Here in Whatcom County we are fortunate to have three state parks – Birch Bay, Larrabee and Peace Arch – within our borders.
Our state parks offer places to recreate and appreciate nature in one-of-a-kind settings, which makes them each enticing destinations unto themselves, and Washington State Parks has sweetened the deal with a handful of “free days” when a Discover Pass or day pass are not required to visit a state park. Be sure to add these dates to your calendar:
· May 10 – Sunday Spring Day
· June 6 – National Trails Day
· June 13 – National Get Outdoors Day
· August 25 – National Park Service birthday
· September 26 –National Public Lands Day
· November 11 – Veterans Day
With three state parks and multiple free days, there’s no need to choose! But in case you want the low-down on the parks, here’s a look at each.
Birch Bay State Park
One of my favorite Mother’s Day memories is of picnicking on a warm, sunny afternoon at Birch Bay State Park. The rocky beach was perfect for beachcombing with the little ones, and the serene water of the bay and view of the islands was simply lovely.
With more than 8,000 feet of saltwater shoreline, the park is a popular spot for harvesting clams and oysters. The park also has a boat ramp, so boaters can head out on the water for fishing and crabbing as well. As always, be sure to follow the state’s rules for harvesting any of these critters. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Birch Bay State Park is also known for its ecological diversity, with both saltwater and freshwater access. According to the state park’s website, Terrell Creek Marsh is one of the few remaining saltwater/freshwater estuaries in North Puget Sound. Estuaries are known for their biological diversity, and the park is an excellent spot for birding and other wildlife viewing.
And not to be forgotten: Birch Bay State Park also offers camping. The park has 147 standard sites, 20 water and electric sites, two primitive sites, restrooms and showers. With so much to do and see at the park, you may want to make your trip an overnight adventure.
Larrabee State Park
Larrabee State Park is by far my favorite place to visit at low tide. Located on Samish Bay, it also offers more than 8,000 feet of saltwater shoreline.
Even getting to the park – you’ll find it along scenic Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham – is a treat. Visitors and locals alike “ooo” and “ahh” over the scenic views of the San Juan Islands, framed by Douglas firs and red-barked madronas.
Once at Larrabee, the amazing views don’t stop: Larrabee is a magnificent backdrop for a family outing.
Beachcombing at low tide is a blast – just remember to be careful with our fragile sea star population, which has been suffering from a wasting disease the last few years.
Practical notes for families: Those with little ones or family members with mobility problems, be warned the trail down to the beach is winding and a bit steep in places. Also, be sure to bring water sandals as the barnacle-encrusted rocks along the beach are not friendly to bare feet.
Crabbing, clamming, fishing and boating are also accessible at Larrabee, as is camping. The park has 51 standard sites, 26 utility sites, eight primitive sites, restroom and showers.
The whole of Larrabee State Park is much more than its shoreline. The park extends across Chuckanut Drive, encompassing several miles of hiking and biking trails to other popular spots, including two great fishing destinations: Lost Lake and Fragrance Lake.
Peace Arch State Park
Known for its lush, colorful gardens, Peace Arch State Park sits on the United States-Canada border and is mirrored by the Peach Arch Provincial Park on the Canadian side. The Peace Arch monument commemorates the treaties signed by the United States and Great Britain following the War of 1812.
Since 1997, a sculpture exhibit from May through October showcases the work of international artists throughout the grounds. Arts and cultural festivals and programming are a staple at the park throughout the summer.
A playground and picnic area makes this flat, easy-to-walk park a great place for multi-generational gatherings.
While the park does have water views, it does not have water access. The nearby Blaine Marina Park, however, does have access to the water.
For more information on all these parks, visit www.parks.wa.gov.