If you set your mind to it, you could walk from Astoria, Oregon south to the California border. That’s because in 1967, the far-sighted people of the Beaver State passed a bill ensuring that, “the public has free and uninterrupted use,” of all 362 miles of coastline.
Head north into Washington and you’ll find a different situation. In the late 1800s, the state legislature decided to sell the public shoreline. In the end, about sixty percent of the beaches (between low and high tide lands) fell into private hands. More are closed to the general public for military or tribal reasons (or otherwise inaccessible).
If you want to sail or row the scenic and alluring waters of the Salish Sea, that means there’s not a lot of ground to walk on. The classic Afoot and Afloat guidebooks by Marge and Ted Mueller make a special note of the length of shoreline in various public access points- some are so small they note it to the nearest foot.
If you’re in beachable boat and you get the idea of going wandering, you might be challenged to find places to camp or land. But thanks to the good people at the Washington Water Trails Association, a great non-profit that works on shoreline access throughout the Puget Sound region and other parts of Washington state, there’s a whole network of put-ins and campsites for the little guys. Their work benefits everyone who wants to reach the shoreline to recreate, whether for fishing, beach combing, snorkeling, paddling, picnicking, or just gazing at the beauty of the water.
I hope you’ll check out their trail maps and support them by becoming a member (I am) or participating in their upcoming Dinner and Auction, April 26th, and in bidding online.