Oregon Coast Shipwrecks: The Graveyard of the Pacific

Ships Keystone Vacations

Oregon’s spectacular coastline is very enticing. Its miles of sandy beaches, quaint seaside villages, and stunning ocean views mask the dangers that these waters hold for ships. With over 3,000 shipwrecks along the Oregon coast, the name “Graveyard of the Pacific Coast” is certainly appropriate for these waters.

For hundreds of years, every imaginable ship traveled up and down the Pacific. They came from around the globe and included schooners, square-riggers, and steamers. Unfortunately, not all arrived at their destination. Some were never found, some lie on the ocean floor, and a few others still sit on Oregon beaches for you to see.

Start your visit with a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. The “Secrets of Shipwrecks” entertains and uncovers the fascinating world of shipwrecks, particularly on the Oregon Coast. This eye-opening exhibit shows you why the Oregon coastline is so difficult to navigate and explain the loss of so many ships over the years. Even with today’s technology, sailors much stay alert to possible threats in powerful waters. The exhibit includes artifacts from a few of the most notable wrecks including the Spanish beeswax galleon and the Emily G. Reed.

Emily G. Reed

The Emily G. Reed pops up occasionally on the shifting sands at Rockaway Beach. The Emily G. Reed was a “down Easter” sailing schooner laden with 2,100 tons of coal. She crashed into the mouth of the Nehalem River in 1908. She’d lost her way in heavy fog and rain at night and hit the beach when trying to correct her bearings. It was the middle of the night in a very sparsely populated area, and the ship fell into pieces. Some passengers clambered onboard the lifeboat and believed the others on the ship were lost in the boiling waters.

Miraculously, all but seven survived the harrowing storm onboard the ship. When dawn arrived, they saw the ship sat in shallow water and they waded safely to the shore. Only one passenger on the lifeboat perished after he drank sea water. The others suffered from exposure and dehydration from their arduous 200 miles, 78-hour journey northwards.

Whether you’re lucky enough to see some of the remains of the ship is up to Mother Nature. No one can predict the sand levels and the ship continues to shy away from attention. The sands revealed about 100 feet of its hull in 2010, and before that, it was last seen in the 70s.

George L Olsen

Another powerful storm drove the 223-foot-long wood-hulled schooner George L. Olson onto Coos Bay’s North Jetty in 1944. It stuck the jetty with such force it broke apart and the lumber it carried swept away in the raging waves. It sat on the spit for years and locals used it for picnics, but by the 1960s sand covered it and it was forgotten.

In 2008, winter storm waves revealed it again and now over 10,000 visitors have traveled the sand road to see its remains on Horsfall Beach in North Bend. You must access the beach on foot at low tide and it takes 75 minutes to get to the wreck.

J. Marhoffer

You can also see the remnants of the steam schooner J. Marhoffer at Boiler Bay. In 1910, the ship caught fire and everyone abandoned ship. However, the ship continued on towards the shore, made a sweeping circle, and then exploded. It spilt in two and the forward section ended up on shore and decayed. Eventually, the only thing left was the ship’s boiler – hence the name Boiler Bay. You can still see it at low tide. There’s also information about the ship at the Lincoln County Historical Society in Newport.

You can explore these and many more Oregon treasures and stay in comfort in oceanfront vacation rentals in the Lincoln City and Depoe Bay areas. They offer all the amenities and a superior experience to hotels.