A landmark of the North Oregon Coast, the ghostlike Peter Iredale Shipwreck ran ashore on Clatsop Spit, south of the Columbia River channel on October 25, 1906. Located within Fort Stevens State Park, the wreckage is considered one of the most accessible and long-lasting in the world. The mouth of Columbia River is known as a nightmare bar or Graveyard of the Pacific. According to to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, since 1792, about 2000 ships including more than 200 large ships have sunk in this area.
Peter Iredale Shipwreck History
The Peter Iredale had being designed in British Maryport in June 1890, by R. Ritson & Co Ltd for the company Iredale & Porter. Originally, it was crafted into a 1,993 tons (metric ton) freight carrier from a four-masted steel plate and iron frames and belonged to the Liverpool port.
Operated commercially, the bark vessel started its fateful journey from Salina Cruz, Mexico at the end of September 1906 with a crew of 25, two passengers and 1,000 tons of ballast. The Iredale never made a complete journey to the destination at Portland through the mouth of the Columbia River to pick up a shipment of wheat.
According to the London Naval Court,
"No incident worthy of mention happened until the look-out sighted the light on Tillamook Rock at 3.20 a.m. on the 25th of October, 1906. The ship’s course was altered to E.N.E. until the vessel was five miles off the light. The course was then altered to sight the Columbia River Lightship. This was sighted and recognized, it bearing North East. In this position, finding the wind was veering to westward, and having lost sight of the light in a thick mist, it was decided to wear ship to avoid the influence of the current setting to the north, and the tide running into the Columbia River. The wind had now hauled to the north of west in heavy squalls with rain."
A heavy dense fog, strong stormy wind, and current made navigation difficult. Captain Lawrence had realized too late that they were too close to the shore to avoid shipwreck. The 287-foot Peter Iredale hit on sandy ashore of Clatsop Spit and damaged three of its masts. The vessel had been trapped in sand dunes but no one of the crew died or were seriously injured. The captain initiated a rescue mission before the crew got a help from the Point Adams station.
The court verdict was: "We consider that everything was done by the master to get his ship out of danger...first and second officers, are in no wise to blame for the stranding of the vessel."
The skeleton of the Peter Iredale sailing ship became a favorite attraction and popular tourist destination on the Oregon Coast. When you visit Fort Stevens State Park that located a few miles south of Astoria, you will find a vivid history - the scene of the impressive wreck, occurred over 100 years ago.
Though the rusted bow of the ship still well-visible but the other parts of Peter Iredale are buried under the sand. However, sand levels around the wreck change all the time, allowing various parts of the ship show up at different times of the year.
The best time to visit the shipwreck is a sunny day at low tide.
Driving Directions to Peter Iredale Shipwreck
From the junction of Highway 101 and Highway 30 in Astoria, follow 3.2 miles to southwest to Warrenton/Seaside/Airport. Turn right onto Fort Stevens Highway Spur, then turn left onto Fort Stevens/Main St. Turn right onto SW 18th St, which merges onto NW Ridge Rd. Turn left onto Peter Iredale Road, then turn left and stay on Peter Iredale Road. Continue to the parking area, 200 yards from the wreck.
Address: 100 Peter Iredale Rd, Hammond, OR 97121
Phone: 503-861-3170 x 21
Fees: $5 per vehicle per day or 12- or 24-month day-use permit for State Parks
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Camping: 170 full-hookup sites, over 300 electrical sites with water, 6 tent sites with water nearby, 15 yurts, 11 deluxe cabins