Fort Ross SHP
Narrated by Russ Christoff

After climbing 12 steep miles on Highway 1, north of Jenner, I came to Fort Ross State Historic Park.

Restored to look much as it did in the 1800's, the Russian fort and the grounds are open to the public.

Besides the reconstructed fort, Fort Ross has a visitor's center where people can see interpretative displays that show the history of the area.

The bookstore is also a plus.

The park's 3,277 acres offers hiking opportunities, and its seasonal campground contains 20 primitive sites.

Ocean access is also available in a cove below the fort.

At this historic park, visitors will learn about the role that the Russians and Alaskans played in building the fort for the protection from the Spanish, while settling this part of California, in the pursuit of the fur trade.

The arrival of these foreigners in 1812, impacted the lives of the Cashio Pomo people. A group of Native Americans who inhabited the area at the time.

However, within a few years all the nationalities were trading skills and languages, and were soon intermarrying.

I visited the officer's barracks and asked the ranger, Bill, how much of the history of the park is actually known.

RANGER BILL: A lot we don't know about the history of this place because there aren't a lot of records to really go back and consult.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: Part of those missing historical records was in the building which was partly destroyed by fire, right?

RANGER BILL: That's correct, the Rotchev House which was built sometime perhaps in the 1830's, was actually started on fire in 1970. It was an arson fire.

Unfortunately, some of the records that we used to reconstruct the history here were lost in that fire.

That building is one of the most unique structures in California because it is, in fact, the only original Russian structure left in this park, and in California.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: Now, in one of the largest buildings here, I found some gun powder kegs downstairs, an office upstairs. What's the origin behind that building?

RANGER BILL: Well, the Kuskoff House, which is the one you are referring to, was the home of one of the managers Ivan Kuskoff.

In the rear of the building, there is a room that is set aside to show some of the collections that Ivan Inavinoff collected while he was here.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: Now, there is one building on the property that has been most photographed.

RANGER BILL: The Russian Orthodox Church has a great presence here at this settlement and always did.

The Russians were deeply religious people, however, they were not fortunate enough to have permanent priest here.

Although, one was always promised to be here, but even today groups from San Francisco and from the Bay area come here on various holidays, and have Orthodox services in that building.

Probably one of the most photographed of all the buildings here at settlement Ross.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: Why are we saving it?

RANGER BILL: That's really a good question. It's being saved because this is an absolutely imperative and important piece of history that connects all kinds of cultures together.

We have the Alaskan people, we have the Russian people, and we have the California Native Americans, the Cashio People, we have Americans, all these different cultures meeting here and mixing together here. Intermarriages and different religious philosophies coming together. All these things happened right here on this site. And that's why it's such an important and unique place.