There aren’t many places that you can see an actual shipwreck, let alone touch it, walk around it, and climb on it. But in the northwest corner of Oregon, at Ft. Stevens State Park just southwest of Astoria, you can do just that with the wreck of the Peter Iredale.
The ship has been here since October of 1906. A British ship, it had left Santa Cruz, Mexico bound for Portland, Oregon when it hit bad weather just before crossing the Columbia River bar. It ran ashore on the beach, and luckily no one was hurt but the ship was abandoned, never to be removed. There it has sat, slowly deteriorating for over 100 years.
Today it is a mere skeleton of a ship, rusty, leaning, crusted over. It was amazing to see it when I was a child some 45 years ago. I can imagine the crowds that it drew when it first wrecked, and over the years it has seen thousands of visitors. There isn’t as much to the wreckage as I remember, but there is still plenty to get excited about. The nice part to know, as a parent, is that no one was hurt. It’s always a little hard to talk to your kids about these things if you have to explain people were hurt or died. No problem with that here.
It’s a great way to teach your kids about the sea, the dangers sailors faced on a daily basis while trying to cross the bar into the Columbia River. While looking at the pictures it may not seem like much, but any time you can let kids actually touch history (careful – it is rusty), they will remember it. There is still enough of the ship there that they will be thoroughly impressed and will be anxious to brag to their friends that they saw and touched an actual shipwreck. That truly is a unique experience most people don’t ever get a chance to do.
Off Hwy. 101 south of Astoria, head towards the towns of Warrenton/Hammond. Follow the signs to Ft. Stevens State Park and look for Peter Iredale Rd. Then just follow the signs that say “Shipwreck”. How often do you see that kind of sign anywhere?
It’s very easy to get to, there is a parking area ($5 day use fee) very near it so you can just park and walk out to it. Low tide is the best time to go to make sure you can walk all around it. Or if you want to stay awhile you can camp or rent a cabin at Ft. Stevens State Park which also has great bicycle trails and tons of other military and historical sites to introduce your children to.
So head to the Oregon coast and give your kids (and yourself!) the experience of a lifetime – check out that shipwreck!