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With a name like Fort Steven’s State Park, you’re probably not too sure to what to expect inside. Sounds rather stiff doesn’t it? At the urging of individual at the Visitor’s Centre in Astoria, we made the trek out to this state park.
The lady at the Visitor Centre was super sweet and gave us instructions and a (confusing) map to get us there. While she was explaining its history, I was off wondering how they’ve managed to keep the shipwreck there. It seemed so unlikely that it has survived for so many years out in the open allowing anyone to just walk right up to it. In a lawsuit happy country, it just didn’t seem to make any sense. I’ll have to see it to believe it
We were in search of a shipwreck. While I had read about it during my research, I didn’t realize how close we were to it. Driving to the park is a bit confusing. The map provided by the Visitor’s Centre didn’t have all the street names and we got a little bit turned around. Another good reason to bring paper maps with you! Thankfully I had a US sim card with data and was able to pull up Google maps. I knew we were in for a treat when we pulled into the very full, very sandy parking lot.
You can’t see the beach from the parking lot and as you walk up over the hill you’re greeted by a wide expansive sandy beach. You can hear the waves against the shore, but it’s still quite a distance away. Off to the right you can make out the skeleton of the Peter Iredale shipwreck. Inland, it was a pleasantly warm day perfect for shorts and a t-shirt. Here on the beach? It was foggy, it was windy and it was really really chilly.
The sand is incredible. It’s so soft and so fine, you sink right in. Nothing like the gross grainy sand, rock chunks and cigarette butt combo that you’re likely to find on Vancouver beaches.
You can walk right up to the shipwreck. You can climb on it too. You can get all up in its business and it’s incredible. I’m still in shock that it’s not cordoned off to be kept away from the masses less someone falls and cuts themselves.
From a distance, it’s beautiful. In a destructive, falling apart, kind of way. The remains of human innovation left to be reclaimed by nature. In a couple hundred years, it’s likely you won’t even see it anymore as the shipwreck continues to sink year after year. The beach, with the strong winds and current, is constantly changing, and the ship is left to battle the elements.
How did it end up there? The vessel, the Peter Iredale was on its way to the Columbia River when it ran ashore in 1906. It got into trouble due to high winds and attempts by the crew to correct its course failed.
Originally plans were made to send the ship back to sea, but as they waited for better weather, the ship fell onto the port (left) side and became stuck in the sand. Instead, the boat was stripped and the metal sold for scraps.
Today, the remains of the Peter Iredale’s bow and mast are visible, jutting out from the sand. You can also see where a few of the masts once stood as well and you can really appreciate the sheer size of the vessel.
When we visited, the tide was out, but I can imagine how incredible it would be if there was water surrounding it. Eerie. Haunting.
Exploring the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale was probably one of the coolest things I did while in Oregon. It’s not every day that you get to climb on the hull of a massive ship! If you’re going to be driving down the Oregon Coast, I highly recommend you take a side trip and explore the Peter Iredale. So cool! While you’re in the area, be sure to explore Astoria as well!
Good to Know
- Bring a jacket. I don’t think I’ve said enough how cold and how windy it is.
- Bring something to protect your camera and lens, especially if it is foggy. The air is very salty and damp and the wind just makes it worse. By the time I left, my camera was really sticky and kind of gross from the air.
- Have a good map! The route getting you there is a bit complicated and it may seem like you’ve gone too far, but you probably haven’t gone far enough. There are plenty of signs once you get into the park directing you to the right area.