Natural History is defined as the scientific study of animals or plants, especially as concerned with observation rather than experiment, and presented in popular rather than academic form.
Deception Pass State Park is rich in natural features. You can observe them and enjoy them, first-hand, without experiments or academics. This park is a busy place with an interesting geological history, diverse plants and animals, and a bustling shoreline community. Being on the coast means the Park has an even bigger role in resource protection because of the unique natural communities that live on or near the shorelines. Then as you hike on the numerous trails you will find old growth forests, uncommon flowers, numerous trees, mushrooms, and lichens. With such a diverse natural community, we invite you to read further and better yet, explore some of these treasures yourself.
We’d like to thank Jack Hartt for allowing us to use information and excerpts from his book, Exploring Deception Pass.
Deception Pass has a rare natural sand dune environment located at the south end of the West Beach parking lot. These are the only significant sand dunes in the Puget Sound area. Over time, the dunes were created by the waves pushing sand landward. The plants in this area are especially adapted to very dry, harsh conditions. Those that grow there, do so slowly and are deeply rooted. If plant life here is damaged, the area is in jeopardy of eroding winds. Please stay on the paths to avoid harming this fragile area.
Wetlands hold water and act as filters, separating out sand and other particles. They offer shelter, food, and protection for many species. If there is sufficient soil, Sitka Spruce, Alder, and Western Red Cedar will be seen nearby. Other plants will include salmonberry, red elderberry, Nootka roase, pacific willow, sedges and rushes, nettles, swordfern, and the beloved Skunk Cabbage will also grown in these areas. The largest wetland areas in the park are located in Heilman Valley, the north shore of Pass Lake, in the Quarry Pond Campground, around the Hoypus Hill area, and in the uplands of Dugualla State Park.
Forested Shorelines: Forests contribute important organic materials (leaves, branches and insects) to the marine environment. The insects are an important part of the juvenile salmon’s diet. Shade from these trees is essential for spawning surf smelt and sand lance as it keeps the water cooler on hot days. While the Salish Sea has lost nearly all of its original forested shorelines to development, the Park still hosts miles of in-tact forested shorelines. You will find these areas mainly at Hoypus Point, North Beach, Goose Rock, Lighthouse Point, and on all of the islands in the park. The trees found in these areas include the alder, big-leaf maple, Douglas fir, grand fir, cedar, hemlock and spruce. What a beautiful site to see a “tree mosaic” as you look down the shoreline!
Dry Upland Forests: In these areas, you will find rocky ground, shallow sandy soils, grassy slopes, brushy areas, and moss covered rocky knolls. Wildflowers are abundant in spring and in the winter, the ground is carpeted with deep mosses and ferns. The trees and plants in these areas survive by not needing much water. Here you will find madrone, a northwest favorite with its often twisting growth habit, and Douglas fir, which grows smaller and more distinctive because of exposure, lack of water, and high winds. Fishnet lichen will sometimes be hanging from branches. The common shrubs in these areas include snowberry, salal, ocean spray, Oregon grape, Nootka rose, and thimbleberry. Dry Upland Forests are located mainly on the hillside north of Bowman Bay, on the south side of Lighthouse and Lottie points, at West Point, and on the south sides of most of the islands.
We will continue to add to this section so check back to learn more about your favorite park!