Fort Ross and the Sonoma Coast

Fort Ross and the Sonoma Coast

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The Kashaya Indians made foot trails through the grassy mountain slopes of Sonoma's northern coast for centuries before colonists from the Russian-American Company arrived in 1812. These Russians, the vanguard of European settlement, built Fort Ross from virgin redwood on a bluff overlooking the sea. Although they stayed only 30 years, they left behind a heritage that includes the earliest detailed scientific and ethnographic studies of the area and California's first ships and windmills. Soon others came to ranch, lumber, and quarry, shipping their harvest and stone to help build and feed San Francisco. Ranches and mill sites evolved into towns, often bearing the names of the rugged men who first settled there. Much of the coastline remains as it was in centuries past, its rich history still visible in ship moorings and chiseled sandstone, and new residents and visitors are still drawn to this dramatic meeting of blue Pacific and forested coastal mountains.