For more than a hundred years the Peter Iredale has stood alone, drawing tourists from day one as one of the most accessible shipwrecks along the Oregon Coast. As you stand next to the impressive structure, you can’t help but wonder what happened and how it became stranded so far into the beach. The rusted steel skeleton of the Peter Iredale stands proudly as a testament to the destructive power of nature. You don’t want to miss this hidden gem at Fort Stevens!
The shipwreck is entirely open to the elements and allows you to walk right up to, and even climb on it, so be careful! At low tide it stands in the middle of the beach, surrounded by a vast expanse of cool, wet sand. At high tide, the water swallows it and the waves crash against it, spraying high into the air. Today, only the hull is still visible. With the strong tide and soft sand, it’s slowly eroding every day. As the beach expands, the shipwreck becomes further entrenched in Oregon’s history.
An extremely uneventful wreck
It’s October 1906. The Peter Iredale is sailing up the Oregon Coast from Cruz, Mexico where it’s supposed to pick up wheat from Portland before heading to England. When it’s almost to the mouth of the Columbia River, a squall suddenly appears and pushes the ship onto Clatsop Beach, breaking off some of its masts.
The crew signal for help by firing rockets and Point Adams, a nearby life-saving station, come to their aid. They bring the crew and two stowaways uninjured to shore. Little did the crew know, had they waited a few hours they could have walked ashore at low tide.
The captain stands and salutes his beached ship, saying “May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.” The British Naval Court launches an inquiry and the crew is resolved of all blame.
An uncommon site
Since a beached 2,000-ton trading vessel is an uncommon site, locals flock to it, children are released from school early, and photographers come in the masses. Today, the Wreck of the Peter Iredale is supposedly one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the world.
The Peter Iredale causes a local stir
Over the years there have been squabbles over ownership of the ship. Private owners try to claim ownership of the ship and want to sell it for salvage, while local towns fight tooth-and-nail to prove it’s within city limits and leave it where it is.
Since the wreck still stands in its original location today, it seems that the local towns have won the ownership battle. Hopefully, they will leave it for future generations to enjoy!
During the second World War
On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fires on Fort Stevens. No is was injured, but it causes a scare amongst the locals who fear further attacks. They lay barbed wire along the beach, even through the old shipwreck, and assign citizens to patrol the coast.
Visiting the Wreck of the Peter Iredale
The beach is usually a few degrees cooler than inland, so if you’re looking for a reprise from the heat, make sure to head here! You don’t need to go in the water to enjoy the cooler temperatures as a breeze is usually not far off.
The sand is beautifully clean and very soft, so leave your shoes at the parking lot and stroll across the cool sand. Explore the steel skeleton and, if you’re feeling brave, you can even try climbing it! Vehicles are allowed on the beach, but besides disrupting the peaceful sound of the tide, the drivers are generally quite respectful.
The Wreck becomes very busy during the day, so try to visit it early in the morning or at dusk to enjoy a private beach. With washrooms just off the parking lot, it’s easy to spend a few hours at this hidden, historical gem.
Information & Trailhead Location
The Peter Iredale is visible from the pot-hole riddled parking lot. To get to the ocean you’ll need to navigate a fairly steep, but short, sandy hill. The washrooms are located beside the parking lot at the top of the hill. Vehicles are allowed on the beach, so be sure to stay on the lookout for them.
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