Did you Know? Twanoh State Park & Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve

Twanoh State Park & the Mary E. Theler Wetlands can be combined to form a wonderful day hike. Visitors can enjoy lush greenery, water views, birdwatching, and even a whale skeleton.
Regina Robinson Regina Robinson
Olympia Branch Communications Volunteer
January 04, 2019

Created on June 91923, Twanoh State Park is one of the oldest Washington State Parks. It covers 182 acres and includes 3,100 feet of shoreline. This park offers quite a bit - including boating, fishing, hiking, and camping. We combined our hike on the Twanoh River Trail with a walk around the Mary E. Theler Wetlands.  

Our Walk

Despite the mostly gray day, the sun peaked through the rain soaked trees as we followed the trail from the public boat launch. We traveled across State HWY 106, then headed upstream on the Twanoh River Trail on the right side of the river. We passed through tall cedars, ferns, and evergreen huckleberry. As we ascended toward the ridge, we stopped to admire the opaque Cat's Tongue Mushrooms growing beneath a stand of tall fir trees. Crossing a short bridge we stopped to watch the mist rise through the trees on the ridge just across the river from us. The view was reminiscent of scenes from The Hobbit. 

Cat's Tongue Mushrooms along the trail. Photo by Regina Robinson.


Once we reached the top of the ridge, the trail opened out onto a wide old road which we followed to the right. Following the road, we headed back downhill towards the park and the boat launch, making our trail hike a loop.  

Before we headed back to the car, we leisurely walked the shoreline, enjoying the many birds and boats along the waterfront. Don’t forget to check out the old Civilian Conservation Corps buildings. Built during the 1930, the covered kitchen shelters and other park structures are a testament to the New Deal, a plan to address mass unemployment during the 1930s Great Depression. Their rustic architecture is found among many of our national parks. 

Bring your camera, a picnic lunch, and your sense of adventure to enjoy both the Mary E. Theler Wetlands and Twanoh State Park Trails. These destinations make for a great adventure anytime of year!

More Info about Mary E. Theler Wetlands

Fellow hikers enjoying the wetlands on the South Tidal Marsh Trail.


Are you a birder or wildlife lover? Then this trail system is definitely for you. The Mary E. Theler Wetlands Trail System is much loved by locals and tourists alike. Located in Belfair, the Theler Wetlands offers 3.8 miles of flat, mostly level paths, which are handicap accessible. The preserve protects 139 acres of the Union River Delta Estuary along the toe of the Hood Canal.

 in 1935, prominent Belfair resident Sam Theler bought 500 acres from the Puget Mill Company, making him the largest landowner at that time. He donated many acres to promote the growth of his community, establishing the elementary school, churches, and a Masonic lodge. Although he and his wife Mary did not have children, they loved children and wanted their land to be donated to the Mason County School District upon their deaths. The intended purpose for the land was  for the school and other public recreation.

By the 1980s the school district wanted to build a ball field on the designated land, but the U.S. Department of Interior had other ideas as wetlands occupied much of the property.

In the late 1980s, the Theler nonprofit received a $500,000 legislative grant and the first trails were built on the Theler proprieties. Along the trails leading towards the exhibition center, many different pieces of art can be found among the foliage. My favorite piece isn’t art at all, but a huge, 27-foot long gray whale skeleton - quite a sight to behold.

The skeleton is hung in the foyer between the exhibit center and classroom. The whale washed ashore in 1999. Gray Whales are typically found in small numbers in the Puget Sound as they migrate from Baja, California during their fall and spring migrations.


Gray Whale Skeleton at the Mary E. Theler Wetlands Exhibit


The community joined together in a massive effort to turn the whale’s death into something positive. The carcass was buried in Lynch Cove for two years to allow it to decompose. Working closely with the Skokomish Indian Tribe, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Hood Canal Watershed Project, and the local community, the whale was dug up. 700 pounds of bones were carefully cataloged so that each piece could be reconstructed at the Mary E. Theler Nature Preserve. It is a treat to see this intact skeleton, a piece of local history.

Twanoh River Trail Trip Facts 

Length: 2.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 5375 ft
Highest point: 400 ft
Parking Pass/Entry Fee: Discover Pass
Wheelchair accessible
Dogs: Pets on leashes up to eight feet long are welcome in Washington state parks and campgrounds, but are not permitted on designated swimming beaches or within a nature preserve.

    Directions to Twanoh State Park

    Twanoh State Park

    12190 WA-106, Union WA 98592

     From Olympia: Follow US 101 N to the E Purdy Cutoff Rd, turn right, then take the next right onto E State Rte 106 (WA 106) at approximately 11.9 miles. The public boat launch is on the left. We parked at the public boat dock and walked across the road to begin our hike.

    Mary E. Theler Wetlands Trip Facts

    Length: 3.5 miles round trip
    Elevation gain: 50 ft
    Highest point: 50 ft|
    Parking Pass/Entry Fee: Discover Pass
    Wheelchair accessible
    No dogs

    Directions to Mary E. Theler Wetlands 

    Mary E Theler Wetlands Nature Preserve

    22871 WA 3, Belfair WA 98528

    From Olympia: Take US 101 N to WA 3 N, traveling 44 miles. The Nature Preserve will be on the right side of the road once you hit Belfair.


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    Tess Wendel
    Tess Wendel says:
    Tue, Jan 8, 2019 10:17 AM

    thanks for sharing! Good place to check out with the ol fed govt shutdown.

    Regina Robinson
    Regina Robinson says:
    Sat, Jan 19, 2019 8:29 PM

    Hi Tess, thank you. I'm hoping you have a great trip out to the Wetlands and Twanoh. They are great to visit.

    Regina Robinson
    Regina Robinson says:
    Sat, Jan 19, 2019 8:30 PM

    Hi Tess, thank you. I'm hoping you have a great trip out to the Wetlands and Twanoh. They are great to visit.