Deception Pass

Deception Pass

        Imagine standing on a bridge 180 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The turquoise water below is ripping through a narrow channel between islands, creating deadly whirlpools and eddies. You are surrounded by a rugged, rocky coastline that drops steeply into the salty body of water. Evergreen conifers and madronas create a dense and lush forest scape, giving off almost a false sense of serenity to this powerful scene. This is the coastline you would be witness to from the Deception Pass Bridge. It is one of the most iconic views in Washington State and it is an absolute “must see” for visitors and local Washingtonians alike!

Physical Features

      The base of the Deception Pass geology is formed by ophiolite, a type of rock formed by submarine volcanic activity, exposing portions of the lower crust and upper mantle to the surface of the earth. These igneous rocks were further shaped by glacial movement, which carved deep gashes into the cliffs through the movement of boulders and other geological materials. The narrow channel formed between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands creates another physical spectacle. Current speeds can reach up to 8 knots (9.2 mph) and the tide rips in and out twice a day. 


      Other natural wonders in the area include the coastal forests, wetlands, and sand dunes. The forests are dominated by evergreens including firs, cedars, hemlocks, and spruces. The most striking of the evergreens though is the Pacific madrona, a broadleaf evergreen, distantly related to the Pacific rhododendron. The smooth, papery, red-orange bark and bright green, waxy leaves of the madrona stand out on this coastline and add to the unique beauty of the area.

      Tide pools can be found all over the area, featuring intertidal critters from crabs to sea stars to eels! Keep your eyes on the water and you’ll surely see the smooth round head of a harbor seal looking for its next meal. Bald eagles can also often be seen soaring high above the cliffs or perched in snags at the tops of fir trees. The natural beauty of this place never disappoints!

Check out the Deception Pass State Park website for more information on visiting soon!

History of Deception Pass

      In 1792, European colonizers sailed into the Salish Sea and surrounding areas. Deception Pass was so named because at first impression, Captain George Vancouver believed the passage was the mouth of a river. His lieutenant, Joseph Whidbey circumnavigated what is now called Whidbey Island, proving that this passage was indeed not a river as Vancouver originally suspected. He named the waterway Deception Pass for how the passage deceived him. 

      In 1922, the land was given over from the US military and dedicated as a Washington State Park. The Roosevelt era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was really what drove this State Park to be what it is today. The CCC built and established two camps, one to the north of the pass at Rosario Beach and one to the south of the pass at Cornet Bay. They also established the hiking trail systems that run throughout the park and they helped build the roads that lead up to the Deception Pass Bridge.

      The Deception Pass Bridge was not in the original framework for Deception Pass State Park, however after several decades of Whidbey Islanders and others fighting, a bill was passed for the bridge that we know today to be built. Construction of the bridge began in 1934 and on July 31st, 1935 the Deception Pass Bridge was dedicated and the first 700 cars were able to pass between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island. The bridge spans nearly 1,500 feet in length and stands 180 feet above the surface of the water. This two-lane bridge even features a sidewalk for those tourists brave enough to walk out into the middle to gain a new perspective of the surrounding area!

Deception Pass Today

       Today, Deception Pass State Park is visited by some 2 million visitors annually! It features several individual and group camping options. There are local kayak and paddle board rentals and fishing in the area if you want to be out on the water. Hiking, beach walks, and tide-pooling are popular activities for those adventure-seekers who want to keep to dry land but still fully experience the wonder of this spectacular place.

       Depending on where the whales are at for the day, many times we are able to stop at deception pass and get treated to a unique, on-the-water look at the bridge and surrounding area! So whether you are a local or visiting from afar, join us for a one-of-a-kind experience in the Salish Sea!