by Elizabeth Bentz
Deception Pass State Park is a unique and wonderful place where visitors hike through old growth forests, swim in sparkling lakes, kayak choppy ocean waters, and explore amazing creatures in tidepools. There are many amazing environments and adventures at Deception Pass but one that often gets overlooked is the sand dunes; their beauty and importance create an exceptional habitat at West Beach!
The sand dunes at Deception Pass State Park, located at West Beach between the coast and Cranberry Lake, play an important role in maintaining the coast. The trees, flowers, and grasses of the dunes create stabilization ensuring the sand stays in one place and is not blown away by the aggressive winter winds. Their roots grow deep into the sands willing them to stay in place even through tough weather on the coast. Without the sand dunes the much-loved swimming area of Cranberry Lake may be part of the Ocean.
In addition to stabilization, the sand dunes provide a habitat for unique and diverse plants to grow. There is an entire system of life and countless plants that thrive in the sand dunes. In the late spring and early summer, the sand dunes are transformed by dune flowers. Bright pink, yellow, white, and purple hues begin to cover the dunes. Sand verbena is a native plant which flowers from late spring to early summer. Its bright gold ball of flowers sticks out along the dunes and its succulent leaves spread wide over the dunes. Alongside the sand verbena, you are likely to find pink morning glory, lupine, and sea blush. This beautiful spring and summer display is just the beginning of plants found along the dunes.
As visitors venture deeper into the dune’s environment, they will find the open dunes give way to a sandy forest. This forest further stabilizes the dunes and is home to a miraculous tree. Within the dunes, lives an ancient Douglas Fir. This tree is believed to be over 850 years old! It’s thick trunk and uniquely shaped limbs are created by the harsh winds and conditions of life in the sand dunes. It has shown resilience over the years surviving in sandy soil, adapting to the winds and salty air.
The sand dunes are more than meets the eye and an incredibly important part of the park. To see the wonderful Douglas Fir and check out the other dune plants, visitors can follow a 1-mile Sand Dunes Interpretive trail. The park recently repaved the Interpretive trail and we are excited to announce it is once more ADA accessible and open to the public!