When I saw the list of the 10 most visited state parks in 2012, I found myself looking down the names to see which of them I have visited.
The count was six, which I consider a pretty decent number.
That led me to wonder about how many state parks overall I’ve visited.
With 117 of them across Washington, there are plenty I have visited, but certainly many more yet to be seen. But as I went through my mental check list, I found keeping count was overcome by recollections of each visit.
Like so many other parents, I’ve scoured the beach at Kopachuck for marine life during a school field trip. My family and I have enjoyed the beaches, lighthouses, visitor center and trails at Cape Disappointment. The beach at Griffiths Priday has been our preferred spot when taking part in the annual April coastal cleanup. An incident with a small but seemingly ravenous lizard at Ginkgo Petrified Forest is still the source of loud laughter. Grayland Beach was the spot for our first razor clam dig. Curlew Lake offered a great spot for swimming after digging for fossils under the scorching sun in nearby Republic. We found a nice sandy beach on the banks of the lower Skagit River at Rasar State Park.
The list is longer than my memory – each park is the source of a different story.
As the centennial celebration of Washington’s state parks system unfolds this year, I think this is an excellent time to visit a new park. After all, the 32 million visits to a state park in 2012 offers pretty compelling evidence they make for great getaways.
In my nearly 10 years of living in Washington, I have found our state parks to fit multiple roles.
Some have served as the final destination for an extended stay, such as Deception Pass. There we played on the beach, hiked the trails, fished for trout in Pass Lake and listened to a chattering bald eagle as we passed by during a boat tour.
Other parks have been places to explore while we visited a different area of the state. We found a huge playground for the kids at Potholes State Park during a trip to Moses Lake. While climbing on the apparatus, we discovered a great horned owl nest in a nearby pine tree. North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment has become a favorite stop while in the Ilwaco-Long Beach area.
As I’ve traveled back and forth across the state, I’ve discovered some parks are a convenient place to break up the trip. Walking through the buildings and grounds at Olmstead Place outside Ellensburg and just off Interstate 90 is one place to stretch your legs on any trip back from the eastside of the state. The Dry Falls overlook is a nice stop to take a break from driving and try to envision the vast amount of water that flowed over the precipice during an ice age flood.
Finally, there are those nearby parks that make for a fun day trip. The ocean beaches are always great options. Tolmie Beach is a corner of nature just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the State Capital. Dash Point can be a place for a summer’s evening stroll, a fishing excursion or a quick weekend camping trip.
The budget crisis facing the parks department is additional incentive to visit parks. Some of them might no longer exist if a consistent source of funding can’t be found.
An example is the former Fort Okanogan State Park, just north of Brewster. I’ve found the visitor center to be a much-needed cool – and educational – refuge on a hot summer day. The park was transferred to The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation two years ago.
Six other properties have been transferred and are no longer state parks. Others could be on the chopping block as well.
Even with the financial uncertainty, this is a year of celebration of all our state parks system has to offer. Grab a Discover Pass and I’m sure you’ll find a park that fits your sense of adventure.
I plan to add to my list of 41 parks already visited.
Here are the 2012 visitation numbers for Washington State Parks, including the top 10 most visited parks that year.
2012 total: 35,847,770 visits
most visited parks
1. Centennial Trail: 2,476,123
2. Deception Pass: 2,239,079
3. North Beach area: 2,090,999
4. Long Beach area: 1,694,927
5. Lake Sammamish: 1,486,021
6. Riverside: 1,307,354
7. Fort Worden: 1,058,339
8. Fort Casey: 914,548
9. Cape Disappointment: 862,495
10. Birch Bay: 796,662
Look for State Parks centennial events at parks.wa.gov/events.Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure