John C. Fisk began lumber and milling operations at Fisk Mill Cove in 1860 and established an active doghole port shipping out a large quantity of cord wood and tan bark. Fisk’s ownership passed to Frederick M. Helmke in 1865 who continued to run the mill before closing it in 1876. A U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey T-sheet drawn in 1878 revealed that a lumber chute was located on the cove’s west side. Despite the adjacent mill’s closure in 1876, the chute remained active under the Kruse family, with lumber arriving for transshipment from other mills in the area such as Platt’s mill at Horseshoe Bay. Fisk Mill Cove is now part of Salt Point State Park and is well-known today for its coastal wilderness and day hiking opportunities.
Fisk Mill Cove’s doghole port past is evidenced by the archaeological remains that reside there today. One of the most unusual extant features is a wood and iron capstan standing near the main bluff. The capstan was used to move heavy items with a system of ropes and pulleys. It is possible that the capstan supported the loading or unloading of vessels in the cove, or it could also have been employed to move larger items or timbers around onshore.
As with other doghole ports, a considerable number of iron fittings have survived at Fisk Mill Cove. These fittings are some of the most durable parts of the complex engineering that went into extending a chute as much as 100 feet over water. Iron rings, bolts, and eye bolts hammered into the rock outcrops prevented the chutes from falling into the water during operation and in storms that battered the shore. Iron ring bolts also served as mooring points to keep loading vessels in place under the chute.
Due to rough sea conditions and the exposed position of this port’s lumber chute, divers were only able to conduct a single dive at Fisk Mill Cove to locate evidence of the mooring anchors. The 1878 T-sheet indicated that there were three moorings in the cove. Two moorings were situated off the lumber chute and secured the vessel while loading. The third mooring was south of the chute at the cove’s mouth and likely served as a place for schooners to tie up while waiting for the chute to become available. No anchors or other artifacts were discovered by the team during the project.
-- Deborah Marx, Maritime Archaeologist, Maritime Heritage Program, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries