Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, 7/02/2016

Located a short distance from Conestoga Quarters RV Park where we are staying for the week is the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the longest natural sand spits in the world. Six to twelve feet are added to the outer point annually by eroding sediment carried by wind, waves, and tidal currents. A quiet, shallow bay has formed on the eastern side of the spit where marine life thrives. The area is a place where wildlife is protected from the pounding surf, providing an ideal location to rest and feed for both migrating and full time inhabitants.

We learned dogs are not permitted in this Wildlife Refuge (most National Wildlife Refuges we have visited do allow dogs on trails). Before hiking out to the Dungeness Spit, we took our doggy, Sadie, for a stroll along a trail that is part of a county park that is contiguous to the refuge. The trail overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca and has various viewpoints along the way. 

Leaving Sadie in the car with plenty of water and the windows opened enough to provide a nice breeze (not too hot here), we headed back to the Refuge. There is a plaza at the trailhead with displays about the history of the area and the wildlife that visit or make this their home. 

There is a $3 daily, entrance fee that covers up to four adults. Our Senior Pass provides free admission. 

There is a 1/2 mile trail through the forest here to an overlook on the bluff above the Dungeness Spit. There are interpretive signs along the way about the ecology of the area. This display about trash that has been left by visitors is very sobering.

Below is a view of Dungeness Harbor and the spit (although difficult to see due to the overcast weather). From this point you can see the historic New Dungeness Lighthouse where tours are offered daily (after a 5-mile hike to get there!)

The remainder of the trail is a steep (short) descent to the spit. We walked for a couple of miles along the spit enjoying the interesting things there are to see along the way. As with all of the coastal areas here, there are many logs that have been swept down rivers and streams to the shoreline. 

Many logs have large rocks wedged in crevices from the pounding surf. And when we first saw this seaweed it looked like a piece of rope! Other colorful seaweed is strewn along the beach.

After a couple of miles we turned around as we didn't want to leave Sadie in the car for too long. Here is a view with the quiet Dungeness Bay on the left and the rough waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the right. There are sandy cliffs where the spit meets the mainland although they are unstable and climbing is not permitted.

On our return trip through the forest we took the Primitive Trail (we saw no one else on it) instead of the wider, gravel trail that we took on the way down to the spit.

The National Wildlife Refuges are always a pleasure to visit. I was a little disappointed that we did not see more wildlife, but it is an interesting place nonetheless. It would have been fun to tour the lighthouse, but an 11-mile round trip hike was not in the cards for the day! For additional information, check out their website. 

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