The federal government first established a base at the strategic tip of Long Island in 1929, naming the fort for Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., who was the Army’s Chief of Coast Artillery at the time. During World War II in 1942, with German U-boats menacing the East Coast, the installation was bulked up with seaplane hangars, barracks and docks and renamed Camp Hero.
All the buildings were built to look like an innocuous New England fishing village. Concrete bunkers had windows painted on them and base buildings sprouted ornamental roofs with fake dormers. The gymnasium was made to look like a church with a false steeple. At its peak, the camp housed 600 enlisted men and 37 officers.
In 1947 Camp Hero was deactivated but revived in the 1950s as a site for Antiaircraft Artillery training. The military left for good in 1978 and after an effort to turn Montauk Point into a resort destination was thwarted the land was bounced from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the State of New York, finally becoming a state park in 2002.
There is plenty of unique wandering to be found for your your dog in old Camp Hero. The Paumanok Path begins (or ends) its journey across Long Island here. Part of your dog’s hiking day can follow part of the Old Montauk Highway that was the principle artery though the South Fork until the Montauk State Parkway was constructed. You can explore the buildings still standing in the military area. Bunkers and odd structures are seemingly around every turn.
Your dog will find elevation changes as the trails visit the top of fragile bluffs and work down to cobble beaches. Although much of the trails are broken macadam or sandy jeep roads you can also find traditional woods walking on paths like the Battery 113 Trail. Oh, and stick to the roads and trails - it is not impossible to stumble upon unexploded ordnance. The trails lead down to the Atlantic Ocean where the surf is often frisky enough to dissuade all but the most avid dog paddler.
The dominant man-made structure remaining in Camp Hero is a massive AN/FPS-35 long range radar used in the early 1960s. Only 12 of these radars, capable of picking up objects 200 miles away, were ever built. The antennas weighed 70 to 80 tons and were perched on concrete tower bases built 80 feet high. There were numerous bugs with the giant radars and all have been dismantled except for the one at Camp Hero. Boaters on Long Island Sound lobbied to save the installation since it was a better landmark during the day than the lighthouse next door. At least that’s the official story. Others believe the radar was used by the government in top-secret time travel experiments called the Montauk Project.
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