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Fort Ross

Visiting Fort Ross


View of Fort Ross

Fort Ross Cannons and Chapel

© 2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
  • Hours: Open daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: Entrance fee
  • Location: 12 miles north of Jenner on CA Hwy 1, directions below
  • How Long: Allow about an hour
  • Best Time to Visit: Any time

Why is Fort Ross Important?

Fort Ross was the southernmost Russian settlement in North America, built in 1812 and lasting until 1842. In the 1800s, Russian settlement spread southward from Alaska. On a small point of land in what is now Sonoma County, the Russian settlers built a stockaded fort, grew crops and hunted sea otters and seals, naming their settlement "Ross" to honor Russia (Rossiia).

During its 30-year history, Fort Ross was home to many California firsts, including the first windmill and first ship built in California, but by the 1820s, marine mammals were over-hunted and crops didn't do as well as the Fort Ross settlers hoped. In 1842, the Russian American Trading Company sold the whole operation to John Sutter, who took the stock to his fort near Sacramento, and the Russian era in North America came to an end.

Today, only one original Fort Ross building remains, but others have been rebuilt to give a picture of what life was like. Exhibits in the Fort Ross visitor center provide a good background before you tour the fort itself. Every day in summer and on weekends during the school year, rangers give presentations about life at Fort Ross.

Fort Ross Tips

  • No food is available at Fort Ross. Bring lunch or snacks with you if you want them.
  • Dogs are allowed only in the parking lot and nearby campground.
  • Take the loop trail back from the fort to the visitor center to see the Call Ranch House and get some nice ocean views.

Fort Ross Review

We rate Fort Ross 4 stars out of 5 for its unique historic significance. It's a don't-miss attraction for history buffs and an interesting stop for everyone else.

Getting to Fort Ross

Fort Ross State Historic Park
19005 Coast Highway One
Jenner, CA
Fort Ross website
Fort Ross is on CA Hwy 1 between Gualala and Jenner. If you're traveling on US Hwy 101, exit on River Road just north of Santa Rosa. The road becomes CA Hwy 116 at Guerneville and continues all the way to the coast. Turn north on CA Hwy 1 to get to Fort Ross.
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