Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass State Park, Anacortes, Washington

Deception Pass State Park is the most popular state park in Washington State. Every year nearly one million people cross the iconic bridge that separates Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island. From the top of the Deception Pass bridge visitors are treated to breathtaking views of the Strait of Jaun de Fuca, the Olympic mountains, and the San Juan Islands, while below them the swift moving water churns itself into a frothy mosaic of upwellings, tide-rips, and whirlpools. The turbulence is caused by enormous volumes of water passing through the narrow constriction between the islands. At peak current flows the velocity of the water can exceed 8 knots.

Deception Pass has more than its fabled turbulent water to draw visitors here though. The state park that encompasses Deception Pass is a 4,134 acre piece of amazingly attractive land. Its rugged cliffs, towering trees, sandy beaches, and gorgeous views all bring people here to recreate all year long. With 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline (that’s 14.5 miles!), and 33,900 feet of freshwater shoreline on three lakes, there is plenty of room for everyone. Watching the Sun setting over the San Juan Islands is a popular activity for locals. Every evening in the summer months the parking lot at West Beach fills up as folks unload their barbeques and coolers.

Although Deception Pass State Park is renowned for its outstanding shorelines, there is much more that can be done in the park. 38 miles of hiking trails wind their way from ancient forest to open hilltops. There are also 1.2 miles of ADA hiking trails, and 6 miles of horse trails. We’ve spent the last several years exploring the nooks and crannies of the park, and we are still discovering new things!

Because of Deception Pass’ proximity to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Skagit River, and due to the ever churning waters the area is abundant with wildlife. Over 174 species of birds have been recorded in the park. The marine life is unparalleled in the San Juan Islands region. Porpoise, seals, Great Blue herons, Bald eagles, and otter are commonly seen here, and occasionally orcas whales pass by. The salmon fishing can be great as well. Lines of fisherman can be seen along the shoreline under the bridge during the peak times of the salmon runs.

The amenities at Deception Pass State Park are comparable to many National Parks.

The park has 167 tent sites, 143 utility spaces, five hiker/biker sites, two dump stations, seven restrooms (four ADA) and six showers (four ADA).

Camping is at three locations in the park; 18 tent sites and two utility sites are at Bowman Bay, two tent sites and 58 utility sites at Sunrise Resort and 147 tent sites and 83 utility sites are at Cranberry Lake. Maximum site length is 60 feet (may have limited availability).

To reserve a campsite, call (888) CAMPOUTor (888) 226-7688
Deception Pass State Park
These sites are sure to fill all summer long and so reservations are required.

Deception Pass History

The human history of the park dates back over 6,000 years, when the first people settled in the areas now known as Cornet Bay, Bowman Bay and Rosario. A year round village was located in Bowman Bay, Rosario Beach proved to be too unpredictable as a canoe launching point when storm-driven waves ravaged the shore. Eventually, the land was settled by the Samish and the Swinomish. They lived on the land until the early 1900s.

During his Northwest coastal explorations, Captain George Vancouver became the first European to identify the area near Whidbey Island as a passage, which he named “Deception Pass.” A 1925 act of Congress designated the property for public recreation purposes. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built roads, trails, buildings and bridges to develop the park.

The name “Deception Pass” derived from Captain Vancouver’s realization that what he had mistaken for a peninsula was actually an island. He named that island “Whidbey” in honor of his assistant, Joseph Whidbey, who was at his side when Vancouver realized the mistake. The captain named the inlet at which he was anchored “Deception Pass” to commemorate the error.

Deception Pass Bridge Facts

The Deception Pass bridge was completed in 1935. It is actually two bridges, Canoe (sometimes called Pass) Island sits in between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. At the turn of the century there was a push to create the bridge to facilitate traveling between the islands. The matter was not settled too quickly though due to opposition from advocates of the ferry that was the original means of transport. Eventually practicality won over and in 1933 the Washington State legislature voted to begin the construction.

The end result of the construction created a bridge that was over a quarter of a mile long (1487 feet), and 180 feet above the waters of Deception Pass. It’s a fairly narrow bridge at only 28 feet wide, especially considering that about 20,000 cars pass over it every day. On windy days it can feel even narrower still if you are caught passing by a semi-truck just inches away!

The sidewalks are 3 feet wide, offering plenty of space for walking across to take in the views.

Deception Pass State Park, Sea Kayaking Tours

Deception Pass State Park, Anacortes, Washington

Our family-oriented Deception Pass sea kayaking tours depart from the protected waters of Bowman Bay. Located on the north side of the Deception Pass Bridge, Bowman Bay is a favorite among locals as a picnic area, and among sea kayakers as a launching point for kayaking and exploring the waters around Deception Pass. Our tours avoid the turbulent currents in the Narrows of Deception Pass, choosing instead to explore the gorgeous shoreline along Rosario Beach, and the sea cliffs to the north of the Park. The combination of the currents of Deception Pass and the proximity to the Strait of Juan de Fuca means that wildlife is abundant on these trips. Harbor seals, porpoise, Bald eagles, and Peregrine falcons are just a few of the animals commonly encountered on our tours.

These trips are 1.5 hours in duration, a length that virtually anyone can do, regardless of your age, strength, or ability.

While we welcome walk-ups, these trips do tend to fill early during the busy summer months. We highly recommend making advance reservations.

Call us at (800) 992-1801 or reserve your kayak tour online.

Whatever your plans are while you are visiting Washington State, or if you are lucky enough to live here, you owe it to yourself to experience this natural treasure. Deception Pass State Park has something for everyone.

I just wanted to pause and say thank you so much for a wonderful visit to the San Juan Islands. We had a lovely time and it was such a special part of our trip this last month. Despite some crummy weather the trip was superb and Saturday was particularly special for me. I was so happy I was practically levitating! And of course Saturday was rounded off by some wonderful beach theatre!

Many thanks again — a big South African hug — Baie Dankie bru!
Kylie and Roger

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