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Thread: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

  1. #1
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    Default Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA



    I'm a near-shore sailor. I like mud way more than I do a ten-mile crossing (though there's nothing wrong with that either). A few years ago, on a land-based family vacation I became fascinated with Willapa Bay, Washington. My son snapped the picture above. With miles of shallow water, plenty of mud, tidal currents, and sometimes serious ocean wind thrown in it could be a fun and gnarly place to visit in a small boat. Timing is everything though and I planned to come back.


    (photo from USFWS Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge)

    Although it has a combination of alluring amenities, including a national wildlife refuge, good eats, and multiple small boat ramps, other trips got in the way; first it was Port Townsend with a friend, then it was a jaunt on the Lower Columbia River Estuary, followed by a long cruise on the Inside Passage. Sadly, the goodness just a hundred miles from home was put on hold.

    Since none of us are going anywhere soon, I thought I'd do some virtual trip planning and perhaps inspire and learn something from you all.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    There are several boat ramps to start from, the one that appeals to me the most is Port of Peninsula in tiny Nahcotta, Wa.


    (Photos from the Port's website)


    There's a homegrown appeal to their website and they're clearly proud of the lift and boat ramp ($5 round-trip for the record).



    The site also boasts the Willapa Bay Oyster House Interpretive Center. Here's their description of the place, "Rather than bog people down with extensive dates, documents and details, the center features quotes from numerous oyster family pioneers and their ancestors, which weave more than 100 years of tales"
    Last edited by Bruce Bateau; 03-30-2020 at 08:37 PM.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    I enjoy Willapa Bay. It's where we used to get all of our oysters growing up... once the Eld Inlet neighbors shut down their oystering operation. Haven't been back there in years... looking forward to your adventure.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    Willapa Bay is about 4 or 5 miles wide and 20 miles long.



    As noted, it has lots of mud at mid-low tide and plenty of guts. You east coasters know what these are- west coasters that means tidal channels you can creep up into with the tide.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    Assuming the weather is cooperative, I'm going to make a run north for my first night with perhaps a stop in the quaint Victorian hamlet of Oysterville:


    but assuming I need to be super-mindful of the tide, I'll be sure to get to the nook right in the center of the aerial at 1,700 acre Leadbetter Point State Park and mud down with the wildlife for a night on the hard.


    I've enjoyed this in the past and it makes for no worries about rocking, waves, or dragging anchors!

    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    There used to be a couple of nice landings and campsites on Long Island. Dunno if those are still around or not. Took my canoe out there once. Chose poorly on the weather and almost got blown back to the launch!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    We call those narrow tidal channels "guzzles" here in California. Great idea for a virtual trip!
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    There used to be a couple of nice landings and campsites on Long Island. Dunno if those are still around or not. Took my canoe out there once. Chose poorly on the weather and almost got blown back to the launch!
    I was going to go there on the last leg of the voyage since it is close to two boat ramps and has the most protected water. But since you ask...

    US Fish & Wildlife still administers the island. And unlike most refuges, you can camp there. Here's what they say about the island, "Long Island is the Pacific Coast's largest estuarine island. The island is 5,640 acres and includes a rare 274-acre remnant of old growth lowland coastal forest. Many of the red cedar trees in this grove are over 900 years old. The rain-drenched forests on the island grow rapidly; dense with salal, huckleberry, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce. Hundreds of species of mushrooms and other fungus are also found. NOTE: The harvesting of mushrooms is prohibited."

    5,640 acre island- that's bad ass! Apparently there are about 20 camp sites. Tides, mud, and no dock keeps the big boats at bay, but let the little boats play!


    From the Seattle Times:


    If you make it to the mainland side where the office is they have an art trail.


    It's also worth noting that the Washington Water Trails Association has some FAQ info about the bay.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    One other note on the campground:



    Just telling what the USFWS says...
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    Cool! That trailhead is new. All I recall was some nice campsites with great views and a rollicking trail up the hill. Lots of mud, 20 knot winds and enough rain that I had to bail the canoe on the way back...like I said...I chose poorly

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    And you're right, there's a good potential for some challenging, or exciting, conditions.

    Thanks to the University of Washington, we can see that sailors of the past have enjoyed these conditions:



    Here are some oyster boats, a little bigger, and calmer:
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    I'm in!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    WOW! I wonder if there area any of those oyster boats still around? Sweet lines there!

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    The boat in the upper picture fascinates me- it looks like the bow is bouncing out of the water. Why I wonder? And it looks like the boat in the upper right foreground is heeled over...
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    For today's portion of the journey, we're going to forget the diversion to Long Island and pick up again at Leadbetter Point State Park.

    Here's that map again for reference:


    We're going to watch real carefully for wind and tide and especially wind on tide over the shallows! So we'll catch the last of ebb early in the morning and hope for a little tidal push as the flood comes in and we head east.

    There's a lot of water moving out there. And clouds. And rain.

    Andy Zahn has a bunch of cool videos on his site. Here's a fun time lapse of the bay showing this:

    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    I'll plan to spend another night on the hook or in the mud on one of these lovely rivers or guts:


    Then when the tide is working, I'll head up the Willapa River to the town of Raymond. Where they have a nice little dock (360 view here) and an old fashioned downtown.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Virtual Cruise to Willapa Bay, WA

    I'm really excited about stopping in at the Willapa Seaport Museum. Here's a picture from the Gypsy Journal:



    There are few things better than small town museums with collections of real stuff that aren't too precious to put on display. This stuff was made for working and is going to hold up to visitors. The pictures all look so rich. So many good things to look at there. I bet it smells like damp wood inside!

    And if you want land based stuff, the NW Carriage Museum is next door.
    Tales from the land and sea: http://terrapintales.wordpress.com/

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