Whale Tail

It’s no surprise the sight of whales swimming in the Siuslaw river in recent years brings great excitement to those lucky enough to witness it. What may be a surprise however, is to learn that stories of their occasional presence go back many years. One such occurrence happened on an April morning in 1904. Four large whales wandered into the Siuslaw river at high tide. Folks claimed to have seen the whales consuming fish before turning to swim down river towards the ocean. They continued swimming but missed the exit channel. Spotting them at the jetty, a watchman navigated his boat towards them. Trying to find their way, three of the whales became stuck on the south spit, unable to free themselves.

The fourth whale turned and began swimming upriver. In anxious pursuit, the watchman raised his gun and pulled the trigger. Seeing the whale immobile, he threw a lasso around it, and attempted to tow it down river. His attempts proved futile, as the size of the whale was more than his boat could handle. The L. Roscoe tug arrived to assist the watchman, but the whale suddenly recovered and began swimming up river, pulling the tug stern first. The tug suddenly became stuck on a shoal, snapping the rope. The whale then made a turn towards the ocean, striking the watchman’s boat, causing the vessel to break apart. The watchman managed to swim to the bank, while the whale returned to safe ocean waters.

Getting a closer look at low tide, two of the beached whales measured 42 feet long, and the third, 40 feet. All were five or six feet in diameter.  Folks claimed Florence residents spent two days salvaging 300 gallons of oil from the three whales.

Siuslaw Pioneer Magazine, 1904. Page 22