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Paddling

Seven rivers and many creeks drain into Willapa Bay. Exploring these meandering and mostly tidal streams is great fun and the opportunities for viewing wildlife are numerous. Paddling on the Bay shore, you are likely to see seals, sea lions, and a variety of birds. We sometimes find juvenile gray whales summering over in the Bay; Orcas and Great White Sharks are rare. While you won’t find any dolphins, lucky paddlers may sight a Harbor Porpoise.

Enjoy viewing the thousands of acres of oyster beds, but look and don’t touch. Beware the sharp shells, which can gouge boat hulls and slice bare feet, and note that the beds are mostly private and unavailable for public harvest. There are a number of quality seafood markets and eateries locally which will gladly serve you.

Many rare plant species can be found in the region, notably in Leadbetter Point State Park and on pristine Long Island. Throughout the trail, please use only established campsites and avoid crushing plants with your boats or shoes. ‘Leave No Mark.’

Boating on Willapa Bay can be a most enjoyable experience or, as too many paddlers have discovered, a frightening nightmare. Follow the following safety tips when boating in Willapa Bay:

[1] Wear your lifejacket.

[2] Be aware of the tides. Most of Willapa Bay is a mud flat, and becoming stuck could leave you stranded–a serious hazard. Always carry a tidebook and plan your trip accordingly.

[3] Dress for cold water, regardless of the weather forecast. Regardless of the weather or time of year, the waters of Washington State can remain in the 50s year-round.

[4] File a float plan. Include specific information on your routes and destination and be sure to tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you will return.

[5] Take a boating education course. Learn rescue and survival equipment and techniques.

[6] Use NOAA chart #18504 for Willapa Bay.

[7] Contact State Parks for a free Washington Boater’s Guide and download a current copy of the Willapa Bay Water Trail map [pdf].

Access Points:

  • Port of Peninsula (Nahcotta Marina): Boat launching, toilets, campsite.
  • Moorehead County Park: Local businesses collaborate to provide boat launching (at high tide), primitive campsites, and information. Ask for Washington Water Trails Association volunteers Larry Warnberg or Andy Wiegardt.
  • Leadbetter Point: Many hiking trails, good shoreline boating at high tide, toilets, no camping, beach access for boat launching (100-yard carry). Bay Center is 5 miles due east across Willapa Bay. Crossing should be done only with planning and care.
  • Ocean Park Access: Restrooms, restaurants, gas, shopping and other facilities. Automobile access to beach (which is a State Highway; see our information sheet for more info).
  • Klipsan Beach Access: Automobile access to beach.
  • Loomis Lake State Park Access: Restrooms, picnic areas, hiking trails, fishing.
  • Cranberry Road Access: Automobile access to beach.
  • Bolstad Beach Access: Restrooms, restaurants, shopping, lodging, and other facilities. Boardwalk and Discovery Trail through the dunes. Automobile access to beach except Memorial Day through September 15.
  • Sid Snyder Beach Access: Restrooms, restaurants, shopping, lodging, and other facilities. Boardwalk and Discovery Trail through the dunes. Automobile access to beach except Memorial Day through September 15.
  • Seaview Beach Access: Restrooms, restaurants, shopping, lodging, and other facilities. Automobile access to beach (southward only between Memorial Day through September 15).
  • Cape Disappointment State Park: Restrooms, picnic, RV and tent camping, many hiking trails, boat launch.
  • Port of Ilwaco (Ilwaco Marina): Restrooms, showers, pavilion, RV and tent camping near by, boat launch, restaurants, gas, shopping, lodging, and other facilities.
  • Port of Chinook: Restrooms, RV and tent camping, boat launch, restaurants, gas, shopping and other facilities.
  • Chinook County Park: Restrooms, picnic areas. Day use only.
  • Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters: Restrooms, boat ramp, maps, access to the Naselle River and to the south end of Willapa Bay. Primitive campsites on Long Island.
  • Naselle Ramp: boat launch
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