A 100 Year Old Shipwreck is Revealed on Rockaway Beach in Oregon

rockaway beach

Rockaway Beach has a secret. Every once in a while the shifting sands wash away just enough to reveal something elusive: the 100-year-old shipwreck of the Emily G. Reed. This ghostly wreck usually hides under the sand, sometimes going decades without surfacing to remind people of the day it ran aground and snapped in half over a hundred years ago.

The Mishaps And Shipwreck Of The Emily G. Reed

The Emily G. Reed was a 1,600 ton, 209-foot long ship launched in November of 1880. Over the course of its journeys delivering cargo across the seas, it suffered several disasters.

In 1891 a severe storm twisted the rudder head clean off and the ship limped into port in Rio de Janeiro for repairs.

In 1903 the ship ran into distress again when the captain severely injured his left arm and the crew took sick. The ship was quarantined for eight days. Nine of the crew were charged with disobeying orders, and the crew charged their captain with assault. The men were convicted of the charges against them, though the charges against the captain were dropped.

Then in February of 1908 the Emily G. Reed was headed for Portland Oregon with a cargo of coal. It was a stormy night and the sea was rough. The ships chronometer wasn't working and the ship came too close to shore and ran aground at the mouth of the Nehalem River near Rockaway Beach.

2,100 tons of coal were washed out to sea. The ship reportedly snapped in half and was scattered along the coast. 7 or 8 crewmembers left the ship and were swept out to sea, while the others waited onboard for daybreak and low tide and made it back to the shore, including the captain and his wife. A 1908 newspaper article reported, "Captain Kessell, Skipper of the Emily Reed, his wife and 6 sailors are reported to have survived and are not leaving the shipwreck site and are looking for survivors or the bodies of the missing sailors." You can read the scary account of the late night shipwreck as reported by the newspapers here.

Severe Winter Weather Revealed The Wreck In 2010

The shipwreck of the Emily G. Reed remained visible at Rockaway Beach until the 1940's or 1950's when it disappeared under the sand, not to be seen again until 2010.

Driftwood on Rockaway Beach with a cloudy sky.
Driftwood on Rockaway Beach. Photo by Luke Jones via Flickr CC2.

The winter preceding the reappearance of the Emily G. Reed in 2010 had been rough. Waves dragged sand away from the beaches, leading some of the beaches to drop as much as 20 feet, revealing the bedrock in some places, and the wreck of the Emily G. Reed. Since the wreck was buried in sand and protected from the elements, it was also protected from quick decay. People were surprised and pleased to see the shipwreck reappear after so long.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sara Edwards (@sara.pdx)

When the sand washes away after a stormy winter and the elusive wreck reveals itself, it can be found near Second Street in Rockaway Beach, a couple of blocks away from the main beach access road with the red caboose. You can see a brief video of the last time the wreckage reappeared below:

It should be noted that shipwrecks like this are protected under Oregon Law, so if you get a chance to see it someday, you can't take any pieces of the wreck home with you, or damage it in any way.

Have you ever seen the wreck of the Emily G. Reed? Let us know and share your photos in a comment with us!