By John Kruse
Looking for somewhere to go this winter? If you are an outdoors enthusiast, the beach isn’t a bad call and one place in particular worth a visit is Ocean Shores. Covering 12.4 square miles on the Point Brown peninsula there is of course the beach and the ocean that attracts visitors. Right now, overnight accommodation rates are very low. My daughter and I booked oceanfront rooms at the Shilo Inn for only $99 a night, and other hotels are offering similar deals. While many businesses are closed right now a number of restaurants do offer dining options from take out to dine-in (on covered patios or in the case of the Quinault Beach Resort, inside).
During the winter months Ocean Shores usually sees good numbers of clam diggers on designated digging days in pursuit of razor clams. Unfortunately, domoic acid, a marine toxin, was found in high levels in the clams in October and later, in Dungeness crabs, forcing closures of both seasons. Those toxin levels are beginning to subside but they are still above the threshold where these species can be consumed again.
With any luck clamming and crabbing along the Southwest Washington coast will open again this spring. Even if it does though, the annual Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival, traditionally taking place the third weekend of March, won’t take place in 2021. The popular festival featuring tasty razor clam chowder recipes, a variety of vendors and fun activities, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
So, what’s an outdoors enthusiast to do besides walking, driving or riding a bike along the beach? Fishing is one option. Surf perch weighing up to two pounds can be caught right off the beach and while I didn’t have any luck on this trip, I’ve seen a number of surf perch anglers here over the years that have.
Hiking and wildlife watching are great options too. A healthy number of bald eagles spend the winter around Ocean Shores along with shorebirds to include the western snowy plover. In the ocean, sea lions, seals and even passing gray whales can be seen while hiking around Damon Point at the southern end of Ocean Shores that juts out into Grays Harbor or from the north jetty which defines the border between Grays Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. Another place to see wildlife, particularly waterfowl, is the Oyhut Wildlife Area. This state managed property is also open for waterfowl hunting from mid-October through January.
Other opportunities for outdoor recreation are found inland. Duck Lake and it’s connecting canals offer 23 miles of water to explore. There are several lakes offering places to launch small watercraft and this is a great area for paddling enthusiasts using canoes, kayaks and SUPs. Another unique way to explore Duck Lake is in an electric powered boat. You can rent a covered Duffy boat from the Ocean Shores Boat House.
You may want to bring a fishing rod too. Largemouth bass, rainbow trout and perch are all found in Duck Lake. Fishing from a boat will lead to the best fishing but there are shore based fishing options at Chinook City Park, Bill Ellis Park and the South End Grand Canal Park.
Looking for a few hidden gems? Hike the Weatherwax Trail. It’s a flat, 1.2-mile path skirting Duck Lake. You can also visit Perkins Pond, where a short trail circles the pond offering views of waterfowl and wildlife. Last but not least, keep your eyes open for deer. Black-tailed deer are prolific around Ocean Shores. Other animals you may see include coyotes and raccoons. Don’t feed the animals though, there is plenty for them to eat here without your “help”.
Want to find out more about a visit to Ocean Shores this winter? Check out http://tourismoceanshores.com
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
1. A good number of bald eagles spend winters at Ocean Shores – John Kruse
2. The author didn’t have much luck fishing for surf perch – Faith Kruse