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Blake Island State Park & Tillicum Village

Kayaking from West Seattle on Puget Sound (August 2008)

Bellingham Big Rock Garden Chuckanut Drive Fairhaven District Schnauzer Crossing Whatcom Falls Park
Budd Inlet near Olympia Puget Sound kayaking

I had always wanted to kayak across Puget Sound from Seattle... one of those "kayaking checklist" wanna do things. Blake Island was a great destination to accomplish that since it was only 3.5 miles from West Seattle and a straight shot across the shipping channels. Because the Sound was so deep and wide there, currents were on the smaller side for the crossing (though still important to plan around). And, for the cherry on top, Blake was all state park land plus included 51 campsites, water supplies, and toilet facilities all scattered around the perimeter of the island. That was a bonus for staying overnight and coming back during the next day's slack current! The park stretched across 475 acres, with 5 miles of shoreline and almost 16 miles of hiking trails criss-crossing its center.

Some of us did advance scouting beforehand and found a good combination of launch site and parking availability at the public beach on the south side of Alki Point, where 63rd Ave SW meets Beach Drive. The parking was completely open in the morning when we arrived, and there were no parking time limits to be concerned about. Plus the beach had a porta-potty literally hidden within the bushes for our pre-emptying ceremony prior to getting into those tight cockpits for an hour+.

Sea kayaking from West Seattle south of Alki Point Lighthouse and Alki Beach

Karen kayaking from public beach south of Alki Point Lighthouse


The paddle across was relaxing, and we timed the tides/currents right such that it was an easy straight line route without needing directional correction. It was important to keep an eye out in the distance for cargo vessels and drunk speed boaters, but neither were ever a problem.

We headed for the most developed section of the park on the island's east side, with its Native American replica longhouse clearly visible all the way from Alki. That section of the park included a marina, picnic shelters, concession stand, and the largest grouping of campsites. We stopped in to make reservations for the Tillicum Village Native American salmon bake / dance show and do a pit stop, and then headed out again around the northern side of the island.

Tillicum Village Blake Island State Park marina totem pole Seattle skyline view

Looking back across Puget Sound to Seattle, from Tillicum Village


Josh kayaking around Blake Island


The Washington Water Trails Association (of which we're members) had 3 campsites on the far northwest point of Blake Island, all exclusively reserved for campers that arrive by human-powered watercraft. By the time we arrived mid-afternoon, those first-come-first-served spots were already claimed by other kayakers. So we continued a bit further around to the dozen sites on the beach at West Campground and mingled with the sailboat and powerboat campers.

Blake Island State Park West Campground beach campsite kayak

Pulling up to our campsite at West Campground, framed by madrone trees


After getting situated, we hiked through wooded trails back over to Tillicum Village for the salmon bake and Native American dance show. Amazingly, this little boaters-only tourist trap has been around since 1962 and appears to be going strong and getting stronger. It was interesting but felt a bit cheesy; the Walt Disney World version of Native American history. However, most in our group enjoyed it and liked its positive message plus brief renditions of culturally important stories.

Tillicum Village totem pole Blake Island State Park

The Living Totem Pole


After watching a sunset over the cloud-crusted Olympic Mountains, we bedded down for the evening at the water's edge. The next morning we hiked a bit within the park's forest trails before continuing on our circumnavigation of the island around the west and south sides, stopping at the main activity area again and then heading back across the Sound. Currents pushed us onto a bit of a U for the way back, so it took longer than the earlier approach but was still a good paddle on a great day with terrific company.

Blake Island State Park Red Trail through forest

Hiking along the non sequitur "Red Trail" in Blake Island State Park


Blake Island State Park Manchester rafting up kayaks

Rafting up on Blake Island's west side, with Manchester in background (photo from Josh)


Blake Island State Park southeast point kayaking

Hugging the shore to avoid small tide rips at Blake Island's southeast point



Kayaking Budd Inlet near Olympia Budd Inlet near Olympia Puget Sound kayaking