Built in 1856 to regulate the eastern border of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, Fort Yamhill represented a time of transition for the people of the Northwest. The fort served to ease tension between settlers and natives, protect both populations and control traffic between them. Fort Yamhill is one of the best archaeologically preserved forts in the Northwest from the mid 19th century.
Times were hard for all. Native Americans from 27 tribes of Western Oregon were moved from their homes to the reservation - a confinement that imposed a new spoken language and white man's rules. Enlisted soldiers fought hunger, rain, isolation and monotony. Desertion was common, but the rough country usually drove deserters back to duty.
Visiting Fort Yamhill today offers an insight into the physical and emotional hardships endured by all the people involved, as well as the emotional tone of the state from 1856-1866. Exhibits and cultural restoration are provided in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
The park has a 3/5 of a mile interpretive trail through the historic fort site. A map and photos of the trail can be found in the Photos, Videos, and Brochure section of the website. .4 miles of the trail is compact gravel and ADA accessible; the last .2 miles are bark chips and slightly steeper than the rest of the trail. On average the trail is seven feet wide and well marked.
The most common outstanding features and things to do are: archeological remains, cleanliness of the park and its facilities, hiking, tranquility and quietness, park history, beauty of the area, knowledgeable and friendly park personnel, and tours of the fort. These features were identified by park visitors in our 2013 park survey.
No, metal detecting is not allowed at Fort Yamhill SHA. A search for "metal detecting" on this website will provide a current list of parks that do allow metal detecting.
Park rules prohibit metal detecting, disturbing the soil, and removing archaeological material from the park. Historical and archaeological material at the park are also protected by state and federal antiquity laws.
Fort Yamhill was a United States Military outpost that was in operation from 1856 to 1866 and was located on the eastern border of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The purpose of the fort was to protect and control Native Americans on the reservation. Many settlers in Oregon supported a “war of extermination” towards the native people. The fort acted as a buffer and eased tensions between Native Americans and white settlers. The army also policed the Native Americans on the reservation, enforced agency rules, suppressed inter-tribal disputes and returned escaped American Indians to the reservation.
On average 80 men and four officers manned the garrison, consisting of 24 buildings. The regular army operated the fort from 1856—1861 and were then called back East to fight in the Civil War. However, the fort was still needed to act as a buffer, as well as provide a Union presence in Oregon & monitor secessionist activities. Volunteer soldiers ran the garrison from 1861—1866. When the fort closed, the military auctioned off the buildings, many of which were taken apart for materials or moved. Two buildings from the fort exist today: the blockhouse, which was moved to Dayton, OR in 1911, and an officer’s quarters, which is at the park and under restoration.
Today, Fort Yamhill is an amazing archaeological site. Archaeologically, it is one of the best preserved forts in the Northwest from this period. Even though the buildings are gone, the “footprint” of the fort is still intact and beautifully preserved. Recent excavations have revealed building foundations, the kitchen fireplace, the bakery oven, as well as numerous military & domestic artifacts. The archaeological research is being performed by Oregon State University’s Archaeological Field School.
Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area was opened in 2006 to protect and interpret the natural and cultural resources of the site. Park facilities include a 1/2 mile interpretive trail, picnic areas, scenic viewpoints, restrooms, and interpretive signage. The park is in its initial stages of development and includes ongoing archeological research and building restoration that enrich the visitors’ experience and help bring history to life.