Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (Smokey Hollow)

FEATURES: Campsites, public oyster grounds (state shellfish license required), access to the island’s trails including an ancient cedar grove.   

TIME: We spent four hours which included a short walk, but not up to the ancient cedars. The ‘barge trip’ described below set aside an hour and a half to walk from Smokey Hollow through the Don Bonker Cedar Grove and back. We launched on a rising 6.5′ tide and returned on a falling 4.5′ tide paddling 7 miles and hiking 1 mile.


FACILITIES: Restroom is unlocked during weekdays only, not the weekend. Wide concrete boat ramp.

DIRECTIONS: Just fifteen minutes north of Ilwaco with the address of 3888 US-101, Naselle, WA on Highway 101 near milepost 24.

There are two posts here, one above the other. This is meant to keep together all the posts regarding this trip and its launch site for easier reference later. The download may have taken longer and you may have seen the other post before but this system made more sense to me than chronological order of all trips.

July 22, 2017, Taking advantage of a privilege of being a member of the Friends of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, I joined their barge trip to Smokey Hollow and hiked up to the old growth cedar grove: https://tanglycottage.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/22-july-willapa-bay-barge-trip/

August 5, 2017, I joined three other kayakers and a support boat and paddled to offshore of the Smokey Hollow campground. We also landed and hiked up to High Point.

5 August 2017: Paddling to the Smokey Hollow Campground

During the barge trip to Long Island June 22, 2017, one of the Friends of the Willapa members brought up the idea of returning to Long Island by kayak later. Her criteria for scheduling is two hours before and two hours after the high tide mark. This avoids a high flow rate (current). I also feel a plus 3-foot tide window works. We launched at a rising 6.5′ tide and returned on a falling 4.5′ tide

Another group was launching and I wanted to check out the safety balloon the little red boat had. It looked like it would make a little boat more visible to power boats. Always watching for new ideas.

Later I was told the balloon said ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’
As it dragged in the water I heard much discussion.
Ready to go early as I carry lots of stuff.

There are five campgrounds on the island with several sites at each. Reservations aren’t as complicated now as I had imagined. You just go, and if there is no room, you look for another site.

The old registration box behind the baby birds.
The current system is simple.
Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 6.44.48 PM.png
Download this free government map here.
Off our party of four went to round the southern tip of the island.  The plan was to look at the campgrounds and take a walk.


Two members also launched their small power boat (equipped with a depth finder I found out) and casually shadowed us.
Vegetation hanging on against the erosion as we headed around High Point.
The rock formation west of the Pinnacle Rock campground is called Louse Rocks.

These rocks are mentioned in James Swan’s 1857 book: The Northwest Coast on pages 174-5.

“There are two large rocks near the south head of Long Island, in the Bay, called Mis’chin, or Louse Rocks, and the legend is that they were formerly a chief and his wife, who were very bad people, and by their magic first introduced lice among the Indians; and  one day, while bathing, they were, by a superior medicine-man, turned into stones as a punishment.”

We put ashore at the Pinnacle Rock campground.
The two large rocks.

There is public clamming allowed on the west side as shown on the map above.

Oysters near the shore.
One of the campsites at Pinnacle Rock.
Here’s another site closer to the shore.
Looking at this picture now, there are a lot of boaters around that island.

A forester was with us. I learned the phrase ‘pistol-grip trunk.’ That’s when the tree corrects itself when the root ball finds itself not vertical. A group of them indicates a landslide site.

This tree is something else.
Approaching the beach, and, a discovery.


Kids, canoes and two puppies.
A young corgi and a shepherd named Bo Diddly.

We were told this bay turns to mud at low tide. Looking at Google Maps, the main channel is halfway to the Long Beach peninsula.

Our boats were way over there, about a mile.

We went back up the trail and back to our boats where we met with another group of campers.

A weed in the wild.
They had fresh oysters.

They also had what appeared to be a fossil. It was heavier than sandstone and shaped like a bone.

I thought it looked like a filled in hoof print.

Two adults and their kid were enjoying their day at the island. They had come in an inflatable two person boat that fits in the trunk or in the closet.  I learned it inflates in about ten minutes with an electric pump that can suck the boat small again quickly when you’re done.  I looked it up I found the boat is rated for 500 lbs, resists punctures (most certainly important) and even has an optional sail kit.

A review can be found here.

We launched and headed north to Smokey Hollow.

We checked first with Bob in the motorboat. They were having a good day on the water too, without the workout.


We paddled around the rocks.
One of our party is paddling along the bottom.
Smokey Hollow
This is one of the forests he surveys for the Nature Conservancy.

We looked, we saw, and turned around from the Smokey Hollow campsite. I was hoping to use any extra time to revisit and paddle up an interesting slough that is right across from the boat launch.

Heading back it seemed further and slower.
We noticed that the two people on the beach were nearly as fast as us.

I was getting tired so I figured that three out of four kayaks were doing just fine using their paddles. I got out my paddle, put the foot drive thing away, and kept up while getting another set of muscles tired.

Back around High Point and nearly back.

Looking at the photo times, it was about a two-hour trip back from almost reaching Smokey Hollow.

We all went straight to the landing, no slough exploration today. Next time, we agreed to head north.

My phone’s odometer above shows an extra 1.04 miles for the hike.
This is an old Garmin GPS from a car I seal up and power with a battery. When asked, it will recommend the nearest road I could be driving instead. (7.1 miles traveled in 2 hours and 30 minutes with a maximum speed of 6.7 mph averaging 2.8 mph.)


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