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Whatcom Water Trails: A Kayaker’s Paradise

Whether you’re a serious kayaker or a casual lover of a calm paddle on the water, you’ll want to pick up the new Whatcom Water Trails Map

Launched by the Port of Bellingham, it highlights 22 water trails in the county, from Lake Samish and Lake Whatcom to Point Roberts’ Lighthouse Marine Park, Semiahmoo Resort, Larrabee State Park and Birch Bay State Park.

“We created this because we know we have a robust group of kayakers and kayak vendors, but we didn’t have an adequate map until now to show novices or visitors the various marine and freshwater trails,” said Gina Stark, economic development project manager at the port. “We thought it was important to highlight our great water recreation opportunities in the county.”

The map includes Lake Terrell, Little Squalicum Beach, Zuanich Point Park, Cornwall Beach, Boulevard Park, Blaine Boat Launch and Marine Park. Stark worked with a team of collaborators including Recreation Northwest and Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures to create the water trails map and highlight Whatcom's best waterways.

Whatcom County is home to two companies that offer recreational kayak excursions: Moondance Kayak, owned by Kristi Kucera, and Dragonfly Kayak Tours, owned by Victoria Ayres. 

We headed out on a half-day kayak tour to Chuckanut Island with Dragonfly Kayaks in August, on a picture-perfect, hot summer’s day. After a safety briefing on the beach, we stepped gingerly into our two-person kayaks and dipped paddles in an ocean that was blissfully calm and inviting. 

Ayres, who hails from Nashville, TN, relocated to Bellingham four years ago to pursue her dream of running a kayak company. “It was a big leap of faith, but I followed my heart, urged on by friends who said the Pacific Northwest was a healing place,” she said. “From looking on the map I could see Bellingham was a paddler’s paradise. I can’t wait to get out and show you all the beautiful places I’ve discovered!”

In the summer months, she offers half or full-day trips and evening bioluminescence tours in the Salish Sea. This, her most popular tour, involves gliding in the water after dark and watching the streaks of light as they dance around the kayaks and paddles.

It takes just 45 minutes of relaxed kayaking to reach Chuckanut Island, which is accessible only by water, and by day there’s lots to look at. We gazed appreciatively at the cliff-side homes on the bluff and envied the owners their spectacular views of the ocean. The rock formations, sculpted over thousands of years by wind and water, are nothing short of natural works of art, and at low tide an array of bright star fish can be seen clinging to the rock face. At Chuckanut Island the reward upon arrival is a walk around the five-acre isle, which has Douglas firs over 250 years old. We poked around in the tidal pools, examining the barnacles, rock crabs and sea cucumber,s and watched the tide move rapidly in before climbing back into the kayaks to return to Wildcat Cove.

Wildcat Cove is number 16 on the list of the Whatcom Water Trail Map, and there’s many water trails to excite local kayakers in search of adventure, beauty and wildlife sightings.

Those interested in expanding their kayak trail horizons beyond our county would be wise to purchase the Cascadia Marine Trail Guidebook from the Washington Water Trails Association. This booklet has trails covering the south sound, mid sound, hood canal, north sound and San Juan Islands. 

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