16 Outdoor Adventures Await in Grays Harbor for 2016

Tales and Trails of Lake Swano at Grays Harbor College

April 6th, 2016 by kelly

lake swano trail
The Alder Creek watershed serves as an educational tool in resource management to the Grays Harbor community.

Beside the Grays Harbor College campus lies an unsuspecting patch of forest. Concealed within these towering trees is the peaceful and serene Lake Swano, a lovely spot nestled in the Alder Creek watershed.

oly orthoIn the late 1940s, Mr. Swano Katalinich owned and operated a gravel pit along Alder Creek. While placing a road to the gravel pit, construction crews built a dam in Alder Creek, creating Lake Swano.

In the decades following its formation, Lake Swano inspired various educational and recreational interests. Grays Harbor College purchased the lake in 1962, and immediately put plans for trail development into place. These plans would not come to fruition for some time, however.

lake swano trail
A set of steps are all that remain of the Swano Katalinich homestead.

Alder Creek became an area of interest for the college’s fisheries program. As a result, the John M. Smith Aquaculture Center was constructed in 1987, and it was not until after its completion that the first trail was developed. This trail was installed for interpreting fish habitat. Swiftly following its development, steps to the lake were built beside the 800 Building, and a loop trail completed around the lake.  Read more here http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/03/06/lake-swano/

Spring on the Washington Coast: A Whale of a Good Time

whale watching
Will you see one of the 18,000 whales swimming by our coastal communities? Photo credit: Ryan Harvey.

Spring on the Washington Coast: A Whale of a Good Time

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You’ll never forget the first time you spot a whale. From the initial sighting of the spray rising from the ocean swells, to the smell of the fishy odor of the spout, your first glimpse of a whale is something that you reminisce about for your entire life. Every April, just off the breaking waves along the Washington Coast, 18,000 gray whales make their way slowly up the Washington Coast. Heading north to the cold, food-filled waters of Alaska, the gray whales have returned, and can be spotted in an endless series of pods from late March to early May.

grays harbor tourismGray whales are huge, weighing up to 80,000 pounds and measuring up to 49 feet in length. Living up to 70 years, feeding mostly on tiny shrimp-like animals that dwell in the ocean floor, the whales make this migration every spring, with newborns lingering behind them. The entire migration is amazing and visiting in person is strongly encouraged. Whale watching can be a highlight of the spring; a timeless tradition passed on to generation after generation in hopes to have better harmony and understanding with nature.

It might seem daunting to find a whale in the ocean, but you don’t need a sense of vengeance like Captain Ahab to track down these massive mammals. Instead, all you need is a sense of adventure, a day of exploration and a few tips on how and where to see gray whales off the Washington Coast.

Learn about Gray Whales and Whaling

whale watching washington
See a whale up close and personal off the Washington Coast. Photo credit: Ryan Harvey.

One great destination to learn about Gray Whales and their historical importance to the local economy is the Maritime Museum in Westport. With an entire room highlighting Grays Harbor’s whaling past, including locations, pictures and relics from the long past days, the museum is a perfect stop on your Westport whaling adventure.The ranger station and resort at Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch region also has some information about whales, including occasional talks from NPS rangers about the migration and whales. Contact the park to discover the locations and dates of these talks.

Further north, the Makah Museum on the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay has one of the best exhibits in the state on local tribes, whales, whaling and the connection between whales and local survival. The drive to get here might be a bit long, but combining a stop at Cape Flattery with the museum will almost guarantee you a whale sighting off in the distance.

Go Whale Watching

whale watching washington
Scan the shores of the Pacific to spot a Gray Whale. Photo credit: Tony Cyphert.

In Grays Harbor, opportunities to see gray whales during the spring months are quite prevalent. While you can stand on the coast and scan around for hours with a spotting scope or pair of binoculars, the best bet to see a gray whale is with the tours offered by Ocean Sportfishing Charters in Westport.  Read more here :  http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/04/06/whale-watching-washington-2/

Wynoochee Lake: A Gorgeous Destination for Family Fun

One of the major benefits to living in Grays Harbor is the proximity to so much natural beauty. The area is a gateway to miles of exquisite beaches, majestic forests, and the awe-inspiring Olympic Mountains. Nature surrounds Grays Harbor, beckoning hopeful explorers. But sometimes exploring the wilderness with small children and knowing just where to go can be a bit daunting.

grays harbor tourismIn particular, the Olympics can be difficult to access. In general, those seeking mountain adventures must hike for several miles to penetrate them. One easier way to admire the mountain scenery with younger nature lovers in tow is at Wynoochee Dam and Lake.

wynoochee lake

The beautiful Olympic Mountains surround Wynoochee Lake.

Located at the mouth of the Olympic Mountains, Wynoochee Lake is a hidden gem. The dam and day use area make a perfect destination for families looking for a day trip. The dam is a little over one hour’s drive from Aberdeen. There are no commercial services in the vicinity, so it is best to pack and plan accordingly. Cell phone coverage can be spotty, and although a pay phone is available, be sure to prepare for that as well.

There are picnic tables, covered areas, a partially paved trail along the lake, and heated restrooms, which are a real treat on cooler days.  Read more here:  http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/03/31/wynoochee-lake-dam/

Eat Out with the Kids at Family-Friendly Restaurants across Grays Harbor

Studies have shown that children who share regular meals with their family deal less with depression. These children also tend to have better self-esteem and school grades.

As a parent, you may feel conscientious about taking your kids to a restaurant or out to eat. However, finding the right place can make all the difference. Whether you are looking for a sit-down restaurant or takeout, there are numerous places in Grays Harbor that are kid-friendly and ideal for a family meal.

Family-Friendly, Sit-Down Restaurants


Grays Harbor is fortunate to have several outstanding restaurants with cozy family-style seating. These include Mazatlán in Aberdeen; El Rancho in Montesano, El Ranchon in Elma, and Las Maracas in Ocean Shores. Not only are these restaurants designed to be family-friendly destinations, they also serve chips and salsa as soon as you are seated, which is ideal for keeping your hungry crew busy and happy until their meals arrive.

AHS Mazatlan Takeover (2)
Kids and teens alike — like this group of Aberdeen High School students — enjoy dinner at Mazatlan in Aberdeen.

The Beehive in Montesano serves tasty food for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Read more here at http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/01/25/kid-friendly-restaurants-grays-harbor/

Grays Harbor ATVers: Growing and Going in the Great Outdoors

Today’s ATVers aren’t what they used to be. Gone is the image of the helmeted, mud-splattered teenager tearing through the off-road landscape. “It’s not about going out in the woods and tgrays harbor atvearing up the trails,” says JoAnn Haynie of the Grays Harbor ATVers. “We’ve never been people to go out and tear up the woods. We want to be responsible being outside, exploring and sightseeing and enjoying the outdoors with care.”

Montesano residents for over 50 years, Larry and JoAnn Haynie say Grays Harbor ATVers is an informal club with a common goal: enjoying the great outdoors and riding responsibly on All-Terrain-Vehicles.

“I like to get out in the open and putt along,” says JoAnn. “We love taking them (ATVs) out for a short little run around town. I drive in nice weather to the grocery store and do errands around town. Larry goes fishing. We like to take them out on the back roads and go on picnics, that sort of thing. They run on gas. They’re much more economical than a car.”  Read more here:  http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/03/08/grays-harbor-atv-trail/



Larry and JoAnn Haynie of Montesano with their favorite off-road vehicle. Photo credit: Kristine Lowder.


Explore the “Ring of Fire” Movie Train Wreck

In 1961, Grays Harbor was experiencing the beginning of the end of the timber industry’s economic boom. In just a few short years, mills would close and mill-workers would be out of a job, but for now, life was good in Grays Harbor County. The city of Ocean Shores had recently started to be built as a luxury “California-Style” community on the Washington Coast. Hollywood Stars, such as Pat Boone, were investing in the region and were greeted by thousands of fans when arriving at the Bowerman Field Airport.

That wasn’t the only thing Hollywood about Grays Harbor in 1961. Up in the deep gorges of the Wynoochee River, the people of Tinseltown were filming a movie.

ring of fire train wreck

While the “Ring of Fire” movie may not have been a blockbuster, it left a permanent mark on Grays Harbor.

Earlier in 1961, a movie called The Ring of Fire was set in Washington State, but was being filmed in Oregon. Starring David Janssen (The Fugitive TV show) and Frank Gorshin (who played the Riddler in the original Batman), the plot of the movie was silly, centering on a police chase from Tacoma to Shelton and then through the woods of the Pacific Northwest during a wildfire. This disaster film ends with the couple fleeing the city on a train, only to have their train get stuck on a wooden bridge over a deep gorge.  Read more here http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2014/07/23/explore-ring-fire-movie-train-wreck/

15 Free Things To Do With Kids This Summer in Grays Harbor

summer grays harbor

Summer is almost here! With kids out of school, families are looking for things to do around Grays Harbor.  Here are 15 ideas for activities, events and things to do around Grays Harbor that won’t break the bank.

1.  Lake Aberdeen

grays harbor tourismWith a unique play area, picnic tables, and a shallow area for wading and swimming, Lake Aberdeen tops the list of free places to spend some time this summer. Fishing and boating are allowed on the lake. To reach the lake coming from Aberdeen, drive on highway 12 E toward Montesano and make a left on Aberdeen Lake Rd. At the fish hatchery, take another left to stay on Aberdeen Lake Rd. Follow the road to the park entrance.

2.  Flag Day Parade

summer grays harbor
Lake Aberdeen is a beautiful spot to play and swim this summer.

Have some old-fashioned fun by visiting Ocean Shores for the annual Flag Day parade. The parade starts at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 11. Arrive early, as it can get busy, pick a spot, and be prepared to catch candy and greet the floats. The parade is only one of many free and fun family friendly events in Ocean Shores over the summer, including the annual Beach Blast and the Festival of Colors.  Read more here:  http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/06/07/free-summer-kids-grays-harbor/

Celebrate State Parks ShellFest 2016 at Westport Light State Park


The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Parks Foundation invite the public to attend ShellFest, this year taking place in Grays Harbor County.  ShellFest is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 4, 2016 at Westport Light State Park, at the foot of West Ocean Avenue in Westport. Turn left at the traffic light and go to the end of the roadway.  The event will include exhibits, a shellfish lunch, low-tide beach walks guided by local experts, shellfish displays, hands-on activities for children, touch tanks and education about restoring and protecting shellfish beds in Puget Sound and the coast as part of the statewide.

Washington Shellfish Initiative (WSI), Xinh’s Clam & Oyster House, Taylor Shellfish Farms and Goose Point Oysters will provide a shellfish lunch. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is free with a suggested donation of $7 per person or $20 per family to benefit the Washington State Parks Foundation.  A Discover Pass will not be needed for vehicle access to the park this day because June 4 is a State Parks ‘Free Day,’ in recognition of National Trails Day. Event organizers recommend that participants bring their own chairs, dress for the weather and bring mosquito repellant.  ShellFest kicks off the weeklong Washington Shellfish Week, June 4 through 11, with activities and events taking place in various locations on the Washington coast and in Puget Sound.

Gov. Jay Inslee launched Phase II of the Washington Shellfish Initiative (WSI), a collaborative partnership with federal, tribal, industry and non-profit partners aimed at protecting and enhancing unique shellfish resources that are at the heart of creating shellfish farming jobs, cleaning Washington’s waters and continuing traditions of eating shellfish from our shores.  Washington became the first state in the nation to establish a shellfish initiative. Visit  https://aquaculture.wsg.uw.edu to learn more about shellfish week events.

Introducing the Farm to Beach Concept at Seabrook

seabrook washington
In its 12th year, Seabrook, the decade old beach town along the Olympic Peninsula in Grays Harbor County is bringing yet another revolutionary idea to the sustainable, authentic beach village. The Seabrook town plan was designed in 2004 so that within a 5-minute walk or cycle, residents and guests would be connected to all retail and common areas.

grays harbor tourismIn keeping with the notion of building community with easy access to goods and services, the most recent neighborhood is on the eastern edge of town. The Seabrook Farm District remains just a short walk or cruise from the beach and offers a relaxed, organic lifesseabrook washingtontyle in a more rural setting.

“The Farm District was actually one of our original design ideas for Seabrook,” explains marketing director, Ivo Andov. “We wanted an area that would be more open and reminiscent of a farm along the ocean. We researched other beach towns yet did not really find the combination of beach and farm. We knew we had something unique and special. Within just a few minutes walk or bike, everyone can enjoy the beach, farm, and Seabrook’s retail and dining district.”

The Farm District is tucked away from the busier neighborhoods and the shops on Meriweather and Front Street . Characterized by open green areas, orchards, and berry patches, each craftsman style farm home has been expertly designed for the best woodland and pasture views. The home sites are each uniquely situated upon large green spaces ideal for small individual vegetable and fruit gardens.

Wind Gate Equestrian offers horse classes and camps for kids and adults in the Seabrook Farm District. Photo courtesy: Seabrook.

“We launched the first phase of the Farm District in fall, 2015 with 19 home sites, many of which have been already sold. We are now offering some of the smaller Orchard Cottages while still having several of the spacious farm homes available. And soon this area will showcase the Seabrook Community Garden,” shares Andov.

Neighborhood parks are a distinctive feature at Seabrook and the Farm District is no different. Horseshoe Park is the community gathering spot with a sunken stone fire pit overlooking the north pasture. Yet unique to the Farm District are the barn plus tennis and pickle ball courts. Wind Gate Equestrian runs classes and camps for both kids and adults wanting to learn more about the care and riding of horses.  Read more here:  http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2016/06/01/seabrook-washington/