Above: The Point Arena Lighthouse in Mendocino County, California

Historic Sites on Highway 1

My primary purpose in taking Highway 1 from Jenner up to Fort Bragg was to admire the glorious scenery. But, as we had some flexibility in our schedule, I went to see a couple of the historic sites along the way that I had missed on previous occasions.

Twelve miles northwest of Jenner is the Fort Ross State Historic Park. Founded in 1906, it is one of the oldest parts of the California State Parks system. The 3,386-acre park marks and commemorates the southernmost Russian settlement, Fort Ross, in North America. The Russian-American Company began in 1799, when it received a charter from the czar that gave it a North American monopoly in the lucrative marine mammal fur trade. Initially strongest in the waters off Alaska, it expanded south when Americans entered into contracts with the company in the sea otter trade. The company chose this spot to replenish ships going to Alaska, taking advantage of the ready supply of water and pastureland — and relative isolation from a Spanish colony not far to the south.

The Fort Ross Chapel, originally built in the mid-1820s. It was the first Russian Orthodox structure in North America outside of Alaska. - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The fort was established in 1812 with a stockade constructed from local redwoods, blockhouses with cannons, workshops, clerks’ quarters and a chapel. The Russians sold Fort Ross to John Sutter, a Swiss pioneer in California, in 1841. Today it has been carefully reconstructed, with one original building, named the Rotchev House for the last general manager who lived there. The oceanside setting is magnificent, with wood trails and cliff walks presenting wonderful opportunities for bird-watching and, in season, whale watching.

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Above: The Point Arena Lighthouse in Mendocino County, California

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