort on Goat Island is pleasantly growing into the forest - trees sprouting out of the concrete, stairways covered with moss and spring wildflowers.
Then one year Sunset Magazine printed an article about the place. "Oh, #%$!", I thought to myself, and sure enough the next time I went there I found the place tagged all to hell, possibly by poorly behaved yuppie larvae, or somebody. Oh well - popularity bites, sometimes. Still a cool spot - great birding there at the river mouth.
I could go on about all this Forting around. There are also the ol' prairies of Fort Lewis (a place I've only only enjoyed as an Oak- watcher from I-5) that tweeters post about, and other forts and military sites around the state and country that are valued now as wildlife spots. I think it's kinda interesting how all these old forts have turned out.
Jeff Gibsonforting aroundPort Townsend Wa

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