A Short Guide to Kayaking the Port Angeles Harbor

Backyard Kayaking, Finding Joy in the Unexpected

 

By: Tammi Hinkle

So you are really enjoying the magic of sea kayaking. You’ve acquired all the needed safety gear and have had a couple of basic lessons.  You’ve practiced your rescue techniques and explored all the Olympic Peninsula favorites like Freshwater Bay and Lake Crescent.  What now? A frequently overlooked gem right before our eyes is the diverse and wildlife rich Port Angeles Harbor. Yes, that’s right, the inner harbor is protected by Ediz Hook, a sweeping sandspit formed by the Elwha River watershed.  There are several places to launch including the designated kayaking locale called the Sail and Paddle Park located on Ediz Hook just before the Olympic Rowing Association’s boathouse. Parking is easy and you need only carry your boat a short distance to the water, a major bonus for those of us that like kayaking more than lugging our boats around. When launching from this designated site, you will instantly be greeted by a rookery of harbor seals which inhabit the nearby log booms.  Personally, I find the harbor seals to be absolutely fascinating.  Some of them are equally interested in us, often times following our kayaks or paddleboards for several miles; every now and then you can enjoy watching them gracefully swim under you, then pop up nearby for a quick check in. As you cruise past the first set of log booms, veer off to your right towards the main shoreline and there you will find another larger pod of seals.  Of course always keep your distance and try not to disturb them, however, more than likely they will already have hit the water and be in their element watching you. A note of caution, the Port Angeles harbor is one of the deepest harbors in the country and attracts ocean going shipping vessels, container ships, tug boats and other large ships into the territory for various stopovers.  When kayaking, always be super aware of them and have a general awareness of other traffic, including boats coming and going out of the marina. Aside from harbor seals, other frequent sightings in this area are river otters.  Appearing to play, these fun to watch critters are actually just eating, deep diving for crab and other shellfish. In addition to these common mammals, Orca, gray whales, and porpoises have been seen frequently cruising the inner harbor.  As you paddle past the marina you will see yet another seal rookery on the log booms just north of the harbormaster’s office.  All along the way, keep your eyes open for a variety of marine birds.  The great blue heron like to rest high watching us from above. Surf scoters, harlequin ducks, western grebes and common loons are always a joy to observe and paddle alongside.  As you glide along the shimmering water, notice the huge piers built for various deep harbor industry, now get close and look down.  Yes these piers are covered with life, primarily hundreds of feathery looking plumose anemones and a variety of seastars.  After all that exploring, I like to take a rest at the newly formed pocket beach located at Oak and Front St. While taking a short stretch you might enjoy the art sculptures found along the waterfront.  This can be a good time to turn back paddling west towards your car, enjoying more wildlife and the sweeping views of Port Angeles and the Olympic Mountains. Of course this is just one of many directions to explore in the PA Harbor, stay tuned for more backyard paddle trips.

Important Notes:

  • Be sure you have the proper equipment including a kayak with built in bulkheads, immersion protection such as a wetsuit or drysuit, pump/paddlefloat, spraydeck, communication device and spare paddle.
  • Always paddle with a qualified friend or knowledgeable guide
  • Take a kayak safety course and know your rescues
  • Dress for immersion
  • Check the weather and marine forecast at www.noaa.gov

For more information give Adventures Through Kayaking a call at (360) 417-3015 or shoot us over an email, tammi@atkayaking.com.  For pictures of paddling the Port Angeles harbor and other areas, visit us on Instagram at #atkayaking.harbor-art