February 5th, 2012
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Fort Rodd Hill and the Fisgard Lighthouse are National Historic Sites of Canada. The fort was in use from 1878 to 1956 (the concrete structures that can be seen today were first built in the 1890’s) and was one of a series of forts that provided coastal artillery protection for the city of Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) and the nearby naval base in Esquimalt Harbour (which is still in use today by the Canadian Pacific Fleet).
This fort was originally part of the vast British Empire’s chain of defensive forts around the world (remnants of such forts can still be found in other places like Australia, New Zealand and Singapore). The last British troops left the fort in 1906 (the last stationed in all of Canada) and then Canadian forces took over the responsibility of defending the harbour. Fortunately the fort never fired a shot in anger and eventually missile technology and jet aircraft made the big guns redundant in the 1950’s. A few years later the fort became a historical site.
Around the fort are a number of restored gun battery’s, bunkers and control centres. There are also a number of buildings remaining from the 1890’s that have museum displays inside them (these include a guardhouse, officers quarters, a canteen and barracks).
One building down by the beach was used as an emplacement for a huge searchlight in WW2 and to camouflage it, the concrete emplacement was painted and modified to look like a fisherman’s hut (I am pretty sure an enemy would have noticed the large tower and gun emplacements on the hill nearby though!). You are free to explore thr grounds of the fort and then wander out to the lighthouse.
The Fisgard Lighthouse was built in 1860 and was the first on Canada’s West Coast, it is still operational but the last Lighthouse keeper left in 1929 (an automated operation since then). The former residence of the keeper is now a museum.
Canada Goose can be seen all around the fort and near the water. While I was at the lighthouse I was pleased to look up and see a Bald Eagle flying overhead, then upon my return to the fort I was surprised to see a Bear trap set up near the waters edge. Turns out a Black Bear has been seen wandering around the fort and surrounding forest so they are trying to catch it and relocate it to a more suitable forest away from people!
The best way to get to the fort and lighthouse would be by car. The historic site is approximately 6km West of Victoria. I took public transport which got me to the nearby suburb of Belmont Park and then walked about 2.2km to the fort. The weather was nice so it was a good walk and although most of the way was unpaved, much of the road I was following was through a forested area so it was a pleasurable walk. If you are interested in history this historic site is well worth a visit, plus you get a great view across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea to the Olympic Mountains in Washington, USA!