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Burrows Island in Washington

by coif

Trip Overview

I was out in Washington this year with my family on vacation this summer. We have a lot of friends there and about 45 of us were planning to get together for a party in Leavenworth. One of my friends Don is an avid kayaker. He lives in Everett and has two Pygmys that he built. He and I had planned on this trip for months, but Don and I have never paddled together, so before the party started we got together one night so he could check me out. We did a nice 1 1/2 hour paddle off the launch in Everett. This is a shipping channel, so we scooted across, but did see some large chip barges coming through.

The going was pretty easy, but as we began to approach the mouth of the Snohomish River things got a little rougher. We decided to go out to one of the islands and watch the sun set. The going her was much rougher and we had 1 1/2 foot surf to land in. The tide was coming in quickly, so we had to move the boats a couple of times in the 30 minutes we were on the island. The sunset was spectacular and it was a very nice paddle back to the ramp in the dusk. I guess I had passed my kayaking tryouts, so we were up for a bigger trip after the party.

The following weekend I drove to Don's for a trip around Burrows and Allen Islands in Anacortes. We had talked about going out to Orcas Island to kayak with the ORcas, but it wa just too much to put togther for the one day I had available for the trip. We headed up to Anacortes and decided to check out Washington Park as a possible launch. There was a good beach there with a lot of kayaks launching, but we decided to check out the southern side of Fidalgo Head, since the islands were to the south. There was a large parking lot there and condos along the water, but there was an entrance to the rocky beach and we decided we'd launch from here.

Burrows was just off the coast and although there was a channel between Burrows and Fidalgo Head with a very strong current, but we knew we could skirt around its influence. There was a bit of a breeze, but the water was fairly calm and we were very quickly approaching the island. The banks are very steep and rocky, with virtually no landing beaches. We paddled into the island into the kelp beds. This was my first time seeing just how large and touh kelp is. We saw one seal in the distance, but nothing else. We kept on aropund the island and began to approach the strait between Burrows and Allen.

We got to the northern end of Allen and paused deciding if we would continue to go around Allen. One of our thougs was that we could see a fog bank in the distance. It hadn't moved too much, but we would definitely be heading for it. While we were discussing we realized that we were being pulled backwards into the strait at a pretty impressive rate, showing us just how strong the current was.

We picked up our pace and headed back toward Allen Island. We had just started down the coast when the fog came in. Before we knew it we were completely enveloped and could hardly see each other. We cruised closer to the island and could barely make out the points coming down to the water. The going was a little tougher since when we moved closer to the island we had to travel over the kelp beds. We kept going thinking we had reached the southenmost point only to find yet another point appear out of the fog. The water was getting rougher, so we felt we were finally approaching the souther tip of the island.

One tight , rough passage between some rocks and the shore and we were defintiely heading north again. We could hear the fog horn from the station on Burrows, but could also hear the ferrys sounding as well. As we headed north the fog burned back from the coast, so by the time we were back at the strait between the two islands the coast at least we clear. We knew there was a small beach where you could land on the southwest side of the island. We could hear it and soon we could see the samll beach. This had also been the supply site for the horn, before it was automated. We landed and scrambled up the old steps to the field above. There was an old abandoned lightkeepers place, but the house was in bad shape and the yard all overgrown.

We made a little place in one of the fields and had our lunch. Although we could see the fog hovering about a quarter mille off the island, the weather on the island itelf was glorious - hot and bright sun. I took a little hike around and got to the southern tip and could look across the strait to Allen. We were making good time, so when we got back underway we decided to go around Fidalgo Head and land at Washigton Park. Don would then hike back to the car, It was an easy trip around the point and an easy landing at the park. There were still plenty of kayakers there taking off for some of the otehr San Juan Islands.

I packed up and pretty soon Don was back with the car and we were on our way. A good first introduction for me to the San Juans. Next time I'll try something a bit more challenging.


Washington Park is open year-round with 49 sites with water and electric hookups, 26 without, restrooms, boat launch, float, picnic facilities, playground. The park offers summer sunsets from the main beach or many viewpoints looking over the San Juans, accessible through a network of trails covering the forested headland. The three-mile scenic loop road which surrounds the camping area is popular with walkers. For reservations call (360) 293-1927.


Follow Rt. 20 off of I5 to Anacortes. Rt. 20 dead-ends at Washington park.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip