The longest natural sand spit in the United States is waiting for you to come explore it's beaches and wildlife and so much more – in Dungeness Bay, just north of Sequim, Wash., on the Olympic Peninsula. It's New Dungeness Spit, home of the New Dungeness Lighthouse. The New Dungeness Spit was given its name by explorer Captain George Vancouver, who named it after Dungeness Point on the rugged coast of England where a lighthouse once stood.
Lighthouse. It's fitting that in 1850, a Congressional Act provided for a lighthouse at New Dungeness, near the end of the spit. New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous service north of the Columbia River. It's been guiding ships safely since 1857. The U.S. Coast Guard withdrew its last Keeper from the automated Light Station in 1994, but the Light Station has been continuously staffed since then by members of the Light Station Association, who serve as volunteer Keepers at their own expense, serving one-week shifts. Tours of the Lighthouse are open to the public.
Wildlife. The spit attracted national attention in 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson decreed it to be a Department of Agriculture wild bird reservation with public access by the permitted. Today, it's the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who charge a small fee for those who wish to visit the refuge.
The inner spit is protected from storms and harbors an estuary that is home to thousands of waterfowl. The outer stretch, strewn with huge drift logs, is where you're likely to spot harbor seals basking in the sun. Parts of Dungeness Spit may be closed to protect sensitive plants, birds, or animals. It is also illegal to remove anything from the beach other than legal amounts of shellfish. This includes shells and driftwood.
Bird life. If you are a birder, you will be enchanted by the Dungeness Spit birding opportunities. Heron, eagles, loons, grebes, murrelets, puffins, harlequin ducks, scaup and black brant -- to name just a few. The Dungeness River Audubon Center offers exhibits, programs and events to help visitors explore and appreciate the variety of bird life and unique environment of the area. The Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society also features education, events and bird classes featuring Dungeness and Sequim Bay birding.
Trails. Dungeness Recreation Area offers a one-mile long scenic bluff trail with picnic sites above the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On a clear day, one can see Port Angeles to the west and Mt. Baker to the east, as well as a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains. The bluffs also offer equestrian trails, bike trails and a deep, mossy foot trail with Spit overlooks perfect for the novice hiker or a trek with smaller children.
Another type of trail completely, but certainly a great adventure is the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT), a non-motorized multi-user trail. Still under construction is some places, the Trail loosely follows the oldChicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad right-of-way. Segments of the route are now open in the Sequim and Port Angeles area, offering views of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, farm fields and forested foothills. Trails as well as off-trail detours on pleasant county roads offer hikers and bikers with a variety of experiences - from a New England style covered bridge to the Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge.
Camping. Clallam County Parks is host to Dungeness Spit Recreation Area Campground, located on the bluff. The Park offers 66 campsites, fire rings and picnic tables along with its beautiful location. Park users will enjoy hiking, water views, upland trails, equestrian trails, hunting, beachcombing, picnicking, shellfishing, bird watching, and other outdoor recreation activities.
Directions. To arrive at Dungeness Spit, take Highway 101 west from Sequim, Wash., (or east, if coming from Port Angeles) to Kitchen-Dick Road. Turn left on Kitchen-Dick and follow it north until it ends with a right turn onto Lotzegal Road. Turn left at the first intersection, and follow the signs approximately three miles to the Dungeness Recreation Area. Drive to the trailhead, where there are restrooms and plenty of parking.
Clallam County Parks Port Angeles 360-683-5847 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dungeness River Audubon Center Sequim 360-681-4076
Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society Sequim 360-681-4076