Shipwreck at Boiler Bay

Boiler Bay on the Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Boiler Bay on the Oregon Coast. Photo: KGilb.

Boiler Bay on the Oregon Coast is aptly named, though not for the reason you might think.  Waves roll in off the ocean, crash onto the basalt rocks lining the shore, and then ricochet around the little cove before being sucked back out again.  The result?  A “boiling” mass of turbulent white water . . . but that’s not why it’s called Boiler Bay.

On May 18, 1910, a 175-foot schooner—the J. Marhoffer—was making its way up the coast from San Francisco to Portland, OR.  Three miles offshore, she was doing about 9 knots when the engine room caught fire.  The flames spread quickly, defeating all efforts to put them out.  The captain finally told all hands to “Abandon ship!”  While crew members and the captain’s wife scrambled into the life boats, he turned the doomed ship toward shore.

“. . . she came charging in belching flames, sparks, and smoke like a volcano.  She piled onto the rocks with a helluva crunching crash, heeled way over to starboard, then lay there burning like a blast furnace,” reported Depoe Bay resident Tony Wisniewski who was a boy at the time.  “All of a sudden her tanks exploded and shot timbers, chunks of steel, and flame clear up into the trees behind me, a quarter of a mile away.”  (excerpt from the 1982 memoir Heave To! You’ll Drown Yourselves! by author Stan Allyn)

A hundred years later, at very low tide, visitors can still see part of the ill-fated J. Marhoffer resting on the bottom of the bay—a rusty ship’s boiler.  Hence its name, Boiler Bay.

For a more detailed account of the shipwreck, please check the Offbeat Oregon website.

Today, in addition to wave watching, Boiler Bay is an excellent site for spotting whales as they migrate up and down the coast.  Bird lovers can also catch sight of a variety of seabirds like jaegers, grebes, pelicans, loons, and oystercatchers.  And for those who prefer starfish, anemones, and sea urchins, a short (rough) trail leads down from the park to the tidal pools.

Boiler Bay State Park is located on Highway 101 just one mile north of Depoe Bay.  Breathtaking views of the ocean with plenty of picnic tables so you can linger as long as you want.  Restrooms on site.

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