Chuckanut Bay, north Puget Sound, WA 22–23 June 2019

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Jun 26, 2019.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Joined:
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    Seattle WA
    Rob Casey claims, in his generally excellent guidebook to Puget Sound, that there are fossils visible from a kayak in Chuckanut Bay, in north Puget Sound. I rarely find fossils even on land. Seeing them from water would be a wonderful new experience. Despite an adverse weather forecast last weekend, I resolved to visit the Chuckanut Bay fossils, then paddle down to Saddlebag Island in the San Juans—or, if the wind was too strong, head over to Lummi Island to camp on a little-known DNR beach whose exact location must remain a secret.

    00 Map.jpg
    00 Route map. The winds were blowing out of the south at about 10 knots—enough that I decided to take the easier route to Lummi instead of the longer route to Saddlebag.

    The Chuckanut Formation is an extensive sedimentary rock formation in northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia, laid down when this region had a semi-tropical climate. All kinds of interesting fossils have been unearthed here over the years, so it seemed quite plausible that some fossils might be visible from the water. In addition, the rock formations themselves are quite beautiful, with their outlandish twists and folds.

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    01 Paddling down Bellingham Bay in mild chop. The San Juan Islands are a lovely sight any time of year.

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    02 Clark Point, Chuckanut Bay. The rock formations here are reminiscent of the San Juan and Gulf Islands.

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    03 Chuckanut Bay rock formations. It would be a fun adventure to camp in one of these sandstone caves.

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    04 Chuckanut Bay. Unfortunately, almost all of Chuckanut Bay is private property. The Nature Conservancy's private island in the middle of the bay is open to day trips.

    Unfortunately, the so-called fossils in Chuckanut Bay are not actually fossils at all. They are pseudofossils, ordinary rocks deformed by wave action. Rob Casey is not alone in thinking these shapes might be ancient palm trees or the vertebrae of giant animals, but that is not the case. They are only rocks, albeit cool ones.

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    05 Pseudofossil in Chuckanut Bay. An easy mistake to make.

    The wind picked up later in the afternoon, so I decided to head for Lummi Island instead of the more-distant Saddlebag. I spent the afternoon hiking up a network of logging roads to the base of Lummi Peak, the highest point on the island. (The WDFW lookout at the end of the Baker Preserve Trail is not Lummi Peak.) The last two hundred vertical feet of the peak were too steep to ascend, but it was still a lovely hike through the woods. The forest was hopping with birds, including Wilson's and orange-crowned warblers, house wrens (a rarity in western Washington but common here), and a pair of warbling vireos.

    Back at my private beach, I curled up under a Pacific nine-bark and slept out beneath the stars. A few droplets of drizzle around midnight did not bother me in the slightest.

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    06 Lummi Island. The massif in the center of the island is Lummi Peak.

    I was disappointed not to have found any actual fossils, but the wonderful forest birds were more than sufficient consolation. And a night spent camping alone in the San Juans is always a treasure.

    Alex
     
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  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Astoria, Oregon, USA
    Thanks for a fine report, Alex. Chuckanut is indeed a very pleasant and scenic bay.

    As to secret DNR beaches, the same is true of many other areas in WA. The SW corner of WA , for examples. A DeLorme atlas will reveal some of them. Pacific County and Wahkiakum County are my stomping grounds ... too distant for Puget Sounders, I imagine.
     
  3. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Any reference to the Lummi DNR campsite being "secret" must surely be in jest! It's certainly well known to those of us who live in the area. Our local sea kayak club, WAKE (Whatcom Area Kayak Enthusiasts), has been maintaining the site in cooperation with the DNR for almost two decades now... cleaning and restocking (TP) the pit toilets, clearing brush and blow-down, cleaning up the beaches and trails and fire pits, rebuilding the stairs... the list goes on and on and this work happens year-round, not just during the summer. DNR has threatened to close the site multiple times over the years and certainly would have done so long ago if not for the hard work of dozens of volunteers, almost all of them sea kayakers... even though the site is also used by fishermen, power boaters, and sail boats.
     
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  4. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Seattle WA
    I'm grateful for WAKE's efforts, and I agree the DNR campground on Lummi is a beautiful and well-maintained site. However, that's not where I camped. I camped on a DNR beach north of there, as my map indicates. (The DNR campground is south of my southernmost arrow.)

    Alex