Lummi Island, San Juan Islands, WA 1–3 July 2016

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Jul 9, 2016.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Jan 10, 2009
    Seattle WA
    Even as I've branched out my paddling into British Columbia and Alaska, I still try to do at least one overnight a year in the San Juan Islands. I think of the San Juans as my main kayak stomping grounds, and it gives me a sense of home to go back there. Even though I've been paddling the San Juans for more than ten years now, there are still places I haven't ever been—and other places, like Strawberry Island, where I've been a dozen times or more.

    For this year's trip, I decided to do a circumnavigation around Lummi Island in the northeastern part of the archipelago, a place I'd never visited before. I camped the first night on Clark Island State Park, where I've stopped in the past but never camped, and the second night on Lummi Island itself.

    It's a little silly to make Lummi Island a 2-night trip. By taking advantage of the strong currents in Hale Passage and Rosario Strait, it would be easy to circumnavigate the island in a single day. But I was hoping to spend some time camping out and the beach and hiking in the woods, so I was happy to extend this trip.

    I knew there would be crowds on Independence Day weekend, but I managed to avoid them through clever site selection. On Clark Island, I stayed away from the crowded official beaches, landing instead in a small cove on the very southern tip of the island. A grassy knoll just above it made for a perfect campsite, and I slept out under the stars with no one else around.

    On Lummi, I camped on an unnamed pebble beach between Reil Harbor and Inati Bay. This site was even more secluded than the south end of Clark. I thrashed my way inland through nettles and shrubs until I reached the trunk road, then I wandered up and down, looking at warblers and flycatcher. Altogether, I saw 52 species of bird on this trip. The highlight was probably a House Wren feeding her chicks on Lummi Island. House Wrens are common in most of the Americas, but uncommon in western Washington, because it is too wet for them here. It turns out, however, that they are locally common in the San Juans, and I had the good fortune to stumble across one! This was the first House Wren I'd seen in years and years, so it was a real thrill.

    In addition to the birds, I saw Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoises, a River Otter, and a Townsend's Chipmunk. Shockingly for the San Juans, I saw no Raccoons at all!

    This was no wilderness trip, but I still found all the things I look for on an outdoors trip: solitude, natural beauty, and wildlife. There are no bad places to go in the San Juan Islands! I'm glad I have now visited Lummi and camped on Clark. Both islands are treasures, fully worthy of exploration.

    Parking is free at the Lummi marina by the Lummi Island ferry terminal. Camping on Clark Island requires a fee payment. Camping in the DNR lands on Lummi is free.

    I would suggest coordinating with the tides. Fighting the flood current south toward Clark Island was a challenge. It took me five hours to go from the marina to the south end Clark, a distance of about seven miles (11 km). The going was much easier once I began to coordinate my movements with the tides.

  2. Yeti

    Yeti Paddler

    Jan 3, 2015
    Van Isle BC
    Another great trip report Alex, thanks for sharing that.
  3. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Nov 2, 2005
    What a great trip. I love the images of the Swallows!
  4. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

    Jan 19, 2015
    Landlocked in Tennessee
    Sounds like a wonderful trip! I can't wait to get back to the San Juans!