Bowman Bay is one of several great locations within Deception Pass State Park where a person, couple, family or group could easily spend an entire day. Others include Cornet Bay, West Beach and Pass Lake.
According to the Deception Pass Park Foundation site, “Before receiving its modern name, Bowman Bay was known as “Reservation Bay” due to the period in which it was a military reservation. In the early 1900s, Bowman Bay was one of several modern-day park areas set aside for military use. The area was eventually renamed in honor of Amos Bowman, who was one of the first white settlers on Fidalgo Island. Nearby Anacortes is amalgamation of “Anna Curtis,” Bowman’s wife. At the turn of the century, Bowman had a wooden dock built at the bay in hopes that it would become a major port, but Bowman’s dream was never realized.”
Bowman Bay is centrally located between several super scenic hiking trails indicated by the dashed dark green lines on this excerpt from the Official Park Map,
and Bowman Bay/Rosario Beach.
Here’s a view from the start of the Bowman Bay/Rosario Beach Trail looking back at the bay.
More serious hikers and trail runners can complete all three, plus the hike towards Pass Lake, which contains an additional trail, for a grand total distance of five miles. My trail running friends and I typically run along the Bowman Bay/Rosario Beach Trail to and around Rosario Head, then back through the Bowman Bay parking lot, complete Lottie Point Loop (the most difficult because of the climb) followed by Lighthouse Point Loop, head up towards Pass Lake, then back down and return to Bowman Bay parking lot.
The dock at Cornet Bay is a more popular place from which persons go crabbing and fishing, but the one at Bowman Bay makes for a nice, safe walk with handrails along the entire length of the main dock (a smaller dock near the end rises and falls with the tide as does the main dock at Cornet Bay). The dock provides scenic views in every direction.
Birds like to hang out there too, like this pair of barn swallows that were waiting for a parent to return with food, a gull, an eagle (I appreciate its expression of annoyance), a white crowned sparrow and a crow.
Italso boasts the usual picnic tables, barbecue grills, rest room and a playground, the only one in the park…such as it is, as well as a gigantic field perfect for playing soccer, frisbee, turning cartwheels or whatever.
Bowman Bay is a great place from which to kayak. In fact, it is the start and finish point for the annual Deception Pass Dash, according to their site, “An exciting 6-mile paddle through the swirling current of Deception Pass near Oak Harbor, Washington for human-powered vessels; kayaks, canoes and SUPs.”
There is a second lot within the Bowman Bay open only during camping season which provides closer access to the Bowman Bay/Rosario Beach trail head and the CCCIC as well as additional grassy areas, picnic tables, barbecue grills and a statue. According to the Washington State Parks web site, “The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is located in the Bowman Bay area of the park. The center was originally a bathhouse built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. In 1987, the building was renovated into a museum by CCC alumni and Washington State Parks staff. The center’s exhibits tell the incredible story of the CCC’s work across the State of Washington during the Great Depression. The center is free-of-charge and is open from 10 am-6 pm mid-May through Labor Day. Group tours and off-season visits can be arranged by calling 360-675-3767.”
It’s also the place from which to get the best view ever of the bay.
Remember to arrive early (especially during holidays and weekends), prepay for your Discover Pass to avoid the hassle and plan to have a blast.