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

1/17/17

Searching for the Metal Door and WW2 Bunkers in a Cliff on the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Paddling friends over the years have mentioned a weird metal door in a cliff near Crescent Beach and Salt Creek Rec Area on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The door was said to be on Agate Point, on the west side of Crescent Bay.

In the same area, several pillboxes and gun batteries were built in WW2 to fend off any incoming enemy fleets. Salt Creek Rec area has a drive-through emplacement from a 16' cannon on the cliff above Crescent Beach. I head read recently that several pillboxes and possibly larger emplacements were built extending from Port Angeles to Cape Flattery. Online research of 1940's era Army documents states that an emplacement was built on Agate Point. Google Earth aerial images didn't indicate obvious sign of the bunker so, with a window in my schedule and low surf, I decided to go look for it and the weird metal door.

I rarely allow myself time to search for these things as the launch areas are part of a surfing beach, so usually I end up surfing when I see good waves versus paddling beyond the surf to go explore. On flat water days, I tend to go east of Salt Creek leading sup tours from the east side of the bay past Salt Creek towards Freshwater Bay (or from Freshwater wast towards Salt Creek).

Launching from the Salt Creek RV Park through 4' close-out surf, I paddled beyond the impact zone into the middle of the bay headed towards Agate Point. The middle of the bay was interesting with heightened waves coming in, probably due to a reef below. A 15kt east wind helped my progress towards the point. On the north side of the point, there was a curious hole in the 50' cliff about 1/3rd of the way up above what appeared to be the high tide line. I thought it was the door as it was pretty deep and not very natural shaped. The swell was about 5'-7' and pushing hard up against the waist high rocks below the cliff. No a good place to land, would be better to explore on a flat day.

I continued around the point knowing (from aerial photos) that there was 2 pocket beaches to explore. Several bald eagles soared above and two landed on a cliff above me. An otter slipped into the water from a mussel covered rock reminding me of the native Salish saying 'when the tide is out, the table is set.' Despite being a lower tide, the swell was breaking inside on big rocks near the beaches so again I continued along as landing would cost me a lot of ding repairs. I spotted a cool channel with surge firing through that would be fun to shoot through but there was so much clapotis (reverb waves) and being solo, I passed that one by.

On the south side of the point, there's a nice arch and interesting rocks leading up to the cliffs above. Wind sculpted trees reminded me of the Oregon Coast. An aerial image showed a flat cleared area on the top of the cliff that facing west that could've been a bunker site, but nothing human made could be seen. I was looking for clear areas, maybe a drainage pipe from the cliff or if lucky, a section of overgrown concrete sticking out. Not knowing if it's legal to land plus, heavy surf on the rocks below and a steep cliff with little access up kept me from climbing up.

Weird door in rock, sea cave to the right around the rock
By this time I had view of the bay on the west side of the point which has a crescent shaped steep sandy beach with a weird looking house beyond. Knowing the house was part of the private area, I stayed offshore.  Just to west is a 400' (?) rock cliff jutting straight up to a line of trees. Curious about being below the cliff and looking up, I paddled over. About 200 yards from the beach yet on the cliff, I noticed a hole. Paddling closer, I realized this was the weird hole in the cliff. The door was gone but the hole was rectangular shaped with a rusted metal frame and a dribble of water coming out. Again, the seas were crashing on large rocks below the door, so landing today wasn't an option. I really wanted to look inside.  Perplexed why there was a perfectly shaped rock hole in a 400' cliff face, I poked around and found a sea cave about 25' west. I assumed the door and cave were linked but why would there be a door there? Pretty odd. I sat floating offshore trying to figure it out but the east wind was building, so I reluctantly turned around to head back. I wondered if the hole was related Port Crescent, the former logging site in the area.

Google Earth view. Door at
far left white arrow. 
After rounding Agate Point and heading back to Crescent Bay, I found myself paddling against the east wind and chose to sit down and paddle kayak and canoe style back to my launch. While still sitting, I spotted a few nice swells and rode one in sticking my hand in the wave face to slow the 14' board down for an easy landing.

Tips for Launching on Crescent Bay - 
A family owns the beach from the west side of Salt Creek to the Crescent Beach RV Park, to the west side of Agate Point. Much of this trip was private property, so even if it was calm, I'd be reluctant to land and explore further. Note that the family is very serious about trespassing and will try to prosecute you if you resist. I've seen it before with surfers and once chatted to a local Sheriff officer who responded a call regarding trespassing. A decade ago, a friend and I landed on their beach in heavy seas and high wind for our own safety. A woman came out and yelled at us and followed us, taking our license plates #'s (in the public lot) down threatening us with criminal trespassing. In summer a man will watch kids in Salt Creek (huh?) and direct them to the country park side of the creek. One advantage to the family owning the bay is that it's keeping it from being developed.

While most in the State own land above the high tide line, these folks bought the old logging town rights (Port Crescent) and own beach rights, even under the water to the middle of the bay. If you see some one with a walki-talki, best to get back in the water and leave quickly.

That said, at the Crescent Beach RV Park, you can pay them $9 (check or cc over $10) and use the beach for the day (or camp overnight for more). Many friends do park there to access the bay and campsite's showers and a laundry.  I usually park in the free Salt Creek Rec Area lot down the road (where Salt Creek comes out). On this trip I paid and launched at the RV park to save myself a half mile of paddling to the point (due to my schedule).

Know how to Surf?
The beach can be flat or have 15' close-out waves breaking. The Strait is interesting that way. You can use surf forecast sites to check for ocean swell before launching. If you see a 5' or more W or NW swell coming in, think about a heavy surf launch vs a calm lake like start. In the surf, you can time your launch waiting for a lull in the breakers then darting out (and back).  I did noticed that the beach by the sea stack and county park was breaking less steep than the RV Park beach.  If you're paddling a large kayak or sup respect the surfers by staying clear of them by about 3 boat lengths.  Or take my sup or kayak surfing classes to learn how to surf and launch through surf for trips.

Paddling around Agate Point was interesting with large swell coming in (always look out towards sea) blowing up on the rocks inside. I love that but if you're not experienced in big water, wait for a flat day.  Given the trespassing issues and remote area, I'd want to avoid a paddling incident here.

Camping: at the RV Park and Salt Creek Rec Area.

Getting ready to go at Crescent RV Park
Equipment Used: 14' Imagine Surf Connector SUP, Gath helmet, MTI Cascade PFD, 5.5/4mm RipCurl wetsuit, NRS Desperado Shoe booties with NRS Expedition Socks (due to 30F temps), ProBolt Accent Paddle, SuperFlex rubber SurfCo. fin, VHF and Glacier Gloves. Note: I attach my leash to my PFD to avoid getting stuck in heavy kelp beds.

UPDATE - 1/20/17
Research points to the hole as being a manganese mine, popular in the area during the late 19th century. And there is a bunker above the hole on the 400' cliff accessible via the DNR road nearby. 

Helpful Links:
Aerial Photo Sites for Trip Planning
How to Forecast Surf
NOAA Marine Forecast


Any questions give me a holler: salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167
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