Last Updated on February 26, 2021
There is something ghostly about shipwrecks in nature, especially when the shipwreck is off of an area known as the “graveyard of the Pacific”. Exploring the Peter Iredale shipwreck was both eerie and fascinating. We loved that it was left there in nature for us to be able to explore.
What Is The Peter Iredale?
The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel bark built in Maryport, England, in 1890. It was owned by British shipping firm Iredale & Porter.
Visiting The Peter Iredale Shipwreck
Found just beyond a parking area at Fort Stevens State Park, on Clatsop Beach, is the most iconic shipwreck on the Oregon coast, the wreck of the Peter Iredale. At low tide, you can walk right up to it, though all that remains from it being broken up by wave, wind, and sand over the years, is the steel hull of the 275-foot sailing ship.
Clatsop Beach is a gorgeous beach to go for a wander after you’re done admiring the rusted steel skeleton of the Peter Iredale. Though it was a stormy (but warm) day at the beach during our visit, we loved the eerie atmosphere. The kids also did not waste any time getting wet in their clothes. You would think that I would know to just put the bathing suits on by now!
When To Visit The Peter Irdale Shipwreck
Having the shipwreck so easily accessible is wonderful, but also makes it an extra busy attraction. The shipwreck is busiest during the day. If you would like to enjoy the sight with less of a crowd, go early or at sunset.
When you visit will really depend on tides. If you want to wander right up to the barnacle-covered remains, you will want to check tide charts to make sure your visit will be at low tide.
At high-tide, the remains will be completely surrounded by water. While you cannot go right up to the shipwreck, it is a great time to enjoy the rest of the beach.
After we were finished admiring the shipwreck, we searched for sand dollars. When they are alive, sand dollars can vary from a deep brown to a purplish-red color. After the animal dies, the sun causes its color to fade, and the skeleton eventually turns silvery-white, like photographed below.
Huge Tourist Attraction
The shipwreck was immediately a tourist attraction and today is one of the most photographed shipwrecks in the world, thanks to its easy accessibility. Not even the stormy weather could keep the crowds away. The day after the ship was abandoned, people flocked to see the sight. The Astoria & Columbia River Railroad started to immediately plan excursions to offer.
What Caused The Shipwreck?
The ship was sailing from Salina Cruz, Mexico in September 1906, and was on its way to Portland, Oregon with 1,000 tons of ballast. A great journey until October 25, the ship altered its course when it spotted the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.
The ship made it to the mouth of the Columbia River, through a shroud of fog, before a strong wind turned it, hitting Clatsop Beach so hard that three out of four masts snapped on impact. Fortunately, none of the crew was seriously injured. The ship was abandoned and rockets launched to signal for help.
The British Naval Court later ruled that the sudden wind shift and the strong current were responsible for the stranding of the ship and the stranding was not at the fault of the captain and crew.
Luckily, this shipwreck was not the horror story you think of when you hear about the typical shipwreck.
The lifesaving station at Point Adams responded and though it was a dangerous rescue, all twenty-seven crewmen, including two stowaways, were safely rescued and brought to shore. It is said that “William K. Inman, one of the lifesavers who helped Captain Lawrence ashore, remembered that the red-bearded captain stood stiffly at attention, saluted his ship, and said ‘May God bless you and may your bones bleach in these sands.'”
The Peter Iredale shipwreck is located within a state park. That means you must buy a parking permit to be able to enter. We bought our permits upon entering, but you are also able to buy them online. Our parking permit was good at all state parks for the entire day of purchase. This worked out really well when entering Ecola State Park (30 minutes away) later that day.
Parking permits are $5 for one day, $30 for a year, or $50 for two years. If you’re spending a couple of weeks exploring around Oregon, it would be worth it to buy a year pass to save some money. Also, if you’re camping at an Oregon State Park, the fee will already be included, and you can just display the camping receipt on your dash as proof of payment.
The Peter Iredale shipwreck is located within Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, OR. We found it super easy to find, by following signs towards Fort Stevens. If you’re heading to the shipwreck from Portland, it is about an hour and forty-five-minute drive.
Also, even if you’re leaving a hot and sunny Portland, you could find yourself arriving at a stormy beach, as you can see happened to us above. That is the nature of the Oregon Coast. We hope you arrive with sunshine. If not, do not let some stormy weather discourage you from exploring the remains!
When you arrive, there are two parking lots right at the beach. When the parking lots are full, you’ll have to find a spot along the road.
There is also a change room and washroom conveniently located next to the parking lot.
Have you ever been able to see such an accessible shipwreck? Where?
Last updated February 2021