Water Photo of the Week: A Bay Called Useless

boat on the sand at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island

Usefulness depends on your perspective – a lesson from Useless Bay

When Captain Vancouver and his crew scrawled the words Useless Bay across their map, the name made good sense to them. For a ship the size of Discovery, this wide, shallow bay with a sand bottom provided nothing – no place to land and get to shore, no solid place to set an anchor and not much protection from the weather.

But Useless Bay is far from useless for those of us who just like to hang out on beaches. When the tide’s out you can walk for miles, watch birds, ride horses, build sand castles, dig for clams and soak up the sun.

My friend Candace and I did several of the above on Thursday, taking what was probably my last Whidbey beach walk for a while. (On what was our last sunny day for a while too. Summer is supposed to return to Whidbey on Tuesday.)

This time I ignored the damaged bluffs, poor drainage solutions and ill advised stairways and just enjoyed the sun, breeze, warm sand, beautiful scenery, exercise and camaraderie.

Though I’ll walk many beaches in the next few years, I’m definitely going to miss walking Useless Bay with Candace. We’ve accomplished many things during our time here – taken needed breaks from busy lives, brainstormed ideas, searched for dead birds, worked out problems, deepened a friendship. Useless? Not at all.

the beach and bluff at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island

great blue heron fishing at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island, Candace Allen

walking the beach at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island

Nancy Bartlett walking the beach at Useless Bay, Whidbey Island, by Candace Allen

Useless Bay Geology

Puget Sound geologist Hugh Shipman talks about the geology of Useless Bay, with a touch of subtle humor about living on its shores. His wonderful Gravel Beach blog covers beaches all over the Northwest. It’s great for anyone who wants to know more about the beaches they enjoy.

Getting to the Beach

Everybody needs to get to the beach now and then to enjoy its many uses. Candace and I got to this particular beach via the trail in her community, but there are many public beach access points around the island. Island Citizens for Public Beach Access (ICPBA) works to make sure those public access points are known to the people who need them and that they stay public. You can support their efforts in many ways. Read the latest news on access issues and learn how you can help maintain these vital public assets at Island County Public Beaches.

Photos of the Great Blue Heron and of me are by Candace Allen. Thanks Candace, for these and for everything.

One comment

  1. Nancy,
    Nice article on Useless Bay; I’m going to miss our walks, too. Useless Bay is wonderful but it’s best enjoyed with a friend.

    Yesterday, folks in a little, pleasure boat learned first-hand why the bay is named Useless. Coming a little too close to shore, they became stranded for about an hour until the rising tide refloated the boat.

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