Fort Worden Artillery Battery – Port Townsend, Washington - Atlas Obscura

Port Townsend, Washington

Fort Worden Artillery Battery

An abandoned network of military bunkers and tunnels open for anyone willing to descend into the darkness. 

If you’re in an “abandoned artillery base” sort of mood and have a yen for secret tunnels and haunted barracks, then Fort Worden is absolutely your jam. 

Around 1900, Puget Sound had valuable military assets like the naval shipyards at Bremerton and the civilian ports of Seattle and Tacoma that were deemed vulnerable, high-value targets for attack by enemy warships (remember, there were no planes at this point). However, any invading fleet would have to enter the Sound through a narrow bottleneck, so three artillery bases (Forts Worden, Casey, and Flagler) were built to guard the front door.

Together, their extensive batteries of humongous cannons formed what was known as the “Triangle of Fire.” These gun batteries were serious business: Fort Worden, the biggest, had six batteries totaling 41 guns. The weapons themselves varied in size and effect, some hurling explosive shells a foot in diameter and five feet long, weighing more than 1,000 pounds.

The enemy never showed up (kudos!), so the forts never fired a shot in anger. Flash forward a few wars, when the advent of bomber aircraft made “the triangle” completely moot. Today the three forts are peaceful Washington State Parks.

Fort Worden is most well-preserved of the three parks. It’s full of treasures like an extensive, profoundly cool, and totally eerie complex of hardened gun emplacements (minus the guns), including empty bunkers, pill boxes, roads and trails, memorials, and confusing infrastructure. There are strange ladders and stairways to nowhere, as well as dark hallways that lead to even darker rooms hidden behind heavy blast doors. Military barracks, long since abandoned by any troops, now house museums and, according to some, quite a few ghosts.