West side of San Juan Is ¼ mile south of Limekiln State Park
Friday Harbor , WA 98250


Every day Dawn - Dusk


Deadman Bay provides visitors a chance to comfortably reach the shore of this often steep, cliffy and rock lined section of coast on the west side of San Juan Island. Dropping down to the bay, low tide reveals a pebbly beach with swirls of tidepools. Layers of vegetation and rock hugging sea creatures reveal their preferences for different depths and elevations. On land, forest birds and those species specializing in the shrub borders enjoy the chance to dart onto the beach and then back to the safety of their preferred habitat. Ravens and seagulls will occasionally patrol the beach, inspecting what the last tide has served up. At the base of the cliffs at the south end of the bay a shallow sea cave appears during low tide. Be careful if you decide to explore below the cliffs. Slippery surfaces underfoot are combined with possible rock fall from above.

Ending in the trees and shrubs just above the beach is a small perennial stream that provides a narrow habitat for plants and small animals that can exist nowhere else on this exposed and typically dry slope. Threatened by invasive plant species, local conservationist hope to preserve the native aspects of this microhabitat. The stream is the outfall from the West Side Lake (see Wetlands Loop Trail this website). In the quiet you can often hear rather than see it as it trickles down in its dark damp ravine. The stream appears to vanish before reaching the sea, but under the open gravelly beach the fresh water continues to flow, forming underwater freshwater springs that are sometimes visible at some of the lower tides. Minute specially adapted creatures find these brackish habitats to be ideal though their worlds may be so small that they can be measured in inches.

The serenity of Deadman Bay conflicts with its ominous name. This pretty cove was once the site of a peaceful and productive seasonal village for native reef-netters. Placing their nets and anchored canoes just offshore they harvested the returning salmon with each tidal flood. As you enjoy the protection of the cove and warm sunlight try to picture the comfortably crowded village of cedar plank houses and racks of drying salmon, with fishing canoes lining the beach.

Small and quiet the beach is seldom crowded. Infrequently, land based SCUBA divers may walk down with their gear to enter the bay to explore the nearby offshore reef and coastal paddlers may pull in for a brief rest but most who visit this little cove are here for the nature and the peaceful setting. While the seaward views are not as expansive as they are at the nearby extremely popular State Park, locals know that this warm sunny location can be ideal for relaxing and patiently waiting in comfort for the pods of orcas and other marine mammals to come cruising by. Beyond Deadman Bay you have two hiking options. Take the short fairly level Deadman Bay Trail to the State Park or at the road hairpin above the bay, cross the street and traffic very carefully and hike the Upland Trail on a circuitous route back up to Limekiln State Park.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009


Deadman Bay is the first beach and cove south of Limekiln State Park. You can hike to the bay from either the Deadman Bay Trail (see article this website) which begins in Limekiln State Park or from the short trail down from the West Side Road parking pullout. This very small pullout is located near the road hairpin ¼ mile south of the Park entrance; be extremely careful pulling in or out at this location.


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