Home » 2001 Cross Country Road Trip

Deception Pass State Park, WA

Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 10:00am by Lolo
75 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Our drive from the Olympic Peninsula to British Columbia took us to the seaport town of Port Townsend, from which we took the ferry to Whidbey Island. Having some time to kill before our ferry left, we walked through the streets of this quaint historic seaport browsing through the shops and watching the boats out in the harbor.

Our 30 minute ferry ride took us across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the town of Keystone on the southern end of Whidbey Island. From there we drove to the northern end of the island to Deception Pass State Park, one of the state parks highlighted in our reliable National Geographic Guide to State Parks.

The first thing we did was to park the RV and walk out onto the suspension bridge that connects Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. This bridge is definitely not for anyone with acrophobia. From the middle of the 1,000-foot long bridge, we looked down at the swirling waters rushing through the narrow channel 186 feet below. The view was frightening, yet breathtaking. Even large boats were having a tough time navigating through the swirling whirlpools and rapids beneath the bridge. We were fortunate to experience this when the tide was running, forcing tremendous volumes of water through the narrow pass.

Herb wasn't feeling well, so I volunteered to take over the driving. Driving the RV is a challenge for me even under the best of circumstances, so doing it the day after my head injury was probably not a good idea. I headed out looking for the road that would bring us to West Beach, a long sandy shore along the Rosario Strait, which I wanted to stop at. Almost missing the road, I turned quickly, sending the coffee maker flying off the counter and onto the floor. Screams rose from the back of the RV. "Don't worry about it," I said. "I just took that turn a little too sharply." As I proceeded down the narrow road to the beach, our right rear tire blew out. Once again, screams rose from the back of the RV. I didn't know what happened. Herb thought that I went too close to the edge of the road and hit a rock, but I didn't think so. In either case, things weren't looking good. Changing the tire on an RV is not for the feint of heart and to make matters worse the lug nuts were on so tight that it took much sweat and muscle before Herb could even remove the tire. We were not having a streak of good luck--trip fatigue, emergency room visits, root canal, and now this. And we were at our furthest point from home for the entire trip. Things just had to get better. Fortunately, we had gotten our flat about 50 yards from the entrance to an extremely nice state park campground overlooking the beautiful waters and islands of Rosario Strait. While Herb worked on the tire, I found the ranger and was able to get us a site for the night. Herb finished changing the tire and we drove the short distance to our site.

Herb, who still was not feeling well, laid down while I took the kids on an exploratory bike ride over to West Beach. The steep rocky trails were really not conducive to biking, so we brought the bikes back to the RV and took a hike on the Rosario Head Vista Point Trail to Rosario Beach. As we came to the end of the trail, we were surprised to see a large wooden totem pole in the middle of an open grassy area. Upon closer examination, we learned that this was the Maiden of Deception Pass and the totem pole told her sad story. According to the tale, a sea spirit fell in love with a young Samish Indian maiden. When she refused to marry him, he brought drought and famine to her people. To save them, she agreed to marry the sea spirit. When she entered the sea, she became immortal. Local people say that the seaweed in the water is actually her long hair floating in the current.

Intrigued by the Maiden, I just had to take Herb back to see her. Feeling a bit better, he hiked back with me to meet the Maiden. He was glad he did. The park really was beautiful and we were starting to feel a lot better about our journey.

It would have been a great place to launch the raft. Unfortunately, when we awoke the next morning, the fog had rolled in making boating impossible. So, we left Deception Pass and headed to our next stop--a tire center to buy a new spare.


Deception Pass State Park, located on the north end of Whidby Island and the south end of Fidalgo Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is Washington's most popular state park because of its miles of beaches, rugged rocky cliffs, quiet coves, thick Douglas-fir and red cedar forests, freshwater lakes, and spectacular views of Deception Pass. Recreational activities in the park include fishing, kayaking, beachcombing, scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and swimming.

One of the highlights of the park is the view from the bridge down into the swirling waters of Deception Pass, the narrow channel connecting Rosario Strait and Skagit Bay between Whidby and Fidalgo islands. Four times a day, the tides send tremendous volumes of water funneling through the pass creating swirling whirlpools and rapids beneath the bridge. For the best effect, hike out to the center of the 186-foot-high, 1,000-foot-long bridge when the tides are running and look down. The view is both breathtaking and frightening. This channel was named Deception Pass by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 because he felt that he was deceived into thinking that this passage was an inlet, rather than just a channel between the two islands.

There are 30 miles of hiking trails within the park, most of them on forested trails along the shoreline. An interesting destination on the Rosario Head Vista Point Trail by Rosario Beach is the Maiden of Deception Pass, a Samish Indian totem pole, which tells the myth of the Samish maiden, Ko-Kwal-Alwoot. According to the tale, a sea spirit fell in love with the maiden. When she refused to marry him, he brought drought and famine to the Samish people. To save her people, Ko-Kwal-Alwoot agreed to marry the sea spirit. When she entered the sea, she became immortal. Her long hair floating in the current can still be seen today, although the less imaginative think that it is just seaweed.

The main campground, which is located at the northwest tip of Whidby Island, has 246 sites and great views of the Rosario Strait.

Deception Pass State Park location map in "high definition"

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