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Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve

Puget Sound and Islands

Location

Puget Sound and Islands -- Bellingham Area
View map below

Length

4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Rating

4.00 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

With 54 acres of mature forest, forested wetlands, and more than two miles of rocky marine shoreline, this is an excellent stop for families, beach explorers, birders and hikers.

A three-quarter-mile walk through the coastal forest leads to feeder bluffs that continually deposit sediment onto the rocky beach below them. Signs along the trail to the beach provide information on the forest and the history of the area.

In the spring and summer, several species of warblers can be spotted foraging for insects or berries along the trail to the beach including yellow, Wilson’s, orange-crowned and Townsend’s warblers. Check the shrubs and conifers near open areas for flycatchers on the hunt for flying insects.

Bluff areas and the coastal forests above provide excellent habitat for bald eagle and Cooper’s, sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks. Native mammals are also regularly spotted there.

The more than 2 miles of rocky beach are a great place to see tidepools and small marine life. You might see harlequin duck, bufflehead, snow goose and brant near and along the extensive shoreline.

Just offshore you’ll likely see a range of birds exploring the kelp forests alongside harbor porpoises and harbor seals. From fall through spring you could see red-throated, common and Pacific loons, Brandt’s, pelagic and double-breasted cormorants, Bonaparte’s, California and glaucous-winged gulls, and western, red-necked and horned grebes.

Because the area is a sanctuary for seals, birds and other creatures, please give wildlife a wide berth.

The scenery is a mix of the industrial (dock for BP Cherry Point Refinery) and great views of the northern San Juan Islands.

History of the Reserve

Because the property was once zoned for high industrial use, it was quite a feat for Whatcom Land Trust to establish the conservation easement that protects the Reserve. Funds from fines and grants related to the 1999 Olympic pipeline explosion in Bellingham were used to buy nearby property from BC Hydro that was then swapped in trade with Trillium Corporation for this site to form the Reserve, now managed by Whatcom County Parks.

Education has also been intertwined with management through information displays, signage and community events. Each June, the Trust partners with the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee and others to present the family-friendly, “What’s the Point?” event that includes low-tide beach and walking tours with local naturalists.

 

Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.8872, -122.7795 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Puget Sound and Islands -- Bellingham Area

Whatcom Land Trust

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Getting There

Take the Grandview Road exit 266 (WA-548) off of I-5 and drive west for 8.5 miles. Follow the road as it curves left and becomes Koehn Road, then continue half a mile to the parking area just off of Koehn Road, to the left (east).

Bathrooms are available at the parking lot. The trail through the forest is wheelchair-accessible, but access to the beach requires a walk down a steep set of stairs.

Because the area abuts the important Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve, there are stricter rules for visitors: no beach fires, camping, pets or bicycles. Collecting is not allowed, except berries and fruits can be harvested for personal use. Sport fishing and shellfishing are allowed with a state license.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve

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