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Taholah in Washington

Trip Overview

I should first say something about the "difficulty rating" of this day paddle. On the day of this particular paddle, the conditions were mild. However, since this is the ocean, on a coast known for its often lively weather, the conditions can be anything from mild to crazy and extremely dangerous. Furthermore, ratings like "easy", "moderate", etc. are also dependent upon a paddler's level of skill and comfort in ocean conditions (wind, swell, surf, and currents). I've been living here and paddling these waters for ten years, so my idea of "easy" might not seem so easy for someone else. Always have great respect for the sea, and know your limitations.

So then, here's my "day trip" report, on an unusually mild day for this time of year:

White skies, a friendly sea, and me...

Marine forecast:
The swell was here, but the winds were milder than expected...

I was looking forward to a long, leisurely paddle from the mouth of the Quinault River to my house, about 20 miles down the coast...and this is just what I got. An absolutely lovely day on the water.

My neighbor came by to ride with me and my boat (in my car) up to Taholah, where he dropped me off, and drove my car back to my house. Taholah is a very small town (almost as small as my little town), and it sits on the coast where the lovely lower Quinault River meets the sea. This is the Tribal center for the Quinault Indian Nation. Since I'm a non-native, I'm not allowed to paddle the length of this beautiful river without a native "guide", but they do allow me to launch into the river at long as I'm heading out to sea.

Even just this little stretch of river is a joy to behold, as I spend a bit of time paddling around, peeking at the beautiful upriver scenery, with eagles flying overhead, or perched in their longtime favorite trees. Some are fishing the river as well. A couple of native fishermen, tending to their nets, are the only other people I see on the river.

As I paddle out the river mouth, and splash my way through the surf, I know that right now, right here, is where I was meant to be. Breathing in the fresh sea air, letting the waves cleanse my boat, body, and soul as they greet me head-on with just a hint of their potential power. Here I am again, the happy sea creature I continue to become, smiling from ear to ear as I dance with the sea of my dreams.

For a paddle like this, on familiar waters, my goal is only to follow inspiration, and eventually, end up at home. Today, I felt like first paddling straight out from shore, to see what I could see, and be where I would be. About a mile and a half offshore, I turn myself around to look back towards land. From this distance, I can see beyond the bluffs and into the peaks of the rugged glacier and snow covered Olympic mountain range. Though the overcast is beginning to come in today, I can still see the peaks of Mt. Olympus and Mt. Anderson. The glaciers of Mt. Anderson are where the Quinault River is born, flowing into Lake Quinault, then down the lower Quinault river to the sea. I pause to observe a moment of thanks to beautiful Mt. Anderson!

The wind is beginning to pick up just a bit, so little wind waves are splashing around me, and the gentle swell is rising and falling beneath. Finally, after lingering for a few more minutes in wordless contemplation, I begin my southward journey for the day.

Already, the wary yet curious seals are gathering around, poking their heads up to see this apparently purposeful bit of driftwood with the colorful half-creature sticking out of it, swinging a skinny stick around. I see a lot of river otters when I paddle the coastal rivers and nearby lakes, but it's a bit more rare when I get to see their cousin sea otter in the open water. It was my lucky day today, so two sea otters dropped by to say hello. They're just way too cute! :-)

A little further down the coast, I head towards shore to explore the arch and other offshore rocks off Point Grenville. At this point, it was almost high water, so I was able to ride the swell through the arch, which is always fun. Just around Point Grenville to the south is Grenville Bay. Protected by the point, the surf can be pretty mild in the bay, but this lovely little spot holds its own secrets for those patient and lucky enough to find here, at times, the perfect wave. The conditions weren't very big today, considering the mild weather, modest swell, and the moment of the tide cycle, but there were still some clean little waves that looked like fun, so in I went.

Mind you, this is an 18 foot sea kayak I was paddling, so while catching even a mild ride is fun, it's a different kind of experience than one would have in a surf boat, on a waveski, or on a board. Still though, I have my fun. Here I was, playing in the surf, having the bay all to myself. Does it get any better than this? After playing in the surf for a while, I head back out to sea, and continue the journey through water, time, and spirit. Though sometimes I'll go further out, and sometimes I'll hug the shore, today felt like a one mile offshore kind of day. Far enough to see over and beyond the bluffs, yet close enough to enjoy the beauty of the bluffs as well.

Did I mention that today was a lucky day? Well then, you shouldn't be surprised to know that I was soon to encounter a few of my favorite paddling companions...the local couch potato Gray Whales! I call them "couch potatoes" because this group of whales doesn't usually bother to swim between Baja and Alaska every year. They seem content to just hang around here year 'round, and that's just fine with me. For the next hour or so, as I paddle slowly along, I'm surrounded by my spyhopping, gracefully swimming old friends. I so love it when they will come right alongside and roll over just enough to pop one eye out of the water in my direction, and I got to see lots of this eyeballing action today! I've been paddling with this same group of whales for ten years now, and it is never, ever, any less of a thrill for me...every time. I'm just so grateful for the opportunity to experience these magnificent creatures in such an up close and personal way. After a while, the whales have had enough of me, and they swim off to somewhere else. I offer a silent "thanks for the visit!" as they swim away, and resume my paddle home.

Some time ago, someone carved out a few small caves in the face of the soft, ever eroding bluffs just north of Iron Springs, with steps carved into the bluffs to reach them. I often like to climb up into these caves to sit and look out over the sea. Since I was getting pretty close to home, and I still had plenty of sunlight left, I decided to land, stretch my legs, and sit in a cave for a bit. In the subject line of this post, I mentioned "White skies", but that doesn't really do it justice. Indeed, the sky was white, but the shades and shapes of white, with the sun offering just the right amount of back lighting, created an ever changing, very dramatic skyscape. Sitting in my cave, just 40 feet or so above sea level, the view of beach, sea, and sky that stretched out before me was mesmerizing. Even if I had remembered to bring my camera, I doubt that I'd try to capture it, as it was just too big and amazing to fit into a little photograph. As usual, I just let my eyes drink it all in, and remind my heart to never forget.

Legs stretched, eyes and heart full to overflowing, I climb back into my boat for the last few miles of today's fine paddle. The sun is falling lower in the sky, and as I paddle this last little stretch, I'm feeling like I just want to keep going, and going, and going. Oh well, tomorrow's another day, and I'll just have to see what happens then.

PS: It RAINS all the time here! You'll be MISERABLE!


About 30 miles down the coast from Taholah is Ocean Shores. In Ocean Shores there are several large hotels, some B&Bs, and the Quinault Indian resort and casino. There's also a State Park near Ocean Shores, where camping and RV facilities are available. Along SR 109 north of Ocean shores are several RV parks, some with small motel/cabin facilities. Nothing at Taholah itself.


Since it's part of the Quinault Indian Nation, if one wants to land or launch at Grenville Bay, a day permit must be acquired at the Quinault Tribal headquarters at Taholah. Nominal fee.


North on State Route 109 to Taholah (end of SR 109). This is the "coast road" in this area, so it's impossible to miss.


There are maps, books, and charts available, and these are easy to find, but since I live here, my local knowledge of the area comes from my own personal experiences.
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip