**Article written by Kevin Dwyer**
We love our island, but sometimes it’s nice to get away for a day or two, or even a long weekend.
We found a nice off-island escape a few weeks back at Salt Creek, a beautiful Clallam County Park, hugging the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near Port Angeles. We decided to camp for a few nights with some friends in the park’s wonderful campground, but you can just as easily make a day trip out of it.
Salt Creek is about a two-hour drive from Bainbridge, across the Hood Canal Bridge, past Sequim, and slightly northwest of Port Angeles.
It veers off Highway 112, which itself swerves off of scenic Highway 101 as it makes its journey to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the western most point of the continental U.S. Using GPS, you shouldn’t have trouble finding this little gem of a place.
The big attraction here are its many tidal pools. Our friends had arranged to camp out during a low tide period. April, May and June, in particular, are excellent months for low tide action at Salt Creek and thus, good for tidal pool exploring.
Below the campground, on a series of rock out-croppings—some formed from ancient volcanoes—you’ll find salt water pools filled with many a sea creature. There are colorful sea urchins, sea anemones, star fish, three or four different varieties of kelp, barnacles, razor-neck clams, crabs, limpets, snails, periwinkles, mussels, sea stars, chitons, barnacles, seaweed and much more.
There are also varieties of sea grasses that sometimes cover up tiny pools that when gently pulled back expose aquarium-sized worlds of hidden sea life. Pick up any decent sized rock on one of these outcroppings and you’re likely to see a bunch of hermit crabs scurrying about. Your kids or grand kids will love it!
If you’re really lucky you might spy a seal or two near the shore. If so, they are likely to be “fishing” for one of their favorite meals—the purple-colored sea urchin. The urchins, which are plentiful here, line many of the walls of the jagged ravines that are exposed during the low tides.
On the other side of the Salt Creek campground, further west, is Tongue Point, another large, but less spectacular tidal pool area. On a previous visit, we came across biology students from Spokane, who were doing marine-life research at this spot and we all marveled at the size of a giant, purple star fish attached to a rock, sticking out of the goo.
While the tidal pools are the main attraction at Salt Creek, there are also some great hiking trails that meander through the park past massive old growth Douglas Fir trees and past incredible vistas of the Strait and a nearby island. There is also a sandy beach below the campground, perfect for sunbathing, wading and swimming – if you dare to brave the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean.
One aspect of the park that we were not aware until this recent visit are the gun embattlements that were built in the early part of the last century. The huge 16-inch guns once in place here—the same size as those installed on the Mighty Mo of World War II fame—worked in tandem with similar armory at two other nearby forts and were designed to protect the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton from enemy attack. No shots were ever fired from these huge gun emplacements but those hulking concrete fortresses still remain, and are interesting to look at and ponder what it might have been like to be a soldier there back in the day.
The campground itself is a delight and perhaps has one of the best views of any such facility in all of Puget Sound, if not Washington State. The 25 or so RV electric hook-up sites, located on a tree-less meadow area when you first enter the park, have an unimpeded view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island in the distance.
The campground where we stayed is situated in the woods. The sites are roomy, and ours and our friends, each had views of the Strait, the nearby rock formations along the ocean, and at night, the lights of Victoria, BC, twinkling away.
If you camp here and it’s a cloudless night, you may see falling stars and perhaps a glimpse of the Milky Way since there is very little ambient light around to impede your view.
Salt Creek feels like it’s a world away from Bainbridge Island. And that’s the point. It’s a great escape for a day or longer. We’re certain – whether you’re flying solo or going with friends and family – that you won’t be disappointed.