This blog covers trips from the book and other favorites. Contact Rob in Seattle: rob@robcasey.net or 206-465-7167

1/9/17

Paddling Pillar Point on the Strait of Juan de Fuca

After the Mountaineers commissioned me to revise this book, I chatted with original author Randall Washbourne in Port Angeles.  Like many, the book was my first introduction to where to paddle on Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. I still have my original copy, a bit worn but still in good shape with a few coffee stains.

When I told him that I had permission to add 10 trips, he suggested a few places, Pillar Point west of Port Angeles and Sooke Harbor on Vancouver Island. Sooke got in or the BC section of the book, but Pillar Point was just a tad bit too far west to be considered Puget Sound.  I will on occasion post about other great places to paddle in the region that are not in the book.

Pillar Point, Clallam County
Pillar is on the windy Highway 112 (Scenic Byway) about 45 minutes past Port Angeles (35 miles). Head west on the 101 from 'PA' as locals call it, then in about 10 minutes, take the Highway 112 exit on the right. In a minute, you'll pass over the Elwha River, then in another 2 minutes, you'll see Place Road on the right. This is the best access to the Elwha River mouth. Keep following the 112 enjoying it's forest, pasture and Olympic Mountain views to the town of Joyce. The Joyce General Store is your last gas (and snack) stop until Clallam Bay, fuel up if you're low on supplies. The Blackberry Cafe down the road is also a goo stop for lunch and a blackberry shake. Also a fun stop in, especially if the owner is playing his guitar at the counter. Kids will love their massive supply of candy (though you may not).

Why 112 view of Pillar Point from above Deep Creek
Back on the road, continue down the 112 west of Joyce. The road will curve up into the hills past various clear-cuts then after about 15 minutes drop down to the beach to Twin, a nice spot to launch, crab or go smelt fishing. Also a great beach to poke around on.  The 112 once again turns uphill into the woods, then again drops down in about 10 minutes to Deep Creek, another spot to get out and explore by foot or launch (watch reef if there's waves). There's parking along the road. Past Deep Creek, the 112 heads back up into clear cuts then in about 15 minutes, look for the Pillar Point County Park  sign. Upon my last visit in summer of 2016, there was a fresh clearcut at the sign. Head down the one lane hill to the beach. There's lots of parking, an outhouse and a boat ramp. Also notice the 'Warning Contaminated Shellfish' signs. Check regs for updates for fishing here.

Facing the Strait, the Pysht River empties out into the pleasant shallow bay on your left (west) which can empty at lower tides. Across the bay one mile is a 5 story vertical rock, this is Pillar Point.

View from parking lot across to Pillar Pt
Explore the bay following the river channel up into the river mouth, a meandering Class 1 float into the Pysht River Conservation Area managed by the North Olympic Land Trust. You'll feel light upriver current, stronger with recent rains.  Back into the bay, view intertidal life below your craft as you cross to Pillar Point.  Park your boat/board along the shore to explore the rock and surrounding lands. If you're a long distance paddler, it's 7.4 miles to Slip Point and Clallam Bay along a rugged yet interesting shoreline with pocket beaches, surf below a tall bluff.

A PA local and former logger suggested we park our boats at the point then hike over the hill to a meadow which may have a large population of elk. You might do some research to see if this legal from a trespassing point of view.  I believe the land is DNR or may below to the Pysht River Tree Farm (accessible via the 112 past the park's entry).

On a huge winter surf day about a decade ago when all other spots were blown out or going off bigger than what I prefer to surf, there were waist high waves coming in from the Point leading to the parking lot. These would've been long easy rides but we moved on to another spot down the road for a bit more size. The park is also a good place to take a break when coming back from or going to Neah Bay.

Get directions and more info on the park at the Clallam Bay park site.

Going to Neah Bay?  You have two options, Highway 101 then the 113, or Highway 112 then the 113. We prefer the 112 for less traffic and it goes along the Strait providing paddling and surf options the entire route. The 101 has Lake Crescent which is worth the view but can be slow with summer tourist traffic.  Check with WSDOT prior to departure for any travel alerts. These roads do go out on occasion, especially the 113.

Google Earth view of the bay (parking lot lower right)
















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