Deception Pass Bridge

Beautiful and Dangerous Deception Pass

Deception Pass connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Skagit Bay. This waterway is between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. The state of Washington built Deception Pass Bridge in 1935. The bridge connects Whidbey Island to the Washington Road system. Before the construction of the bridge, the only access to Whidbey Island was via boats.

Looking to the east from Deception Pass Bridge.
Looking to the east from Deception Pass Bridge.

Deception Pass State Park now occupies both sides of the Deception Pass Bridge making it a very nice, very large playground. To use the Washington State Park system you need to purchase a Washington Discovery Pass (see the link below).

This picture was made by using the Google Earth tool. It shows Deception Pass Bridge on the left side of Pass Island. Canoe Pass Bridge to the right of Pass Island.
This picture was made by using the Google Earth tool. It shows the Deception Pass Bridge on the left side of Pass Island. Canoe Pass Bridge to the right of Pass Island.

At the top of this picture, you can see an island that is connected to the mainland across a narrow filled-in area. This island is Reservation Head. On the left side of this island is a lighthouse that marks the entrance to Deception Pass. Everything in this picture is now part of the State Park including Bowman Bay on the upper right side of the picture. U.S.Highway 20 crosses the bridges connecting Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island

Looking to the southeast from near the Deception Pass Bridge.
Looking to the southeast from near the Deception Pass Bridge.

Our Route

This is the second time we visited Whidbey Island. During our first visit, we couldn’t stay there. This was during the “lockdown” period during the summer of 2020. We had spent the first part of the lockdown at Nellis Airforce Base in Las Vegas. As anyone who has been to Las Vegas in the summer knows, it would not have been comfortable in our RV. The day the temperature hit 100 degrees, we moved north.

This picture is taken from the Canoe Pass Bridge looking to the southwest at the state park.
This picture is taken from the Canoe Pass Bridge looking to the southwest at the state park.

The first time we visited Whidbey Island we did so in our car. This time (2022) we crossed bridges in our RV, towing our car. In our car, the bridge is fine. In our RV, the bridge is a little narrow. After that, during the next three weeks, we crossed the bridges multiple times. On several occasions, we stopped and took pictures.

Deception Pass — From the Top

Most of our pictures here were taken from the top of the bridges when we made quick stops along our travels. As a note, we were typically back at our RV before sunset and were taking pictures of the sunset. If you missed our post including these pictures, here is a link. Whidbey Island Sunsets

Now that I mentioned where we took our sunset pictures, sunset pictures taken from the bridges here would have also been spectacular.

Looking to the west from the bridge. The beaches on the left side of this picture are inside the state park at the north end of Whidbey Island.
Looking to the west from the bridge. The beaches on the left side of this picture are inside the state park at the north end of Whidbey Island.

The Bridges

Without these bridges, the only way to access Whidbey Island would be by boat. Whidbey Island is nearly forty miles long and is the largest island in Washington State. Much of Whidbey Island is sheltered by the Olympic Rain Shadow (more about that in a future post).

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass Bridge

The bridge is an arched design made from steel and is now listed on the Historic Register. The arch is 180 feet high. The bridges are nearly a quarter mile long and 28 feet wide. There is a pedestrian walkway on each side of the bridges for the full span. This provides 22 feet of width for vehicles in each lane, one northbound and one southbound. Touching mirrors with opposite-direction traffic, when driving big rigs is probably frequent.

Looking to the west t from Deception Pass Bridge. Deception Island is the closest island to the pass. Beyond that is Lopez island.
Looking to the west t from Deception Pass Bridge. Deception Island is the closest island to the pass. Beyond that is Lopez island.

At each end of the bridge(s), there are paths that allow pedestrians to cross under the bridge to thus walk on the other side without crossing the road. From the elevation of the roadway, there is no access to the water near the bottom of the bridge.

Deception Pass Bridge — from the bottom

If you want to see the bridge from below, the best way, perhaps nearly the only way is from the water. Boats frequently pass under the bridges through both Deception Pass and Canoe Pass. Depending on the time of your crossing you could be in for a wild ride depending on the tidal currents.

Kayaking near Rosario Beach north of Deception Pass
Kayaking near Rosario Beach north of Deception Pass

To further describe the tidal currents going through the area, they can be swift. Canoe Pass carries less water and is more restricted. The current speed going through Canoe Pass can exceed 10 knots. The current can create a standing wave. This is where the water rushing in meets the water rushing out creating a wave. This wave does not move but rather is stationary similar to water in a river flowing over a very large rock.

Kayaking at Bowman Bay
Kayaking at Bowman Bay

Like a river, the flow of the water narrow area also creates eddies, along the edges which are regions of reverse flow. Every year, the coast guard and Island County Sheriff’s rescue kayakers from along the rocks when venturing into Deception Pass.

With exception of Bowman Bay, the coastline is all rocky.
With exception of the beach at Bowman Bay, the coastline near is all rocky.

Kayaking at Bowman Bay

Even though we knew we weren’t going to kayak at Deception Pass we did launch near the pass at Bowman Bay. This was a gentle area to the north. From there we worked our way further north (away from the pass).

Kayaking at Bowman Bay
Kayaking at Bowman Bay

Now that I described the pass and the currents, we knew better than to go near the pass. After enjoying the smooth water we decided that if we were to stay near Deception Island and well away from the mouth of the pass we could get a picture of the bridge.

our kayaks, we stopped getting closer to the pass near the small island in the upper left of this picture.
In our kayaks, we stopped getting closer to the pass near the small island in the upper part of this picture.

To do this we stayed more than half a mile from the mouth of the pass. If we were to get caught in the current, the only way for us to escape would have been to ride it out to the other side. Then of course we would have had to find a new place (other than Bowman Bay) to land the kayaks.

Deception Pass Bridge picture taken from our kayaks.
Deception Pass Bridge picture taken from our kayaks. We were really not that close, plenty of camera zoom is in this picture.

As you can see from the picture of the bridge, the water was no longer calm. Most of this was because of boat traffic. That said, we could feel the current heading toward the pass and before it caught us and took us for the wild ride, we headed back to the west, toward the boat traffic and away from the pass. Once clear of this area, the sea again turned calm and relaxing.

Links

Deception Pass State Park

Washington Discovery Pass

4 thoughts on “Beautiful and Dangerous Deception Pass”

  1. Great pictures. A friend of mine takes a daily hike near Deception Pass. He has the distinction of designing the outhouses that are located in backcountry parks and at trailheads. Have fun.

  2. We knew some RVers who ended up buying property on Whidby Island and setting up a little farmlet. Their photos are always gorgeous, as are yours. It’s just a breathtaking area, but certainly not for the faint of heart.

  3. You guys are finding some cool places to Kayak. Ninette wants to do that but I can’t sit that way. I don’t bend in the middle well (can hardly touch. my knees) I need a boat where my legs can dangle like sitting in a chair. LOL. Oh and we know about current and wind from Scuba Diving. Gets scary trying to get back to launch point.

  4. For any of your readers who follow your travels, we should probably re-emphasize how stunningly well done the NAS Whidbey Cliffside RV park is for folks who have access….I know you’ve dedicated a prior article, but it’s so worth an additional comment!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *