Paddling to Chuckanut Island

Friday afternoon was warm and sunny — perfect for skipping out of the office and going for an afternoon paddle along the shore south of Bellingham. I put a note on the WAKE kayak group listserv and got a prompt response from Ed Alm. We agreed that a 3 pm put-in at Marine Park gave us enough time to get ready.

It turned out that we put in at low tide, in fact a little lower than minus 2 feet. Since there’s not much current along the shore, the tide didn’t matter and neither of us had checked it in advance.  The benefit of going out on the low tide was that more of the shoreline rocks were exposed.

Chuckanut Rock

We paddled quickly south from Marine Park, hitting 5.5 mph according to Ed’s GPS. Once we reached the interesting rock formations along the shore of Clark’s Point we slowed to a very leisurely pace and paddled very close to the cliffs to see what was hanging around.  There were dozens of ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) in almost every crack, as well as a couple of marine invertebrates we couldn’t identify — something rather long, orange, and tube-like.

Passing the tip of Clark’s Point, we paddled up into the small bay between the rocky fork tips of the peninsula. The treat there was a pair of Harlequin Ducks and a Great Blue Heron. Neither allowed us to approach very closely. We saw two more pair of Harlequins at other points along the shore during our excursion.  From Clark’s Point we headed to Chuckanut Rock, a favorite roosting place for shore birds like the Pelagic Cormorants and Herring Gulls in the photo. Just south of the big rock are a chain of low-lying rocks that are a haul-out for Pacific Harbor Seals. They turned out to be more skittish than I thought and all plopped into the water as we approached. Then they taunted us by sticking their heads out of the water and staring us down.

From the rocks, it was a short jaunt across the water to Chuckanut Island, which we navigated clockwise. I was distressed to see bright yellow (and non-native) dandelions on the eroded cliffs. The serviceberry and red-flowering current were in bloom, as were the madrone trees. All were perched right on the edges of the cliffs. We didn’t linger long, just paddled slowly along and enjoying the view and warm afternoon sunshine.

Heading back north, we made fairly quick work of the three miles or so of paddling back to Marine Park.  There were many more people out along the shore, also enjoying the warm spring day. We were back a little after 5:30, having paddled nearly 7 miles under perfect conditions. If you are new to paddle boarding then check out this SimplySupBoards inflatable paddleboard guide to give you some tips.

I carried my new Canon 5D camera with a 28-135mm lens in a dry bag between my legs in the cockpit. It’s not an ideal way to carry a camera since it takes time to pop the spray skirt and open the dry bag before every group of shots. The lens was good for paddling, but not the best for wildlife since it requires approaching closer than the fauna prefer. I’m still getting comfortable with having a camera on the salt water and figuring out how to manage photography while paddling.

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2 thoughts on “Paddling to Chuckanut Island

  1. Sue Madsen on said:

    Hey Mark – enjoyed the post. I’m also a Wake member, but did not get your invite as I was already out paddling North towards Chuckanut Island from Wildcat Cove. Must have missed you by an hour or two. Indeed a splenid day to be on the water.

    My buddy Dave and I were at Chuckanut Island last week, and noted an abundance of chocolate lillies along the path up from the small beach on the north end of the island. I think these are native? At any rate, thought it might be of interest since it looks like you are a plant enthusiast. May be past their peak at this point, but stop for a look next time you are out. We also ran across a lone morel mushroom near the old shell middens on the northwest side of the island.


  2. Arthur on said:

    The Orange invertebates you saw were probably sea cucumbers (cucumaria miniata) they can be quite showy when they extend their feathery tentacles. They seem to stay in cracks in the rocks just below the low tide line.