Kayak Opportunities Galore In South Sound Waters Near Olympia



It would be hard for the maritime setting of the Puget Sound not to be intertwined with the Thurston County culture.

Waters around the area provide ideal locations for a host of marine activities such as paddleboarding, boating, fishing and canoeing.

Kayaking can be included on that list as well, as waters around the Thurston County area can suit the most seasoned and inexperienced paddlers alike.

“This area is pretty terrific for sea kayaking due to a variety of factors,” said Carolyn Burreson, the Sea Kayaking Chair for the Olympia Mountaineers. “The intense surf from the coast will not be a factor. There are lots of protected inlets and shore paddling areas without crossings, where the winds pick up.  And there are a lot of opportunities for shore paddling where you can hug the coast and sit out the wind.   However, there are rougher and more intense areas for those with more experience, looking for an adventure and quite a few launch sites that makes it easy for the public to access.”

Becoming immersed in the Puget Sound environment is another benefit of kayaking.

“Puget Sound is one of the unique places in the nation and world,” said Ron Jones, a Senior Waste Reduction Specialist for the City of Olympia and a member of the Mountaineers since 1998.  “When you think about the saltwater access and the fact that you can go out to a peaceful serene setting with nature, or you can take it to the most extreme at Deception Pass and experience huge waves and huge rapids, that’s pretty amazing.”

While kayaking remains an activity for people of all ages and levels of physical conditioning, it’s important to learn the basics of the sport and the hazards that can be encountered on the water.

“The Olympia Mountaineers offer a basic course every year, which is a full program where class members learn everything through classroom instruction and sessions on the water,” Burreson said. “We teach kayak surfing and kayak rolling.  In the winter, when conditions are more extreme for kayakers, we have a pool session to practice rolls and rescues.”

“I would say for anyone getting into the sport, getting instruction is huge,” Jones said.  “The saltwater environment can be quite hazardous, due to weather or cold water conditions.  You have to understand the hazards of water, wind and tidal currents and instruction is the best way to obtain that knowledge.”

Through their pin program, the Mountaineers encourage group members to explore the South Sound waters.

“We also have paddle pins – an incentive for people to kayak in South Sound,” Burreson said. “We include the seven inlets and seven local islands on that list as well.”

One of Jones’ favorite kayak trips is to travel around Squaxin Island.

“It’s really a beautiful trip and stopping at Hope Island for lunch and a nature hike is part of that great experience.  I also enjoy paddling out of Boston Harbor and that’s great for beginners and more advanced kayakers alike,” said Jones who has been kayaking since 1993.

Spotting marine wildlife is another perk of kayaking in the Thurston County area.

“I’ve kayaked with whales and sunfish, species such as orca whales and porpoises, a couple of times – normally things you wouldn’t see in the area,” Burreson said.  “Seeing those types of animals in their natural habitat is very stunning.”

Burreson, who has traveled to Alaska, Mexico and New Zealand, among other locations, for kayak trips, says the Olympia area has seen an increase in kayak participation in the last decade.

“I think it’s really catching on in the area and that’s great to see,” Burreson said. “Our classes get full quickly and you just see more people out on the water exploring.  If you live in the perfect place for it, why not?”

For more information on the Olympia Mountaineers kayaking program, visit www.olympiamountaineers.org.

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