A fascinating area here on the South Beach is known as Washaway Beach. This is the beach area between North Cove and Tokeland that is known for recent rapid erosion over the past few decades causing a large part of a neighborhood to fall into the ocean. Walking along the beach at low tide, you can see the well water pipes poking out of the sand and it strikes you those used to be peoples homes out there in what is now surf. This area is a very visual example that what nature gives, she can easily take away.
The Washington and Oregon Coast are home to many treasures. A coastal storm over New Years caused additional erosion at Washaway beach and uncovered a bit of history that has caused lots of excitement here on the South Beach, an old shipwreck. About 100' long with massive timbers and iron spikes joining it together, it was found by a local beachcomber and word quickly spread about this old South Beach Treasure. According to the Daily World, many believe the ship is the Canadian Exporter, a freighter that lost its way in fog and ran aground in 1921 at the mouth of Willapa Harbor. Salvage operations failed to remove it and it broke apart shortly afterwards to be lost to the Sea, until now.
According to Rex Martin, the Executive Director of the Westport Maritime Museum, it will be a complicated process to determine who owns the salvage rights to the wreckage, and it would be difficult to uncover the whole wreck. So with the ebb of the winter storms, it may just end up lying on the beach until the next seasons storms break it up and wash it out to sea to its true final resting place. In the meantime, it really is something to see firsthand and think about our brave forefathers plying the seas in wooden boats.
Our family went to the Grayland Wreck to see for ourselves and there were many people on the beach with the same idea. The shipwreck itself is pretty cool and we definitely think its worth a look before it is lost again.
To find this treasure, you can drive south on the beach from Midbeach Approach Road to just south of the old Warrenton Cannery Road beach access. You can also drive South on highway 105 from Westport, turn onto Warrenton Cannery Road, and park at the end. The wreck is just about 100 yard south of the beach entrance.
Safety first! The county has posted "no trespassing" signs and built a sand barricade to prevent car/truck access where the road has washed away. Due to the unstable conditions of the terrain, be careful of your footing to get to the beach, know when the tides are coming and going, and don't get caught out there in a storm. Be careful around the wreck as many trees are tangled up in the spars and the footing can be dangerous. If the little ones are going to get a picture on top, best to have an adult help them up and down. Enjoy this unique treasure!
We visited the site several weeks ago and it is remarkable the changes that have happened since! Four short weeks ago the shipwreck was partially buried under a sand dune 15 feet high. Now the sand dune has receded nearly 40 feet leaving the wreck clear on all sides. This area isn't called Washaway Beach for nothing! The recent erosion now allows you to walk all the way around the wreck and get a real feel for its size. Also more of the decking, large metal spikes, and ship lap siding have been exposed. We thought the wreck would be accessible through the summer but at the current rate of beach erosion it may very well be underwater at low tide in a few months. Now is a great time to come and see this unique piece of Northwest History before it's gone forever.
As an added surprise, it appears some of the mechanical parts which were not salvaged back in 1921 are starting to emerge from the sand near the wreck. We found several funky bits of gears and odd looking pieces jutting out. You can anticipate more treasures seeing the light of day with each passing tide. Check back here for more updates and pictures!
The wreck at North Cove continues to be a popular draw among locals and visitors alike! There was a fair crowd when we visited a few days ago. Recent speculation among area historians now question if this is in fact the wreck of the Canadian Exporter at all. The Canadian Exporter was said to be a steel hulled ship while no large sections of steel are apparent on the wreck and wood ship lap siding is visible at times on the lower spars. Former South Bend native Jeb Buckingham proposed the theory the remains may be those of the American steam schooner Trinidad. Weighing 974 tons, the wooden-hulled Trinidad became stranded on the north spit of the Willapa bar on May 7th, 1937, the victim of gale force winds. A lumber hauler like the Canadian Exporter, the Trinidad was headed to San Francisco with a load of lumber when she went aground and eventually sank.
Yet another theory holds the wreck may be that of a seagoing barge, more specifically a Prohibition era smugglers' barge used to bring illegal spirits onshore during the 1920’s and 1930’s. During prohibition it was very common for liquor produced in Canada to be shipped to Pacific coastal river entrances, where nighttime transfer of illegal hooch took place. These booze barges were hidden up the local rivers and towed out to meeting freighters beyond the 12 mile limit for transfer of goods, regardless of weather or wave conditions. Once the liquor hit land, it would be loaded onto trucks for deliveries statewide along "Thunder Road".
So is the wreck on Washaway Beach the Canadian Exporter? The evidence is trending away from this theory. Is it the Trinidad? Very possibly. Could it be the remains of a prohibition era booze barge? Perhaps... No matter what, it makes a great story to tell.
The wreck at North Cove is back! After dissapearing for over a year it has reappeared on washaway beach between the jetty and Tumidanski Point . They just don't build them like they used too! We'll post updated on our facebook page but a recent picture by Marcy Merrill can be seen below.
Well no sign of the mystery shipwreck after this winters seasonal storms. Perhaps it was carried out to deeper waters or buried under the sands to reappear in another hundred years. If it turns up we'll be sure to post it here but there are always fun and unexpected treasures to find along the coast!
Looks like the mystery shipwreck is gone from the coast. It was an interesting piece of history from the past and fun for the kids to explore. Keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll discover!
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