Camp Castaway, North Spit Coos Bay

Camp Castaway, North Spit Coos Bay

by | Sep 4, 2018

Camp Castaway was established on January 3, 1852, by the survivors of the wreck of Captain Lincoln, a U.S. transport schooner probably about 150 feet (46 m) long and 34 feet (10 m) wide, with a draft of 9-10 feet (3 m). On December 28, 1851, Captain Lincoln departed San Francisco Bay and set sail for Port Orford on Oregon’s south coast to reinforce a group of settlers with soldiers and food to fight Native Americans at Battle Rock. The plan was for the schooner to eventually sail hundreds of miles farther north and deliver the remaining cargo to Fort Steilacoom on Puget Sound near present-day Tacoma. There were 45 people aboard including a crew of 8, plus 35 troopers of Company C, First Dragoons, and 2 officers. However, almost immediately the ship began taking on water as it beat its way north along the coast through fierce winter storms.

Captain Lincoln reached Port Orford on January 1, 1852, but the leaky ship could not be navigated to shore in the storm and was allowed to drift north. To avoid sinking, the captain decided to beach the ship north of Cape Arago. In the dark, the crew had no way to know whether the fast-approaching land was sand or rocks. At about 3 am, the ship struck a sandbar about 200 yards (183 m) from shore. Then another wave swept the deck and the vessel broached and grounded on the sand beach of North Spit. The troops and crew used spars, booms, and sailcloth from the schooner to build a tent encampment for shelter and for protecting the cargo from winter rains and blowing sand. They named the temporary military post Camp Castaway.

The camp endured for four months in the open dunes with help from Native Americans of the Coos Tribe who provided fresh foods. The army eventually delivered several donkeys to haul small supplies and sent another schooner in May to pick up the larger items. The camp was packed up, its remnants looted, and the 35 dragoons walked to Port Orford. Read more here and here. Explore more of the North Spit and Coos Bay here:

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