Fort Point National Historic Site

Although California is a "young" state historically to many people, it does have a rich pre-European history, and a rich post-European history. From Fort Ross, the first Russian settlement in California, to the Kings Highway (El Camino Real) and the many missions present on it, California has many historic locations - some of which are secret, and some of which are not. Although it is hidden in plain sight, Fort Point is perhaps one of the more obscure destinations in California, even though it is the state's only Civil War fort.

Even though California was not an active participant in the American Civil War, and was aligned on the side of the Union, the war did have an impact on the state. Prior to the Civil War, many people from the North and South had immigrated to the state due to the gold rush of 1849; and even though the state overall was pro-Union, there were pockets of pro-Confederacy support. One of these pockets was clustered outside of Lone PIne, in an area that ended up being named the Alabama Hills by the residents of the town, as the miners located there were emigrants from the South, and Confederate supporters. San Francisco, as the state's largest port and city, also had divided loyalties. Prior to the war breaking out, construction had begun on Fort Point in 1853, which is located at the narrowest point at the entrance of San Francisco Bay. The location had previously also been a fort from 1794 on when the area had been occupied by the Spanish, and had been known as the Castillo de San Joaquin. When the Civil War began in 1861, Fort Point was pressed into service to protect the city of San Francisco - and the supply of gold being mined in the state. Although a number of conspiracies were launched to capture the Fort, none of them came to fruition; and it was never attacked during the war by the Confederate States.

Today, Fort Point sits directly under the Golden Gate Bridge, and is a great example of brick masonry from the nineteenth century. It is a part of the National Park System, and is a great place to explore, and also take in a guided Ranger program on civil war cannons, or on any of the historic features of the area.

Directions: The Fort is located directly under the Golden Gate Bridge at the very end of Marine Drive in the Presidio. Visitors should be aware that this area is under road construction as of 2014; and even without the road construction, is a very popular (and sometimes congested) area year-round.

Tips: Among other things, this is the best spot (aside from being on a boat) to capture a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from below. Visitors should also be warned that as the Fort sits at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, it can be cold year round in the Fort, even during the "warm" summer months.