Wonder of Watmough Bay
There was a time, not so long ago it seems, when a weltering summer weekend in Watmough Bay was “crazy busy” when you did not have the gorgeous San Juan Islands anchorage to yourself.
Things change and others have discovered this lovely bay near in Lopez Island’s southeast corner. And the installation of three free mooring buoys to protect bottom vegetation has made the bay even more inviting to cruising boaters.
The bay opens to the east with remarkable views across Rosario Strait to Fidalgo Island, far enough away to mist in some light, and beyond to a glowing Mount Baker. Its seaward openness and the northshore cliffs rising dramatically to Chadwick Hill gives the bay an air of remoteness.
On approach, avoid the narrow pass between Watmough Head and Boulder Island which is shallow with submerged rocks. Though, even if the pass was clear, Boulder Island is a national wildlife refuge restricting approach to 200 yards.
It is possible to anchor in 3-5 fathoms over the rocky bottom, taking time to ensure your hook is well set. The shallow bay is sheltered from most high-season winds, though sometimes passing ships will bring brief rolling swells.
The San Juan County Land Bank installed three mooring buoys in the hope that cruisers would use them to help restore the growth of eelgrass in the bay. Use of the buoys (limited to single vessels with a maximum of 45 feet) is free with a 72-hour limit.
A welcoming pebble beach rings the head of the bay, part of the Watmough Bay Preserve, which adjoins hundreds of acres of public reserve and parkland, with trails leading eastward to a parking lot with a public toilet. Then walk south by road and trails to Point Colville with its glorious views across Juan de Fuca Strait.
A trail from the north end of the beach also intersects with a path which leads up Chadwick Hill, the haunt of thermal-riding falcons and vultures, for views down into Watmough Bay and across Rosario Strait.
Whether tinkering aboard your vessel, angling for bottom fish in the waters around to Point Colville or wandering the network of trails ashore, Watmough Bay offers a natural experience that is rarely matched.
(Watmough Bay is covered in Salish Sea Pilot’s Cruising Guide to the San Juan Islands.)