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Sept. 23, 2023

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Fort Vancouver National Historic Site sets summer program for kids

It will teach about archaeology, why it matters

By , Columbian staff writer
6 Photos
Mike Twist leads a mock archaeology dig that a small group of kids participated in at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Mike Twist leads a mock archaeology dig that a small group of kids participated in at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The Columbian files. Photo Gallery

Young people growing up in a data-rich world full of bits and bytes need to learn about the valuable information that’s buried down in the good old-fashioned dirt.

That’s why the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site hosts Kids Dig!, a series of summer-Saturday mock-archaeology digs for kids ages 8 to 12 — using real tools, real techniques, real creative problem-solving and analysis of artifacts and, of course, real dirt.

“The program is great for kids interested in both science and history,” said National Park Service archaeologist Doug Wilson. “They will experience how archaeologists use science to learn new things about Fort Vancouver and why we should care about and protect archaeological sites.”

The digs are set for 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 29, July 6 and July 13, inside the reconstructed Fort Vancouver at 1001 East Fifth Street. Space in each session is limited to 20 children. Advance reservations are recommended via 360-816-6250; or, sign up on the day of the program at the reconstructed fort itself. The price of the Kids Dig! is the price of admission to the fort — free for children age 15 and under, $10 for adults.

Get out!

For that matter, all people struggling to cope with a data-rich world dominated by devices and screens need to get back in touch with the great outdoors. That’s why Fort Vancouver always hosts a big outdoor extravaganza on National Get Outdoors Day, set this year for June 8 on East Fifth Street near Pearson Air Museum.


What: Kids Dig!

When: 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on June 29, July 6, July 13.

Where: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1001 E. Fifth St.

Cost: Free for kids 15 or under; price of admission to fort is $10 for adults.

• • •

What: Get Outdoors Day.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8.

Where: East Fifth Street near Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St.

Events: Lectures at the visitor center, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd: 11 a.m., “Salmon and Coyote Tell My Family Stories” with Lillian Pitt; 2 p.m, “The Voice of This Stone” with Kevin Scott.

Cost: Free.

Get Outdoors Day is held on public lands throughout the nation. At the very least, it means free access to parks, trails and other outdoor attractions; at Fort Vancouver, it means a gathering of government agencies, nonprofit organizations and outdoor-adventure groups, guides and retailers. As they’ve done for the last several years, more than 35 of these agencies and partners will set up information booths as well as some fun on-site adventure opportunities — like rock climbing, fishing, archery, cross-cut sawing and even soccer. That’s all free — but food vendors will also be selling their goodies.

“Get Outdoors Day brings together multiple agencies … to provide a lively event full of activities,” said Tracy Fortmann, superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. “As an urban national park, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site serves as an ideal gateway to national parks, forests, trails and other public lands.” (Out in the Columbia River Gorge, fees are waived on June 9 at all Forest Service-managed sites and Washington state parks sites — but not at Oregon state parks sites.)

As part of Get Outdoors Day, the Friends of Fort Vancouver organization will host two lectures at the Fort Vancouver Visitors Center, which is up the hill at 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.

From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., renowned Native American artist Lillian Pitt will talk about the importance of family traditions and share stories of her own family, and of the legends of the earliest Columbia River people, in a talk for children called “Salmon and Coyote Tell My Family Stories.”

Then, from 2 to 3 p.m., volcanologist and author Kevin Scott will present “The Voice of This Stone: Learning from Volcanic Disasters around the World.” Scott’s new book is based on five decades of study and boots-on-the-ground experience with major volcano eruptions and emergencies around the globe. Scott told The Columbian a few weeks ago that he is much less concerned about near-term destruction caused by Mount St. Helens than by Mount Rainier, and he described the emergency warning system that has been set up in nearby towns that may be in danger.

Brigade encampment

Get Outdoors Day at Fort Vancouver also includes an annual, re-enacted Brigade Encampment, featuring fur trappers, soldiers and other historic residents of Fort Vancouver as they demonstrate cooking, crafts, games, dances and music of the 1840s. Black powder demonstrations of replica 1840s weaponry will take place too.

“The Encampment … serves as a reminder that not so long ago, camping was not a recreational activity, but rather a way of life,” Fortmann said.