Monday, April 11th, 2016
Sunset Picnic on Chuckanut Island
Todd Elsworth

A local classic sunset paddle is the short jaunt to Chuckanut Island. The safest approach is from Mud Bay to the North, but it is very tide dependent. So we took the sure thing and chose to launch from Wildcat Cove at Larrabee State Park. We rounded the corner heading north with the wind in our faces.


While my daughter was looking back, I was looking up at the vulture circling overhead.


Our destination appeared on the horizon. Chuckanut Island- Dead Ahead. The5-acre Cyrus Gates Memorial Preserve is what protects this gem in the Salish Sea. The Nature Conservancy stewards the site and keeps “This island in its natural state. It has never been logged, has few invasive species, and is an important bald eagle nesting area. It is being held in this state for the benefit of all.” as the Nature Conservancy signs read.


The signs also plead that you “Please do your part to protect and preserve the island by abiding (like the Dude) these conditions: No camping, fires, shellfish harvesting, or dogs. Please take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints”


As we walked the sandy beach, Violet remarked that we were not the first ones to walk the shores. Footprints as evidence, she exclaimed. We settled in for our picnic and enjoyed the panoramic view of Lummi Island in the background.


The sun was descending on the horizon, casting a beautiful light on the sandstone edges of this special protrusion in Chuckanut Bay. We explored the rocky shore, walking over the popping sound of the “seaweed with bubbles” that squished beneath our feet.


“Dad, look at that Madrone!” Violet pointed out. Yes, another NW classic- the dark bark peeling off the shining exterior with the light just right. We had it all.


Looking to the north, we peered into the dark caverns of Clark’s Point. The crossing from Mud Bay, past the point is another option for visiting, as some locals call it, Dot Island.


To the right is Chuckanut “Bird” Rock. Smelly and noisy! Steer clear if you’re in the area.


It was a glorious evening to be on the beach. We enjoyed a simple picnic and took it all in.

Time was of the essence and we had to go to beat the dusk curfew at Wildcat Cove where we had parked our rig. The setting sun behind Lummi provided a spectacular backdrop as we got back on the water.


Southbound, back to Larrabee State Park from Chuckanut Island afforded us colorful views of the islands and Olympic Mountains in the distance.


With the wind at our backs, we sailed back into Wildcat Cove and got out just in time!

A special shout out to Chuckanut Island Volunteer Steward, Peter Frazier for helping keep this place special.


To get there, park at the Larrabee State Park boat launch area in Wild Cat Cove (a $10 Discover Pass is required). Then paddle north by boat around Governor’s Point to Chuckanut Island.

For more outdoor adventure ideas near Bellingham, see the full list of Todd’s articles.

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at