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Trip Report    

Whidbey Island West Shore - Deception Pass to Keystone

The west coast faces the straight and is often hammered by wind and waves and so has some of the character of the outer coast. We had a calm day with clear air and tremendous visibility from San Juans, Vancouver Island, to Olympic peninsula and mountains. Some of the shoreline is low and other high bluff. Some inhabited and some wild.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Calm, glassy.


Route: We paddled this route from Deception Pass to Keystone, north to south.  We put in at East Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  Launch from there is easy, there is plenty of parking, and bathrooms.  One can also launch from Bowman Bay or Coronet bay, but that adds a mile or two of distance. 

We then followed the shoreline south.  We paddled through the two restricted zones that protect the NAS runways.  There was no air traffic and no problem with this. 

The NAS small arms officer (see route for phone number) reported that the small arms range would not be in use and we could paddle through that restricted area.  We were able to stay near the coast.  As for this restricted area, the small arms range appears to be on land, pointing out to sea.  I think the range is intended to contain all rounds and the restricted area only to protect people should a stray round leave the range.  Joseph Whidbey State Park, many houses, and West beach county park are all within the protection zone. 

Much of the shoreline is sloped beach.  Some has sharp rocks, some round cobble, and some smooth sand.  At high tides the shore will be more rocky but at +5 and lower more sand beach is exposed.  Given current considerations, most transits of this coast will be during low tide.  If wind waves are above 2 ft then access to the beach will be more difficult. 

Best land access is at one of several parks:

  • Joseph Whidbey State Park (N48.3080, W122.7161) - sand beach lower tide, MT campsite
  • West Beach County Park (N48.2979, W122.7255) - sand beach lower tide
  • Hastie Lake County Park (N48.2644, W122.7483)  - sand beach lower tide
  • Point Partridge in Fort Eby State Park (N48.2257, W122.7697) - cobble beach, MT campsite

There are others as well, which can be seen on Google Maps. 

We landed at the boat ramp at Keystone and were on shore about 5:00pm. 

The trip can be done in the other direction, shortened by using one of the intermediate launch sites, or as an overnight with a stay at one of the marine trails camp sites.

Total distance paddled:  18.25 nm

Tides and Currents:  Low tide this day was early afternoon.  We launched during ebb current at Deception Pass.  Along the west shore we encountered very light currents either with us or against us which were not a significant factor.  The currents in Admiralty Inlet are the most important.  Going south, you’ll want them to be flooding by the time you enter Admiralty Inlet.  (2:30 slack before ebb on our day.)  We got a strong boost from 1 to 3 knots.  There are tide rips near Admiralty Head at Fort Casey

Shuttle Logistics: Two of us came from the east side and took the 6:00am Clinton ferry then drove to the Keystone ferry.  Two took the 6:30am ferry from Port Townsend.  We met up at the Keystone ferry terminal about 7:00am.  There we dropped one of the east side cars, transferring equipment to the other.  We drove two cars to Deception Pass.  At the end of the day we would load the east sider’s gear onto the parked car and shuttle one driver up to Deception Pass.  From there the two east siders could return via Mt Vernon, avoiding the Clinton ferry.

Skills Practice:  This was done as a pre-trip skills practice for a west coast Vancouver island trip coming up in 3 weeks.  Our main purpose was to do a long paddle together.  In addition, we practiced the ruddering strokes we will use with sails and rigging extended tow lines for use in ocean swell.  We got an hour experience sailing in light winds and strong currents through Admiralty Inlet.