Last updated October 12, 2019
The Wreck of the Peter Iredale has lain exposed on Oregon’s coast since 1906. For more than a hundred years, the shipwreck has tugged at people’s curiosity and drawn them to its rusted steel skeleton. Its location in Fort Steven State Park makes it one of the most accessible and visible shipwrecks on the entire Oregon coast.
What are you waiting for? Let’s go explore!
1 km // 45 – 60 mins
Visiting the shipwreck
The impressive Peter Iredale shipwreck is located in Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon. It’s a great place to experience some local Oregon history or to simply enjoy a walk along the beach.
Plus, it’s easy to get to. You don’t need to hike for miles or sweat up a giant hill to visit the shipwreck. Even though I do love doing those things, every once in awhile it’s nice not to.
When to visit
You can visit the Peter Iredale anytime of the year but the tides will really depict when you decide to visit.
Low tide is my favourite time to visit the shipwreck because it sits in the middle of the beach. You can walk right up to the rusted steel skeleton and explore the barnacle covered hull! Plus, low tide is a great time to scour the beach for sand dollars.
At high tide, the shipwreck is entirely surrounded by water. Although this means you can’t walk right up to the shipwreck, it’s a great time to enjoy the beach itself. Grab a picnic and enjoy a yummy lunch on the beach.
It’s usually pretty busy at the shipwreck during the day. You can escape the crowds by visiting early in the morning or at dusk. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a reprise from the heat because it’s usually a few degrees cooler than inland.
When I first saw the shipwreck, I was awestruck. After all, it’s not everyday you get to see a skeleton ship up close! But afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder how the ship became stuck so far up the beach.
I’ll be honest, I’ve always thought of shipwrecks as horrific accidents where lives are lost and cargo destroyed. While this might be true for many shipwrecks, it certainly isn’t how the Wreck of the Peter Iredale came to be. I love visiting the shipwreck, but I don’t think there will be any Hollywood movies about her fate.
The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel cargo ship. It was built in England in 1890 and on September 26, 1906, she set sail from Salina Cruz, Mexico to Portland, Oregon. The ship was supposed to pick up wheat from Portland and then continue to England.
However, in the early morning of October 25, she reached the mouth of the Columbia River and encountered heavy fog. Suddenly, a strong wind blew in and before her crew could steer the ship to safety, she ran aground on Clatsop Beach. As a result, three of her masts snapped and left the crew stranded on board. They then launched rockets for help and the nearby lifesaving station at Points Adams came to their aid. It was a dangerous operation but they were able to bring all crewmen and two stowaways safely to shore. Little did the crew know, had they waited a few hours they could have safely walked ashore at low tide.
Later, the caption of the ship, Captain Lawrence, supposedly saluted his beached ship and said: “May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.”
When news of the shipwreck reached Britain, an inquiry was launched by the British Naval Court. They found that the sudden wind shift and strong currents caused the shipwreck. The crew was absolved of all blame.
The shipwreck became an immediate tourist attraction. Only a day after the ship ran ashore, the local papers reported that the wreck “proved a strong attraction”. People flocked to the shipwreck even though there was a raging storm that day. Kids were even released from school early!
Today, despite being beaten by the wind, ocean, and sand over the years, the Wreck of the Peter Iredale is still a major tourist attraction. It’s supposedly one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the world.
A local stir
Over the years there have been numerous squabbles over ownership of the Peter Iredale. Private owners have tried to claim ownership to sell it for salvage and local towns fought to prove it was within city limits so it could stay put.
Since the shipwreck still stands in its original location today, it seems that the local towns have won the ownership battle. Hopefully, it’ll stay that way for future generations to enjoy!
The Wreck of the Peter Iredale even played a small part during WWII.
On June 21, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired on Fort Stevens, a nearby military fort. No one was injured, but locals feared further attacks. They laid barbed wire along Clatsop Beach and through the shipwreck. They even set up a citizen’s patrol along the coast.
The Peter Iredale is one of the most accessible shipwrecks on all of the USA’s west coast and it’s a wonderful place to stop on your road trip! Since the shipwreck is located on the beach and there’s not much hiking involved, you don’t need too much gear. Nevertheless, there are a few things you should consider bringing.
The sand is absolutely beautiful, but it’s usually chilly so sandals are always a good idea. The wind sometimes picks up and a headband helps keep your hair in place. You should also bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm to keep yourself protected from the pesky sun.
If you’d like to buy your gear from sustainable brands, we’ve put together an article about some of our favourite outdoor brands that do just that. Some of them donate time, money, or resources, whereas others support outdoor-related legislation, increased education, or eco-friendly resources.
The Wreck of the Peter Iredale on the Oregon coast is a wonderful place for a quick stop. You can explore the shipwreck, walk the beach, and even drive on the sand!
While you’re at Fort Stevens, you can also check out Battery Russell.
The Wreck of the Peter Iredale is located within a state park which means you’ll need a parking permit. You can buy them at the park or online.
Permits are $5 for one day, $30 for one year, and $50 for two years. The permits are valid at all Oregon State Parks, so if you’re planning on visiting multiple parks the annual passes will be worth it. However, if you’re staying at an Oregon State Park the permit is included in your camping fee. Just display your camping receipt on your dashboard and you’re good to go!
The Peter Iredale shipwreck is located within Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton, Oregon. It’s quite easy to get to — just follow signs for Fort Stevens! There are two parking lots at the beach and if they’re full, you can always park along the road.
There’s also a change room and washroom right next to the parking lot.