Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for its endless hiking opportunities, many of which are intertwined with rich Oregon history. Fort Hoskins sits nestled into the valley, as a little-known historical secret. If you are planning an Oregon vacation, you may want to add this hidden gem to your list.
Fort Hoskins History
Originally created to monitor and watch the Coastal Indian Reservation, today Fort Hoskins stands abandoned. Walking trails and gardens now adorn what used to be an essential fort. Where barracks, buildings and houses once stood, an empty field now serves as the only reminder.
Historical signs point to a storied past and spell out the history of the few remaining buildings, none of which remain are in their original states. Dissimilar to other Oregon forts like Fort Stevens, this once crucial part of Oregon’s history has become almost forgotten.
Fort Hoskins in Its Hey Day
Fort Hoskins was created in 1856, as one of the four Oregon forts constructed to monitor local Native American tribes as well as to deter any fighting between settlers and the native populations. The Fort had low wooden fences around the property and was created to only house two companies of soldiers. While Hoskins lacked protective fortifications, it did have 15-20 buildings including barracks, a guardhouse, bakery, hospital and horse corrals.
At most, 150 men were stationed at the fort at one time. The fort saw little to no action, and resulted in boredom, low moral, and high desertion rates. The guardhouse was mainly used to hold drunk soldiers, captured deserters, and the occasional native.
Many of the soldiers fraternized with local women, and received severe punishments for doing so.
At the time the fort was built, a road was constructed from the fort to Fort Hoskin’s subpost, or sister fort, in Logsden. The road was so rough and so impassable, it was only ever used once.
By the time the Civil War broke out, Fort Hoskins had almost become unnecessary, especially with so many forts in the area. Also, considering the only road to the coast from Fort Hoskins was so poor, it was nearly impossible for troops and supplies to pass, rending Fort Hoskins nearly obsolete.
Given the state of Fort Hoskins, nany of the stationed men were sent east to aid in the Civil War efforts. By 1864, Fort Hoskins was demoted to “caretaker status” and only retained 3 men. Just one year later, Fort Hoskins was closed permanently.
The Fort Hoskins Interpretive Loop Trail
In 1866, the Frantz family purchased the land of Fort Hoskins and moved their family into the hospital building while they constructed their home. The Fratz-Dunn house still stands on the property today, and was occupied by family members for many, many years, before being purchased by Benton County in 1992. In 2015, the original officer’s quarters building was located and moved back to the property to be restored.
Today, Fort Hoskins is a park filled with Oregon history. You can stroll through the nearly 1/2 mile interoperative loop and see remnants of what used to be.
The trail leads around what was the old parade ground, near ancient apple trees. You can imagine soldiers plucking the fruit back in the day. Through the help of pictures on interpretive signs, you can also imagine the central square and how the land used to be populated. A flagpole still stands in the same place it did when the Fort was active.
To find the trail, begin in the parking lot near the restrooms. There is a sign here, which is the beginning of the interoperative loop. Next, head downhill towards the buildings. Along the way, plaques will outline the history, and direct you where to go next in your journey.
Fort Hoskins Loop Hike
The Fort Hoskins historic park in Benton County features two loop hikes. The first one, is quite short, about 1/2 mile, and leads through the old parade ground, orchard, and to the Fratz-Dunn House mentioned above. This loop is an easy jaunt which is full of history.
The second loop inside the Fort Hoskins park is 1.2 miles and offers more diversity in views and terrain. This trail begins near the restrooms, and starts with a wander through a fir tree forest. The trail is full of switchbacks and turns. The switchbacks alternate between the forest and an open meadow, scattered with wildflowers.
Soon, the trail winds to Dunn Ridge. You’ll follow the ridge for a brief moment, before winding back through the woods and meadows.
The best time to hike this trail is in the late spring/ early summer when the wildflowers are in bloom. During that time of year, the meadows are blooming in all colors, and can make for a stunning view.