Ashley Shattuck and I had a great opportunity to share one of our favorite places with others: Skagit Delta Estuary and Craft Island for the WNPS Study Weekend. Included in this article is a plant list, what to expect, and Becky Chaney's trip report. We had a great time! Craft Island, a rocky bald set in the mud flats of Skagit Bay, is on Rawlins Road on Fir Island between La Conner and Conway, in Washington State.
You will need to wear boots for mud and shallow water in order to get to the island. Typical rocky bald wildflowers grow on the island—Camas, Fritillaria, and others. In order to visit Craft Island, you will have to visit during low tide. On the way through the flats, stop and look at the estuarine vegetation on the way. After your hike, stop at the Snowgoose Produce, famous for handcrafted waffle cones filled with giant scoops of ice cream (bring cash!).
Plant Hike Info:
- Duration: 4-5 hours
- Length: 3 miles
- Elevation gain: 80 feet
- Difficulty: Some steep areas; walking poles recommended for uneven terrain
- Other: Wear waterproof boots (not duck boots), preferably rubber boots that come up and over your calf. There are outhouses and sinks at Snowgoose Produce but no other bathroom facilities or water
Plant Species List
Ashley and I have put together a species list, published at the Washington Native Plant Society's website:
Study Weekend May 19, 2019, Field Trip Report – by Becky Chaney
Atop the levee the goal for the hike, Craft Island, beckons. After a round-robin of introductions, Sarah Verlinde and Ashley Shattuck, our leaders, invite us to interpret the acres of outstretched land: flat, dry and already geometrically plowed to the east, sweeping ribbons of verdant vegetation to the west, all edged by Skagit Bay or distant mountains.
We descend to the flats and smell the hint of ammonia from the anaerobic clades that support the saline tolerant vegetation of the estuary. Tangles of robust giant vetch (Vicia nigricans var. gigantea) divert our attention from explanations on the difference between Baltic and soft rush (Juncus balticus ssp. ater, J. effuses). Salt crystals on the leaves of orache (Atriplex patula) are intriguing until we find acres of sweet grass (Schoenoplectus pungens) shimmering between water and sky.
Bay waters spill over our boot tops crossing to the island, but warm sunny rocks quickly dry the soggy socks while we eat lunch. Climbing the 80’ bald we find the camus (Cammasia) is drying but that the sticky gumweed (Grindelia) is brightening our path to the views at the top. We follow the trail down the north slope and are delighted by a lush carpet of licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) intermixed with snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) under a closed canopy of ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor). A humming bird makes a brief appearance, enticed by the twined with blooming honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). The cool shade of this natural arbor is welcome after the sunny bald.
Back on the flats, the shifting, flooded trail loops back leading not only to our cars but to ice cream at the Snow Goose, topping off a truly lovely day.
-Written by Becky Chaney, including photographs, WNPS Conservation Chair and CPS member