FORT PICKENS AND BEACH
$8/carload, good for the whole national seashore for 7 days.
We went to Fort Pickens to tour in August. It is one of five forts that protected Pensacola, and is the one that was best preserved. The architecture of the fort was impressive. It was well thought out, well hidden, had several Plan B options, and was set up in a series of arches to help with drainage and rainwater collection.
It is a five sided, five sectioned set of buildings, with two sets of “twins” that mirror each other. Inside, there was what you’d expect, ammunition storage, captain’s quarters, lots of places for cannons. There are also a few long, narrow tunnels that lead out to three different “dead ends”. In these dead ends, the soldiers stored several hundred pounds of powder. That way, if the fort was close to being breached, they could blow that end.
Due to the construction using arches, moisture and rainwater drips down. Because this fort hasn’t been occupied for awhile, this lends itself to creating cave formations with the build up of lime, calcium, and other minerals. In fact, where water drips through the most, there are columns even starting to form on the ground. It was incredibly interesting to see “straws” hanging from a ceiling of an outdoor and above ground building.
After the original fort was built, they added an additional inner fort. It was built due to an increase in fire power, since the brick walls wouldn’t have been able to keep the newer, much larger, cannonballs out. In this inner fort, you could see the difference in the newer technology. There are loading docks for trucks to back up with supplies, a ceiling railway system for moving the supplies that were undoubtedly very heavy, a pulley system for bringing the cannonballs up to where they’d be utilized, and even a lever and stop system to keep the cannonballs under control while they were being unloaded from the pulley system. In this inner fort, they even had implemented a lowering system so that after a cannon was fired, it would be lowered automatically so they could reload under cover. Of course, the whole building was black and very utilitarian to look at after the fort proper.
The beach was incredible! There was hardly anyone else there, white sands, and water that was just the right temperature to enjoy. We’ve visited other beaches and this is one we’ll definitely be coming back to. In fact, when we’d planned this trip, I’d decided against camping at Fort Pickens. We went with Gulf Shores instead. Next time, we’ll head to Fort Pickens, which has sites with shade and a mostly empty, beautiful beach.i