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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.