Excerpt from Two Hands and a Shovel by Jack Hartt
A bay with two names. When it was a military reservation set aside as a defense base, the headland to the to the southwest was called Reservation Head, and the bay was called Reservation Bay.
Amos Bowman established a post office on the north side of Fidalgo Island in 1877, and named it “Anacortes”, a play on the maiden name of his wife, Annie Curtis.
The Bowman family had many interests around Fidalgo Island, including this area. Eventually, the bay and the hill above were both named Bowman in honor of the family.
To the CCC, however, it was still called Reservation Bay, so all of the photographs refer to that name. We will use that name in this history of the CCC to identify the bay as they would have known it.
The CCC focused their efforts on the north end of the bay, building two shelters and a bathhouse with a restroom. They also built a caretaker’s cabin and garage, and a smaller shelter a little farther to the south.
The CCC also modified the natural wetlands at the south end of the bay, building two ditches across the marshland to create additional dry land, and building an outlet for Pass Creek that channeled the water into one creek exit rather than diffusing through the entire wetland.
In the late forties, the Washington Department of Fisheries built a fish hatchery at the south end of the bay, using fresh water from Pass Creek and the salt water of the bay to raise a variety of salmonids and other marine animals. They built numerous pens in the area that is now a playing field, and a duplex residence in the background to house hatchery staff.
They further modified the wetlands for the benefit of their hatchery operations, and built a wharf out into the bay to bring in salt water and supplies. And to protect these developments, they fortified the beach edge with a wall of rocks. A boat launch allowed park users to launch small craft to get into the bay and the waters beyond.
The hatchery became park land again in the early seventies. The tanks were smashed and buried to create a playfield. Everything else remains much as it was in the fifties.
Today’s Bowman Bay looks nothing like what the original bay must have looked like when Salish peoples made this area their home. Maybe in the future, restoration of the shoreline can return some of the natural beauty and natural shore processes to the south side of the bay.
But overall, the charm and beauty of this area remain captivating.
Reservation Bay view taken from the headland south of the current playfield, looking north. The kitchen shelter at the beach and the bathhouse will be built in the field across the bay, just to the right of the large tree in the foreground.
In the thirties when this picture was taken, it appears that this area that is now a playfield was a marshy and woodsy area. This is where the drainage from Pass Lake reaches the sea. The shoreline of the bay is a gentle half-moon sweep from the far side of the picture down to the bottom of the picture.
Today, of course, the south portion of the bay has been modified to accommodate a fish hatchery years ago which remained until the seventies. The area now has a boat launch, parking lot, playfield, and duplex residence, protected by an artificial rock wall. Maybe someday we can say “tear down this wall” and it will happen.
The finished kitchen shelter at Reservation Bay, with this view from the south. The windows of the shelter look out over the waters of Reservation Bay.
This design is considerably different from the other shelters in the park, other than Rosario, which was designed by the same architect. Notice the shingle siding above the south wall rock-work.
The bathhouse at Bowman Bay, with the center station boarded up and not in use. View looking generally northerly, towards the modern campground. The bathhouse is larger than the one at East Cranberry Lake.
Notice the trees in the background have branches reaching all the way to the ground. Today these trees have no branches near the ground, creating a more open feel to the lawn areas.
The bathhouse did not receive as much use as expected by the planners, probably because Reservation Bay does not get very warm for swimming. As the only restroom in the area at the time, it still served a valuable function.
Photographs from the Washington Digital Archives