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Review

The Argyle Lagoon is a nature preserve and a dedicated scientific research area located on the opposite side of the sand spit that forms popular Jackson’s Beach Park. Despite its proximity to lots of recreational activity the preserve maintains the delicate ecology of an unusual tidal lagoon whose rarities are the minute plants and animals of the mudflats rather than the large and more obvious birds that you see congregating here.

While most of the lagoon, its mud banks, grass and rush borders, and channel are closed to public entry; there is a short trail that gives visitors the opportunity to walk along one margin of the lagoon. Sandy and littered with driftwood and shells the trail begins next to the public boat launch. This narrow secondary spit separates the lagoon from the small cove on the boat launch side. Quietly and slowly walking down this spit, you’ll have plenty of chances to see a wide variety of birds using this site. Long accustomed to human presence and lack of interference, you may be surprised at how close you will get to them before they take flight. Depending on the tides and resulting depth of water in the lagoon, the bird clientele changes dramatically. Large wading birds may share the spit with you during higher tides, yet when low tide reveals extensive mud flats; look for the battalions of smaller birds marching about. Depending on their species, body size, length and shape of bill, and digestive capability; they’ll seek out specific delicacies at different depths in the mud. While only the researchers of the Friday Harbor Labs are allowed to enter the lagoon area beyond this trail; you can see various markers and collectors strewn about indicating the active research being performed here.

Near the end of the trail is a small channel which coincidentally has an even smaller freshwater stream entering nearby. This channel is somewhat confusingly named Argyle Creek. Not actually a true creek, it is the point where tidal waters enter and exit the lagoon. Occasionally during these tidal transitions fish may be seen moving in or out of the lagoon. Despite its seeming vulnerability to the environment of the larger bay and the active presence of so much recreation, the lagoon maintains an unexpected tranquility which allows a wide range of wildlife to flourish.

The topography of this area has not always looked the way it does today. The high bluffs above and to the east of the lagoon, near where you entered the park, were formed of sand and gravel left by the receding glaciers of the last ice age. These have been the "feeder" bluffs that released sand as they eroded, providing the material that naturally formed the spit we call Jackson’s Beach. These extensive deposits have been mined over the years and the material shipped as far away as British Columbia. In the normal life of a sand spit, the open channel connecting the lagoon to the bay would jump about depending on storms, seasons, and changing currents. While this may be natural it doesn’t work well with public facilities so the spit has now been stabilized and a permanent paved road maintained down its length. Additionally the end of the spit at one time was actually an island. The tidal waters were once free to swirl about it exposing much more of the lagoon to the bay water. Now with road, spit and island connection all stabilized the lagoon has become a much more permanent feature, as have the park faculties.

Remember when visiting the lagoon to help protect its natural state. Pets must not be allowed to enter the lagoon area and care should be taken not to leave any food scraps or litter. With the noisy fun filled beach park only feet away, why not enjoy sharing a few moments of peace and quiet with nature.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009

Directions

Follow the scenic loop for Jackson’s Beach (see article this website) or: from Friday Harbor ferry landing, follow Spring Street a short distance to Argyle Ave. Turn left on Argyle and drive ¾ mile before making another left turn onto Pear Point Road. Follow this road about a half mile to the Jackson’s Beach Park entrance on your right.

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