Rosario Beach Fidalgo Island, near Deception Pass
Last summer we went to Bowman Bay and hiked the Bowman Bay Lighthouse Point trail. A few weekends ago we decided to go to Rosario Beach since we didn’t really get a chance to actually see Rosario Beach when we hiked Bowman Bay. Rosario is just north of Bowman. In fact you can see Bowman Bay from the grassy clearing at Rosario Beach.
The tide was very low that day and I had read that there were pretty cool tide pools at this beach. The weather wasn’t too promising but we went anyway hoping it would be better up north. Rosario Beach is located on Fidalgo Island which connects to Whidbey Island by the Deception Pass bridge. You have to take I-5 north to Burlington and go west on Hwy 20 and it will take you straight to the turn off. If you are not directionally challenged there is a short cut so as to avoid driving to Burlington. When you get to Mt. Vernon, which is about 5 miles before Burlington, you can take Hwy 536 through Mt. Vernon and connect to hwy 20. The drive is shorter and more scenic. There are little farms all along 536. This is actually where the tulips farms are in Skagit. After about 10 miles, when you come to a sign that reads “Oak Harbor, Port Townsend Ferry”, turn left at the stoplight. If you go straight you will end up in Anacortes. In about 5 miles, and after passing two lakes, turn right onto Rosario Road. It is easy to miss and if you do it you will find yourself crossing Deception Pass bridge. If you do then just turn around and try again.
Rosario Beach is home to the “The Maiden of Deception Pass” story pole. It depicts the story of the Samish Indian Nation. This entire area was settled by the Samish and Swinomish tribes and they lived on the land until the early 1900’s. You can read the entire story of the Maiden here.
The history of this area is fascinating. In 1792 Joseph Whidbey, captain Vancouver’s chief navigator sailed through “Deception Pass” which was earlier noted to be a small bay, and discovered that it was a deep channel with turbulent waters since this channel connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Saratoga Passage. So, it was thusly named by Vancouver “Deception Pass” since he felt that he had been deceived as to the nature of this waterway. He also named the island after Joseph Whidbey who had discovered this oversight. There is a monument on the bridge for visitors to read about Vancouver and this moment in our history.
Many years later years the land was sold to Washington State and a state park was established. During the 1930’s President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps to help create jobs for young men affected by the depression. They built many of the structures at the two camps at Rosario Beach and Cornet bay. Kitchen shelters, restrooms, roadways and trails and the log railings along the highway were all made by these men during the depression.
I love history and I found this to be very interesting as I walked by the structures and realized the historic significance. The picnic areas are perfect for group gatherings or even just lunch at the beach.
The weather turned out to be pretty decent and to my delight there was some blue creeping through the clouds. I was eager to get to the tide pools so we hurried down to the beach and explored “Urchin Rocks”. These rocks were exposed since the tide was out so far and I was excited to see the many different sea creatures living in the pools.
Some of the inhabitants I saw were anemones, urchins, barnacles, chitons, sand crabs, limpets, etc. An eclectic underwater community. This area is also popular for divers since there is a an underwater park.
As I explored the tide pools I noticed that I could actually walk and climb on the big rocks to watch the waves crash one after another. I could sit there for hours. There were so many kayakers and boats to watch, and the water crashing onto the rocks was mesmerizing. This is on Rosario Head which is a curved structure of rocks which juts out into the ocean separating Rosario and Bowman Bay.
The beach itself was amazing. It is covered in driftwood logs and pebbles. Every time a wave would role in the pebbles made a really cool sound. I wish I could record it and fall asleep to this sound every night.
If you look closely below you can see the pebbles as they are being tossed around by the waves.
As our day came to an end we were also treated to a visit from a wild rabbit and a sea bird that I didn’t recognize. If anyone knows the name of this type of bird please let me know as I have never seen one of these before.
So if you are in the mood for a beautiful day at the beach or a picnic or even a hike, I would recommend Rosario Beach, especially if there happens to be a low tide. If you want to camp there are several areas in the vicinity. Deception Pass State park is a beautiful place to camp (and one of my favorite places) with hundreds of sites and many trails. You can also camp at Bowman Bay which is very close to Rosario Beach. Both places require reservations though so reserve early as they fill up quickly.
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