Fortuna Air Force Station is an abandoned Air Force radar station located in Divide County, about 6 1/2 miles from Canada and 8 miles from Montana. Like the Minot Air Force Station, Fortuna AFS was a GCI (Ground Control Intercept) base designed to detect unidentified aircraft and coordinate interception. Originally opened in 1952, the mission evolved over several decades to suit changing technology until it was partially deactivated in 1979. It was closed for good in 1984.
The radar dishes and domes were removed long ago, and the site has since been heavily vandalized and scavenged. The salvage rights were sold some years back and the team that did the salvage knocked holes in the walls of most of the buildings to remove boilers and scrap metal.
Here’s a shot of the base circa 1977, sent to us by a former airman stationed at the base.
We got word that this base was to be demolished in 2013, so we set out to photograph it before it was too late. We got permission to explore it and directions for how to access the base. Upon arrival, we were not able to access the base in the manner the owner suggested, so we played it by ear, starting with the former family housing units on the south side of the base and working our way through a gate and up the hill on foot to the former site of the radar tower. The site is expansive and we got hundreds of photos, so we’ve decided to break it up into several galleries.
UPDATE: Almost all of this site was demolished in 2015. Josh Axt sent us this email with the details.
I took a trip up to Fortuna Air Force Station Yesterday on the 12th Oct 2015 since I was in the area. I am sad to say that demolition is about 90% complete. The residential area is gone as are the steel radar towers and the the underground had been sealed. Piles of scrap steel and some cement pads are all that is left of the station. The generator house is only a skeleton of a steel frame with bits of pieces of wire and sheet metal hanging and swinging in the wind giving off an eerie sound before it is meets it’s final demise in the next week or so. The radio shed still stands but I doubt it has much time left either.
The one thing to survive the teardown will be main 5 story cement radar facility. It has been refitted with power and is currently being used as a server hub and tower for rural wireless internet and cell phone coverage. It is funny to see the technology of today take up three small steel server lockers in a small corner of one on the levels in comparison to the original intent and tech of the day, the structure which was designed to house one gigantic computer that took up three entire floors just to operate one radar dish.
Nature has reclaimed much of the neighborhood where families once lived.
The tower top-center had the radar dish shown in the photo at the top of this page, and the structure on the right was topped by the spherical rubber dome.
Formerly family housing at Fortuna AFS
Even though this base is gone, you can still get your hands on many of these photos. We devoted 19 pages of our hardcover coffee table book, Ghosts of North Dakota Vol. 3, to Fortuna AFS.
We hoofed it up the hill in wet grass, looking for a gate that would allow us access to the former radar facilities at the top of the hill. We discovered this.
After we hiked up to the road, we could see this at the bottom of the hill — barracks, mess hall, motor pool, and more… but we’ll get to that later.
Troy walks down a heavily overgrown path to the former site of the dome.
The stairs and platforms are all of sturdy metal construction, but you still can’t help but get a little uneasy after so many years exposed to the elements…
A couple stories up with not much between you and a quick trip down.
Troy walked up to this door and pushed it open to discover the walkway outside the door has been removed. Another quick trip to the ground awaits.
We took a lot more photos of Fortuna Air Force Station. Click here to see Part 2.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, © 2013 Sonic Tremor Media