Fort Ross
Sonoma Coast Doghole Ports Project – August 2016

Sonoma Coast Doghole Ports Project – August 2016


It was a privilege for Fort Ross Conservancy to work with California State Parks and NOAA to welcome the distinguished scientists and divers at our parks. We especially thank Deborah Marx for compiling and sharing this report and for providing us this summary. Sonoma Coast Doghole Ports Project Research Design can be found here.

The rugged Sonoma coast was a difficult place to navigate, with fog shrouded rocks causing the loss of many vessels engaged in coastal and trans-Pacific trade. Small indentations in the coastal cliffs and headlands, known as doghole ports, provided the only places to load lumber cargoes onto small schooners and steamers in the 19th century. During the 2016 Sonoma Doghole Ports Project, archaeologists and divers from California State Parks and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries explored the terrestrial and submerged remains of the ports’ infrastructure and shipwrecks to will illuminate the area’s maritime cultural landscape.

The Sonoma Coast Doghole Ports Project completed 8 days of land survey and 5 days of underwater survey in August 2016. The terrestrial team visited 11 doghole ports including those in Sonoma Coast State Park, Fort Ross State Historic Park, and Salt Point State Park. Remains of the lumber industry were located at all of the 10 doghole ports investigated. Those include Duncan’s Landing, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Gerstle Cove, Fisk Mill Cove, Timber Cove, Stillwater Cove, Stewart’s Point, Bihler Point, Del Mar Landing. Archaeologists also tentatively located where the remains of the steam schooner Acme lie on shore in Kohlmer Gulch, part of Fort Ross State Historic Park. The underwater survey team based its operations off the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries West Coast Region research vessel Fulmar. Divers conducted operations at 4 doghole ports (Fort Ross, Gerstle Cove, Fisk Mill Cove and Duncan’s Landing) and located submerged infrastructure at two locations, Fort Ross and Gerstle Cove.

Additionally, divers visited the steamship Pomona shipwreck to document its condition and made exploratory dives to locate the schooner J. Eppinger, bark Windermere, and steamship Whitelaw. While the remains of those three shipwrecks were not found, the team confirmed the location, from reports by recreational divers, of the ship Joseph S. Spinney in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

The project team included participants from California State Parks, NOAA Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries West Coast Region and Maritime Heritage Program, Fort Ross Conservancy, Greater Farallones Association, National Park Service’s San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Sonoma State University, and Cal Trans.

Project significance: Doghole ports were once the center of maritime activity along the northern California coast and the evidence of that confluence of land and sea networks can be seen in the archaeological remains of lumber chutes and lost vessels. These sites now lie within several California State Parks and in NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Archaeologists, historians and resource managers are working together to document and interpret these remains to better understand our past and connect present day communities to their heritage. Surveys are being combined with archival research and oral history to document the larger lumber industry landscape that linked the redwood forests to the world. The economic and social effects of the lumber industry were vast and served as an important source of employment, building materials and stimulated settlement in areas overlooked by other industries.

Doghole Ports Project


Links for more project information:

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary project webpage

CA State Parks

Media Links:

Exploring Historic Shipwrecks Along California’s Redwood Coast
By Danielle Venton – KQED News – August 27, 2016

Expedition by land, sea to document state’s timber industry history
Carl Nolte – SF Gate – August 6, 2016

Divers search Sonoma Coast for shipwrecks from historic harbors
Guy Kovner – The Press Democrat – August 3, 2016