OAK HARBOR, Wash. — Deception Pass Bridge has been a Northwest vantage point since 1935, but it still takes visitors' breath away.
"The first time you come around the corner, you see this drop-off in front of you and the water racing underneath and the headlands and the eagles flying over - it's so spectacular,” said Jack Hartt, who retired after 14 years managing Deception Pass State Park.
He wrote Exploring Deception Pass: An Insider’s Guide to Washington’s Favorite State Park, and offers five tips for bridge visitors.
1. APPRECIATE THE HISTORY
The bridge is nearly 85 years old and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps – a work program during the Great Depression - built the approaches to the bridge.
"There were these trees six feet around that they would have to cut by hand to clear out the path and then build the roadway, blasting rock to build this parking lot right here, all done by these people basically by hand,” Hartt said.
The bridge itself went up quickly – in less than a year - but there was one last-minute hiccup.
"They had one piece that had to fit together to make the bridge come together, and it didn't fit when they started to put it in,” Hartt said. “So they thought, ‘Let's wait until it cools off.’ So early in the morning they came together, put that last piece in, and it fit perfectly."
2. THE NORTH TURN-OUT HAS AN INSTA-WORTHY VIEW
There are great views of the entire bridge, and of the water and islands looking east, from the viewing area on the Skagit County side of the bridge
3. THE WEST SIDE OF THE BRIDGE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL VIEW
Visitors can walk along the west side of the bridge and - if the weather is clear - see all the way to Canada.
"Out to the west we have Deception Island sitting in the middle of the channel, and beyond that Lopez Island and beyond that you can see the lights of Victoria, if it's nighttime,” Hartt said.
4. DON'T JUST LOOK DOWN - GAZE UP!
Stairs from the south parking lot lead to the bridge's underside, and you can hike several trails from there.
"Then it's time to get on the boat tours, Deception Pass Tours, and take the boat underneath the bridge and out through the islands to see it from a different perspective,” Hartt said.
5. KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR WILDLIFE
Bald eagles and hawks are abundant, and Hartt says they're just the beginning.
"Just about anything you'd expect in the Northwest, except maybe a bear - although there have been bears sighted as well, but not for a long time,” he said.
Visitors need a Discover Pass to park at the bridge, and you should expect some traffic - 15,000 cars pass over Deception Pass Bridge daily.
Deception Pass was voted Best Roadside Attraction in 2019's Best Northwest Escapes.