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Trip Report    

Sea Kayak - Nisqually Delta & Reach

Great late fall weekday trip at higher tide cycle. Eagles, harbor seals, sea lions abundant and active. Weekday reduced the number of water foul hunters out.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Weather forecast was for SW winds at 10 kt gusting to 20 kt all day but conditions were more moderate when we launched and throughout the day.  Wind was mostly 5-10 kt with little gusting. The high tide at the launch completely covered the beach, so we had to stage around the parking lot prior to launch. Because it was a weekday, we only saw two parties of water fowl hunters - on weekends at this time of year this can be a distinct hazard and rather distressing to see birds shot out of the air.

    With the SW winds, there is little fetch, so wind waves never exceeded 6" as we crossed the front of the delta.  

This trip was set up as a student paddle to allow 2 Olympia basic students to complete their experience paddle requirement.  As a bonus, we had one Seattle student, Alex, come down to complete his second required student paddle! We had a great turnout of 9 paddlers on what turned out to be a fantastic paddle. We had little rain, some sunny periods, only moderate winds and a fantastic rainbow. This was a real gift, given that the weather forecast was for very strong gusts and lots of rain!

The two biggest concerns about this paddle at this time of year are weather and water fowl hunters. The Nisqually Delta is very exposed to winds from almost all directions, and November can be blustery.  It is also a very popular water fowl hunting area, particularly on weekends. We lucked out on the weather - turned out pretty nice and manageable at the SK-II level needed for the student paddle. Also, being a Friday, there were only two bird hunting parties out.

All participants arrived on time to allow for the planned 9am launch. We spent a bit of time once all were geared up to have the students discuss weather, tides, hazards and the local landmarks. Got on the water at 9:30 and headed up McAllister Creek for a warm up exploration.  We ended up paddling 2.5 nm up McAllister Creek to just short of the I-5 bridge. On the way back we had one rescue of a student that misjudged the slow current through some pilings and went over. We stopped for a break about 1 nm short of the launch along the west shore of McAllister Creek.

After the break we continued out to the mouth of McAllister Creek and then turned east along the front of the delta.  Saw lots of harbor seals in the water that were very curious, following the kayaks for over a mile and coming up very close numerous times.  Also some sea lions that were very active -jumping and barking near the mouth of the Nisqually River.  We stopped for lunch at the beach behind the barge wreck at the east shore  of Nisqually Reach.  Along this stretch, we experienced the only significant rain, but it stopped before we got out for lunch.

After lunch we headed back across the front of the delta.  Lots more interaction with seals and some eagle aerobatics along the route.  Also large flock of terns doing formation flying around the delta.  A spectacular rainbow appeared over Anderson Island along the way and the sky to the south was very dramatic, with several layers of interesting cloud, with some blue sky and sun rays shining through. 

We got back to the launch around 2:30pm and spent half an hour  allowing Alex to do his reqired rescue demonstrations and others to generally play around with rolling. Got off the water by 3pm and were able to get changed and the cars packed up without any rain falling!

Overall a great trip with wonderful people.