The Janet Cowan Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailThe Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. She was heading for Port Gamble in Washington to pick up a load of lumber when the crew failed to account for the strong current in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Owing to the thick fog and heavy seas, the Puritan stumbled blindly into the rocks of Bonilla Point

 

The crew of 10 made the same mistake that hundreds of crews before them made. They didn't reckon their course with the notorious, strong current of the Juan de Fuca StraitThe current pushed them far northwest of their perceived position. Unable to see due to the thick fog, stormy weather and darkness of night the Puritan was pushed into the rocky Bonilla Point. The record shows that she was wrecked at 5am on November 13, 1896. The crew decided to wait for daybreak to figure out their escape. When the morning finally came, a lone Indian found them and battling the surf, managed to run a rope from the ship to the shore. The crew used the life-line to escape the crumbling ship. The Puritan, continuously bashed by the sea until on the following day she was laying her masts in the surf, and quickly began breaking up. The crew made their way to the Carmanah lighthouse and later ferried to Victoria. For his heroic efforts, the Indian was reportedly rewarded. Today hiking the West Coast Trail, you will find some of the ship's remains on the outer reef.

Shipwrecks Map Lizzie to Wempe West Coast Trail

More West Coast Trail Shipwrecks Near the Puritan

The Wempe Brothers Shipwreck -West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificThe Graveyard of the Pacific is well represented here and you will find two more shipwreck locations in the vicinity of Bonilla Point. The Wempe Brothers was a 4 masted schooner just 70 tons heavier than the Puritan, that wrecked here a century ago. The Wempe Brothers was sailing in from San Pedro, California in ballast. She was heading for Puget Sound to pick up lumber when she was claimed by the Graveyard of the Pacific. The crew of 10 experienced very stormy weather as she neared the Cape Flattery lighthouse and entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait. Light winds and thick fog carried them towards the strait, however the fast current pulled them irresistibly north towards the coast of Vancouver Island. The Wempe Brothers was carried so close to the Carmanah Point that the lighthouse lights were reported to be reflected on the ships sails and hull. The crew had no idea they were so far out of their intended position and the sudden appearance of a lighthouse must have been terrifying. The wind was dead calm so sailing to safety was not an option. The crew managed to drop two anchors in a desperate effort to halt the ship before colliding with the shore. It was too late, however, as the Wempe Brothers was carried onto the beach at 5am on October 28th, 1903.

Bonilla Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

The Lizzie Marshall Shipwreck -West Coast Trail Graveyard of the PacificOn the other side of Bonilla Point at about the 47 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail you will pass the final resting place of the 430 ton barque, Lizzie Marshall. She wrecked here in February 1884 with no loss of life. This 434 ton American ship headed out of San Francisco to an unspecified port in British Columbia. Two weeks later she approached Cape Flattery cloaked in a thick fog. Added to that, the wind died and the Lizzie Marshall drifted with the current. Her sails drenched and barely touched by the breeze, she wallowed along for hours until breakers were heard and Bonilla Point lay right in front of them. The crew dropped two anchors and prayed they would hold them off the perilously close rock shelf. The captain launched a lifeboat to row to Neah Bay, 15 miles away, in the hopes of finding a boat to haul them out of danger. Soon the fog cleared and a southwest gale blew in. Straining against the anchors, the Lizzie Marshall held for a while. However on the morning of February 22nd, the anchors began to drag. In a fit of desperation the crew cut the masts and rigging and dumped them overboard. The idea was to reduce the effect of the wind by lowering the ships profile. This had little effect and the wind continued to increase in strength. The anchor chains were straining against the intense weight of the ship and finally snapped. The Lizzie Marshall was swept broadside into the reef with the stern jammed in between a large gap in the rocks. The crew managed to claw their way across the reef to the shore safely. A short time later one of the crew attempted to get back to the ship to retrieve some of his belongings. He drowned in the attempt. Local native arrived on the scene and began scavenging the wreck as the crew watched from the shore. As they scavenged, their boat was smashed against the rocks, leaving them stranded as well. Eventually a tug arrived on the scene to rescue the crew and natives.  And of course you have the Puritan, whose disintegrating structure is still visible out on Bonilla Point. Extraordinary.

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDare at 39k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailLizzie Marshall at 47k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDuchess of Argyle at 58k

West Coast Trail Campsites Near the Puritan

Bonilla Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThere is an excellent campsite just a stones throw from the shipwreck of the Puritan. The Bonilla Creek campsite is easy to miss, as it looks very unassuming from the beach as most hikers pass by. Bonilla Falls, however is nestled against a small cliff at the edge of a suddenly deep forest. And the forest hides a nice little world, somewhat sheltered from the elements. An outhouse sits up at the far end, and several tent clearings stretch to the beach where you find a wonderful hammock cobbled together over the years out of old fishing nets and ropes. A bit surreal in such a remote feeling place, but it is so elaborate that it makes you look around for permanent residents! You won't find any permanent human residents, however, you will encounter some wildlife as there always seems to be a bear or two walking the shoreline between Bonilla Point and Carmanah Creek in the early morning hours. The campsite at Bonilla Creek has some beautiful characteristics. First the cute, Bonilla Falls have a perfect little pool to swim in and wash off the days hiking grime. Second, the campsite is quite good with lots of varied places to put up a tent as well as some driftwood structures out on the beach. Third, the sunsets are sensational here. Bright orange, with the narrow islands in the distance topped by improbable looking trees. Added to that, you have a relatively quiet campsite compared to other West Coast Trail campsites.

Bonilla Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Carmanah Creek slowly flows through this wonderfully massive channel that cuts deep into the sand out to the ocean. There is a cable car crossing that connects to the forest on either side of the creek. Most West Coast Trail hikers pass the campsite here without taking a moment to look at the nice beach.   Plenty of room for plenty of tents on the wide, sand beach. This is one of the beaches that makes you drop your pack, sit on the warm sand and gaze out at the ocean dumbfounded for minutes at a time. The West Coast Trail is something special! There is no shortage of great spots on the beach to put up your tent. You can even put up your tent along the river on the lovely sandy/rocky bank. Everybody camps at the unimpressive Cribs Creek campsite just 4 kilometres away, leaving Carmanah Creek a serene little hideaway. This is one of the campsites where you will want to stay for days, so you might want to include that in your itinerary! There are the usual West Coast Trail campsite amenities at Carmanah Creek, including some clearings in the forest for tents. The beach is ideal for camping, and on a sunny day, you will find yourself wandering down the lovely beach towards the Carmanah Lighthouse. Chez Monique's is along the beach between the lighthouse and Carmanah Creek. There you will find a restaurant along the beach with burgers and drinks. Seems a bit strange to encounter a restaurant in the middle of the West Coast Trail, but it has been here for years and will likely remain. For some, Chez Monique's is a highlight of the trail, for others it is an annoying bit of civilisation in the midst of the wild beauty of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

 Carmanah Creek at 46k Bonilla Creek at 48k Walbran Creek at 53k Cullite Cove at 58k

 

West Coast Trail Shipwrecks

The Alaskan was a small, wooden hulled steamship of 150 tons built in Oregon in 1886. She was ...
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The Soquel shipwreck, which lies just past Seabird Rocks, was a much larger ship than the ...
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Built in 1864 the 1376 ton, 3 masted ship, Becherdass-Ambiadass was wrecked on the rocky shore ...
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The Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a ...
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The Varsity was a fishing boat of 90 tons, returning to Puget Sound from California on February ...
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The Janet Cowan was a steel sailing vessel, four-masted, bark rigged, of 2498 tons built at ...
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The Robert Lewers was a 185 foot, four masted schooner of 732 tons, built in Port Blakely, ...
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The Uncle John was a 138 foot, three masted barkentine of 314 tons. Built in Eureka, California ...
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The Raita shipwreck is located off the reefs at about the 33 kilometre mark of the West Coast ...
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The Skagit, a 3 masted barkentine of 506 tons was wrecked on the reef in front of Clo-oose on ...
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The Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. ...
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The Duchess of Argyle shipwreck lays at the bottom of the sea at the mouth of Cullite Cove near the ...
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The John Marshall shipwreck is located under the waves just outside the mouth of Camper Bay at ...
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