Camano Island State Park on the southwest portion of the island has been popular with local and out-of-town visitors for more than five decades. A second state park will open officially next year. Island County also maintains several parks on the island.
Camano Island State Park was established when the South Camano Grange developed a 93-acre piece of school land into a park as a project in a national grange community service contest. With the help of citizens in nearby Stanwood and $5,000 from the state park board, the project was officially launched on July 27, 1949. More than 900 volunteers organized work groups and cleared trails and roads, built campsites and picnic spots, and cleared and leveled parking areas. The project became a benchmark for public participation in park development.
To this day, Friends of Camano Island Parks, a volunteer group, take an exceptionally active role in park maintenance, fund-raising and land acquisition, and hosts organized hikes and beach walks.
Now expanded to 134 acres, the park has two boat launches and 6,700 feet of Puget Sound beachfront on Saratoga Passage. Across the passage is Camano's big sister island, Whidbey, and visible in the distance are the peaks of the Olympic mountain range. From the park's southerly beach, you can see majestic Mt. Rainier.
There's plenty to do at the park, from picnicking, camping, swimming, fishing and boating, to bird watching, botanizing, beachcombing and hiking. Five miles of marked trails wind through the park. The Al Emerson Nature Trail, named in honor of one of the park's rangers, is a half-mile trail with interpretive brochures and signage.
Awaiting outdoor enthusiasts are 87 high-bluff campsites, each with a fireplace and picnic table, many with spectacular views. Although no hookups are available, water and restrooms with showers are close-by. Group campsites and kayak-canoe marine trail campsites are also available. The park is open year-round and is a first-come, first-served campground with no reservations required.
One of Island County's newest parks, Four Springs Lake Preserve, offers 50 acres of hiking trails through woods and meadows and along marshlands. Pack a lunch—a picnic area awaits your enjoyment.
The creation of Four Springs was initiated in 1998 when Friends of Camano Island Parks started exploring the idea of purchasing the privately owned property. With the help of funds raised by local business and private citizens and funds from the Conservation Futures program, the county purchased the property, house and outbuildings from owners Royce and Rhea Natoli in 2001.
Planned as a day-use park, Four Springs also will be available soon for group activities, such as weddings, seminars and reunions. Buildings at the site are perfect for these special occasions—just imagine holding a business seminar in a setting that includes a small lake, woods and wildlife.
Other day-use Island County facilities, located throughout the island, offer places to hike, have a picnic, launch a boat, or just enjoy the view. The sites include Utsalady Point Vista, Maple Grove Boat Ramp, English Boom Historical Park, Iverson Spit Preserve, Camano Ridge Forest reserve, Camano Center, Cavalero County Park, Dry Lake Road Trailhead, Elger Bay Preserve, Tillicum Beach Park, and Hutchinson County Park.
New Beach Park
Cama Beach State Park is another dream currently in the making and due to officially open in spring 2006. With more than 400 acres and a mile of Puget Sound shoreline, Cama Beach has served as a Native American summer encampment and a logging camp. In 1934, the site became a privately owned salmon-fishing resort. In 1990, Washington State Parks acquired the site through purchases and donations. The property has more than 50 original cedar buildings, including more than two dozen cabins, some of which will be renovated and available for public overnight rental.
The Center for Wooden Boats, headquartered in Seattle, will occupy several of the original buildings, offering boat building programs and boat rentals.
Two new buildings are also planned for Cama Beach: a retreat lodge with 15 double guest rooms and conference space, plus a central dining hall with upstairs space to sleep 40. Extraordinary opportunities as an environmental learning center await the opening of this historical site.
To get to Camano Island: From Interstate 5, take Exit 212 and turn west on State Route 532. Continue west on the highway, passing through Stanwood and cross the Mark Clark Bridge to the island. For free location maps to find Camano parks, stop at the tourist information center, Camano Gateway, located on the main highway, SR 532, soon after you drive onto the island, or at any realty office you see along the way.
For more Camano Island State Park information, visit the Washington State Parks Web site at www.parks.wa.gov or call (360) 387-3031. For Cama Beach State Park information, visit the Washington State Parks Web site or call (360) 387-7542. For additional Four Springs Lake Preserve information, visit www.fourspringshouse.com or call (360) 387-1418.
Mary E. Trimble is a writer who lives in Camano Island, Washington.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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