Padilla Bay Reserve, Northwest WA - October 2012

Last month I went to visit my sister in Mount Vernon, Washington. This is the second of three posts about my trip.

I'd read about the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in my guidebook on the plane as a great birdwatching site so I put it on the list of potential things we might do while I was visiting. It's less than 15 minutes away from M's house. After visiting Mount Erie on a Saturday, we headed over to check it out.

Here's where we were:

View Larger Map

We decided to stop at the Breazeale Interpretive Center first to get some information, maps, etc. and we were pleasantly surprised just how much was here. It was like a mini science museum or aquarium. They had many tanks housing interesting animals that even I rarely see like sunflower sea stars and sea cucumbers. The only time I've ever seen a sunflower sea star in the wild was at Abalone Cove years ago and it remains one of my favorite tide pool moments. These creatures are otherworldly. This one was bright purple. So cool!

Sunflower Sea Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides)

Sea Cucumber of some sort

Mouth of a Sea Star

They also had a Bald Eagle specimen which helped impress on us the immense size of these birds (which we'd seen earlier in the day at Mount Erie).

Just a bit about the area from their site:
"Because the bay is filled with sediment from the Skagit River, the bottom is very shallow, flat, and muddy. It is so shallow that almost the whole bay is intertidal. This means that it is flooded at high tide. When the tide goes out the whole bay empties out, exposing miles and miles of mud flats."

They also have this super cool interactive graphic on their site where you can learn more about the plants and animals in the area. Definitely worth a few clicks!

After leaving the nature center with our maps we headed back south on the road closest to the water to find the Padilla Bay Shore Trail and walk around a bit near the marshy area where we expected to find some birds. Either the maps turned out not to be incredibly helpful or we were just having a bad navigation day. We passed by a sign that said the name of our trail on it, but there was nowhere to turn off or park so we kept driving (I think this was the northend of the trail). We pulled into the area near Bay View State Park which has camping but we couldn't find a trail or more information.

We continued south a bit and came to a little lot so we parked there and started walking on this delightful trail surrounded by mud flats. I think now that this was the southern trailhead for the 2-mile Shore Trail.

Unfortunately, it started to rain a little and we didn't see many birds (a couple of Great Blue Heron as we were driving away), but it was still a very peaceful place and one I'd return to often if I lived in the area.