We visit Anacortes and Deception Pass State Park, with a hike along the picturesque Tommy Thompson Trail, dramatic views of the Pass from the famous bridge, and relaxation on the lovely West Beach.
Tommy Thompson Trail
We start our walk on the trail at the 34th Street Station – once the location of a small station along the rail lines that ran here.
The trail crosses the 686 acre Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve – a unique ecosystem that’s home to more than 230 species of birds, otters, harbor seals, and six different species of salmon.
After rolling along below the shoreline bluffs, the trail crosses Fidalgo Bay on a long stone causeway and later a wooden trestle that connects Weaverling Spit and March’s Point. Along the way, visitors are treated to sculptures by local artists, and more than a half-dozen turnouts with interpretive signs that describe the local history, economy, and wildlife.
The rail-trail follows the once thriving corridor of the Seattle and Northern Company line, which was built in 1890 when Anacortes boomed as the promised center of a transcontinental railway line.
We pass by an RV park where a totem stands – it is a “healing pole” carved by the Samish tribe and commemorates the lives lost in 2010 at the Tesoro refinery.
Many years after the demise of the Seattle and Northern Company, Tommy Thompson renovated a portion of the line and hand-built his Anacortes railway. He operated the popular six-block narrow-gauge railway for some 25 years until his death in 1999.
Fidalgo Bay is also home to two major oil refineries on March’s Point – the Tesoro Refinery constructed in 1955 which can process up to 105,000 barrels of crude oil per day, and the Shell refinery built in 1958 which can handle up to 145,000 barrels.
The wooden trestle once carried rail cars to March’s Point. When a fire damaged the trestle in 2009, local supporters and contractors worked together to replace it with today’s modern structure.
Deception Pass Bridge
Our next stop is Deception Pass State Park – home to the famous Deception Pass Bridge.
The bridge is actually in two spans – one over Canoe Pass to the North, and the other over Deception Pass to the South. Pass Island is between the two.
Charted in 1792 by Joseph Whidbey as a deep and turbulent channel that connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the Saratoga Passage.
With mysterious coves, rugged cliffs, and jaw-dropping views from the bridge, Deception Pass is a popular tourist attraction with about 20,000 vehicles crossing the bridge every day.
We take a short trail down to Gun Point to get a better view of the bridge.
The bridge is considered one of the scenic wonders for the Pacific Northwest and was constructed in 1934 at a cost of only $482,000. Today that cost would be many millions.
There’s over 460 tons of steel in the 511 foot long Canoe Pass arch and about 1130 tons in the 976 foot Deception Pass span.
Completion of the bridge in 1935 essentially made the construction of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island possible, and has allowed Oak Harbor to flourish.
Aside from the famous bridge, one of the most popular destinations in Deception Pass State Park is the West Beach.
About 200 feet to the east of the beach is Cranberry Lake which provides a popular venue for freshwater swimming.
West Beach features a long gravel and sand shoreline with stunning views of the Olympic mountains, San Juan Islands, and even Victoria BC on a clear day.
Complete with driftwood huts, picnic tables, and concession stands, West Beach is a great place to unwind and relax on a hot Summer day.