Salt Harvest 2019

Quantities: salt, ocean, firewood

  • It takes about 2-3 standard campground bundles of wood to boil off one 5-gallon bucket of water.
  • The ocean is about 3% salt, so 5 gallons of water contains about a pound of salt.
  • A quick internet search and a bit of math tells me that, nutritionally speaking, you need definitely less than two pounds of salt, but maybe a bit more than a pound of salt per person per year. So the salt from 10 gallons of ocean (which we harvested in a day, but didn’t time it well, and were hot in the midday and done before the mosquitoes came out at night) should be quite enough for one person for a year.

Photo Tour

Click top left photo to start the tour. Occasionally you may need to scroll down a little to see the rest of a caption

recumbent tandem bicycle with loaded attached trailer View of the back of a helmeted head on a tandem bicycle in a forest Darin emerging from the brush Darin showing off a water filter's blue plastic bag full of water photo montage of grocery store salts View of ocean from the road some plants, some beach, some ocean, some sky, and the sun silhouette of Darin in the ocean with a 5-gallon bucket bike, trailer, and bucket of salt loaded and ready to go.  NO PARKING. Darin on the tandem with a trailer load of sticks Angel holds a ladle Dumping ocean water into a pot over the fire Two pots of ocean water sit on a grate over the campfire Close-up of Darin with soot on his face The water has been boiled down and is starting to look salty close-up of the salty sludge in the pot - the top is crusting over Ladling salt out of the pot with a slotted (dotted?) spoon black pot, silver lid A <3 D scratched into the soot of the pot
In which we harvested salt at the Oregon Coast

Where we went

We biked from Portland down to the Whalen Island County Campground via Champoeg Campground and the Nestucca River National Back Country Byway. We were going to stay at Cape Lookout, but there was one more hill in that direction, and it was late. So we went south instead of north. At the time, we didn't realize Jacobsen Salt does this just down the road from where we harvested. They tested the ocean in 25 places and chose to harvest from the Netarts Bay Shellfish Preserve. A local told us that they heard the oysters purify the water extra, but the water we got was pretty amazingly clear, too. We figure the stuff not much more than 10 miles away is probably pretty ok.

Next time

Next year, we will stay at Cape Lookout, harvest 20 gallons from Netarts Bay (after confirming that it's really actually ok to harvest ocean from a shellfish preserve?!), and take a couple late nights to boil the water down. FYI, potatoes boiled over a campfire are delicious. Next year, we're making a batch of nettle salt.

Recipe for Salt

We used Oregon ocean water from between Whalen Island and Pacific City, but water from a bay already carefully selected by a salt company might be even more ideal. Netarts Bay, for example.

We used about 2-3 bundles of wood for 5 gallons of ocean, but less may be needed. Please note: We’re amateurs. We’ve done this one time. This recipe is a distillation of our single experience.

Makes about one pound Takes one afternoon to one day


  • 5 gallons ocean water (cleanest available source)


  • Food-grade 5-gallon bucket with lid (commonly found free & lightly-used at delicatessens)
  • Campfire pit
  • Lighter or matches
  • 2-3 bundles of wood, possibly less
  • Kindling
  • Large pot
  • Ladle
  • Metal screen lid & tongs or similar to remove it when it’s hot optional
  • Skimmer optional
  • 2-3 Glass jars
  • Flat tray


Go to the ocean. We harvested ocean water when the tide was coming in. Fill the bucket with ocean water. Return any jellyfish to their preferred, non-boiling environment. Put the lid on the bucket. Head back to camp.

Wait until maybe half an hour before the mosquitoes come out for the evening.

At the campfire pit, start a fire using the lighter or matches, kindling, and wood. (For tips on starting a fire: 1 and 2)

Put the large pot over the fire, and ladle a couple gallons of the ocean from the bucket into the pot. The reason to ladle the ocean instead of pouring is so that the sand stays in the bottom of the bucket. If you don’t want a few ashes from the fire in your salt, cover the pot with a metal screen lid. We haven’t tested this, but expect it would work.

Boil. Add wood to the fire as needed to keep the pot boiling. Boil some more. Keep on boiling! It will look like water for a long time. We kept the pot about 1/3 full until we ran out of ocean water.

Eventually, the salt water will develop a crust. At this stage, use the skimmer to transfer the salt to the glass jar. Continue skimming. When you feel done, pour any excess water into another glass jar. Make sure you keep ALL the water. If you don’t have enough space in your jars to keep all the processed ocean water, keep boiling. That stuff is salty! Taste it and see!

Take the full glass jars home and pour/spread their contents into a tray. Put the tray in the sun. Let dry.

Nettle Salt (untested variation)

Harvest nettle similar prior to or en route to the coast. Boil the nettle in the ocean water. Leave the nettle in until it is thoroughly coated in salt crystals. Store with the rest of the salt/salt water. Sun-dry separately. Shatter or grind using a mortar & pestle.

Maps we packed included