Sunday, July 3, 2016

Most Northwestern Point in the Lower 48, 6/27/2016

Today we visited the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States, Cape Flattery. Located on the Makah Reservation, it is about 60 miles from Forks, WA (take Highway 101 north to Highway 113 north to Highway 112 following signs to Neah Bay). 

Highway 112 follows the coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with beautiful views along the way. 

When entering the land of the Makah Tribe (the Cape People), you must purchase a $10 annual Recreational Use Permit and display in your vehicle. It can be purchased at multiple locations including the Makah Museum. There is no additional charge to see Cape Flattery. 

Our first stop was at the Makah Cultural and Research Center, the home of the Makah Museum

This museum is really fantastic! Honestly, we were not expecting the amazing exhibits that can be found inside (although no photos are permitted). The cost is $5/adult and well worth it. 

Many of the exhibits display 300-500 year old artifacts from the Ozette Archaeological Site. In addition, several canoes that were used to hunt whales, seals, and other marine life that were central to the culture of the Makah can be seen. A long house, typical of the home of multi-generational families, has been constructed within the museum. The interior is furnished with artifacts that would have been found several hundred years ago. Other items including ceremonial wear (particularly masks) are also on display. Very, very interesting presentation of the information! There is a gift shop with unique items, many made by the Makah people. 

There were 5 primary villages along the coast of the Pacific and the Strait of Juan de Fuca with a combined population of about 3,000 members of the tribe. Today, there are approximately 1,500 who live in the Neah Bay area. Their lands covered about 900,000 acres and today the reservation is just 28,000.

For additional information about the museum and the Makah people, check out this site:

From the museum we drove to the parking lot where the Cape Flattery Trail begins. It is .7 miles each way and has boardwalks, tree trunk slabs, and primitive sections. There are lots of interesting trees along the way and a picnic area about halfway down the trail. 

There are three observation decks on short spur trails along the way to the point providing awesome views of the coast. 

From the observation deck at the end of the trail you can enjoy views of the Northern Pacific, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver, and the Tatoosh Islands (part of the Makah Reservation). Located a half-mile off shore, the island was the summer base for Makah hunting whales and catching/drying salmon for centuries.

The Cape Flattery Light House is a historic structure at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is located on Tatoosh Island. It first became operational in 1857 and was decommissioned in 2009 when a solar-powered light tower was installed in 2008. 

Many birds make Tatoosh Island their home including tufted puffins (bright orange beaks) and black guillemots (bright orange feet). We saw them both swimming and diving from the observation deck. Whales and seals are often observed in the area, although we were not fortunate enough to see any during our visit.

The cape is very gradually receding due to the pounding surf. The 60' cliffs are riddled with caves where the Makah often hunted seals. They are permitted to hunt 5 whales/year per federal law, although there is some dispute as to the inherent rights of the Makah people on tribal lands. 

There is a tribe member that mans the observation deck. He has lots of interesting information to share about the area and the tribe, plus he is great at spotting wildlife! We enjoyed chatting with him. Also, the trail is dog-friendly (big bonus!) and Sadie had fun at the observation deck too. If there's anything like a fence or low wall, she always likes to jump up and check things out.

We hiked back to our car and began the return trip to Forks where we are staying. But, along the way, we stopped one more time to explore a small beach along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

We saw several ships (cruise and commercial) several miles out to sea making their way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Seattle. 

And, this beautiful eagle was circling the area looking for food. When he perched on a tree limb I was able to catch a couple of photos of him. 

When we had visited the Forks Visitor Center, one of the volunteers there had told us about Cape Flattery. Even though it was a distance from our RV park, it was a beautiful drive and a very enjoyable day. Being East Coast folks, we were so glad we got to see this landmark!

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