An often overlooked and beautiful paddling venue is the lower Puget Sound. When most think of salt water Washington paddling, they head to the San Juan islands. But the areas between Olympia, Tacoma and the Olympic Peninsula are full of spectacular paddling and kayak camping opportunities! And, it’s only about two hours from Portland.
We picked a weekend where we’d be able to ride the tide to our camping spot and then ride it back to the put in. Tides can be over 2 knots and run much faster in certain parts of the Puget Sound, so detailed knowledge of the area with appropriate planning is mandatory. If you plan your paddle with the tide in mind, you’re going to have a lot of fun!
We set out from Boston Harbor Marina and headed about three nautical miles to Hope Island. The water at this time of year is in the mid 60’s, and I swam in it – you don’t need a dry suit! Along the way we saw Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, and some marine wildlife including seals, jellyfish, ospreys and bald eagles.
Hope Island is a state park – it’s got trails and two camping areas. We were lucky to score a water trail site – it’s even got kayak racks – how convenient! There’s a very decent pit toilet but no fresh water – you’ve got to bring your own. After setting up camp we took off for a day tour around neighboring Squaxin Island, which is entirely an indian reservation. Winds perked up in the afternoon to about 15 knots, bringing whitecaps.
The following morning brought the low-low tide. There is a 12-foot tide in this part of the sound, revealing a world of life! Purple sea stars, orange starfish, jellyfish, dungeness and spider crabs, plus a few stranded fish crowded the shore. Sea anemonoes abounded and clams squirted at us. A few intrepid racoons smart enough to know crabs hide in slumber under exposed rocks were enjoying a seafood buffet!
We spent the rest of the morning relaxing on Hope Island, waiting for the tide’s return. The ride back brought out fantastic mountain views!