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Hiking Bowman Bay on a beautiful winter day

This Saturday, we were blessed with a perfect winter day on Whidbey Island: bright blue skies no wind, relatively warm temperatures. This made it the ideal day for taking Mollie on Janinne's favorite hike: Bowman Bay.

Bowman Bay is a pocket beach located in the Whidbey Basin at Deception Pass State Park, on the north side of Deception Pass. Although it is part of the State Park, it is technically on Fidalgo Island near Anacortes. It offers beautiful views of the San Juan Islands across Rosario Strait.

A little history about Bowman Bay

Its present name is for Abram Bowman who, in 1883, claimed land in the Bowman’s Bay area. His family, including his wife, son and mother lived at Bowman’s Bay until 1887. Abram Bowman was the brother of Amos Bowman, founder of Anacortes. The Deception Pass area had been designated a military reserve in 1866 and Bowman Bay was originally called Reservation Bay. During World War I, 300 troops marched up from Fort Casey to defend it from German U-boats that never appeared. They set up gun placements and installed 5 inch field guns and searchlights. In World War II, temporary batteries of 90mm and 37mm guns were installed at the Pass but never used.

However, the Bowmans were by no means the first inhabitants of the area. Indians called Deception Pass “steuds”, meaning “dangerous”. It is the traditional territory of the Samish and Swinomish people. There were three Samish villages at the Pass, including one at Bowman Bay, that have been dated to 10,000 to 12,000 years old. A Swinomish village was located east of the Pass.

The Rosario Beach area, just west of Bowman Bay, has a cedar “story pole” depicting the Samish history of the Maiden of Deception Pass. This 24-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide cedar log carving is an homage to the Samish legend o fKo-kwal-alwoot, a young woman who chose to live undersea to ensure that her village would never go hungry.

Bowman Bay - two hikes in one

When you arrive at Bowman Bay, you will find yourself in a large carpark. If you want the avoid crowds, we recommend that you do this hike on a weekday morning. It's pretty popular on the weekends.

The view from the carpark alone is worth the trip. Make sure you have your Discover Pass handy. You will need to display it. Alternatively, you can buy a day pass at an automated pay station in the parking lot for $10. Remember to bring a packed lunch so you can enjoy a pre or post-hike picnic at one of the tables while enjoying a stunning view. Ready to go? You have a few options. You can follow the beach to the left to start the trail out to Lighthouse Point or you can turn right and cross the lawn featuring the most beautiful wood and stone picnic structures build by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930 to hike out past Rosario Beach. Both hikes offer the most breathtaking ocean views in every direction. Most days, you will see seals bobbing along in the waves. Some days, you may see porpoises.

Lighthouse Point Trail

Distance: 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 285 ft

Route Type: Out-and-Back

Once you leave the beach, the trail weaves its way up a small cliff and back down to a two-sided beach; one sandy, one rocky. From there the trail leads up and loops around Lighthouse Point. Admire the views of Deception Pass Bridge. The trail loops around to the western side of the "island" with amazing views before reentering the trees. Soon the trail will make a sharp right and head down for a short while to close the loop.

Rosario Head Trail

Distance: 1.5 mi

Elevation Gain:206 ft

Route type: Out & back

Once back at the fishing pier, continue past the parking lot, through the picnic area and past the CCC Interpretive center and you will find the trail to, Rosario Beach. Start off with a short, steep little climb, then level off as you head above the bay. There are plenty of paths leading to scenic overlooks. You will quickly arrive at a narrow strip of land with a beach on either side. You will also see the Maiden of Deception Pass carving.

Take the loop trail around Rosario Head, but be careful of the steep drop off along the cliffs. Keep children and dogs away from the edges. Here there are more expansive views out across the Sound to the Olympics.

Whether you live on Whidbey Island or are planning to visit, be sure to include a day in Bowman Bay on your itinerary.

BONUS: The Civilian Conservation Core at Bowman Bay

Without the hard work and dedication of the young men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), there would be no Deception Pass State Park. From 1933 through the early 1940s, hundreds of young men served at CCC camps at Deception Pass, laboring to create roads, trails, picnic shelters and other structures that remain in the park to this day.

The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is located in the Bowman Bay area of the park. The center was originally a bathhouse built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. In 1987, the building was renovated into a museum by CCC alumni and Washington State Parks staff. The center’s exhibits tell the incredible story of the CCC’s work across the state of Washington during the Great Depression.

The center is free-of-charge and is open from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. mid-May through Labor Day. Group tours and off-season visits can be arranged by calling (360) 675-3767.

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