Only an hour and a half from Seattle, Deception Pass is a beautiful oasis that feels far from the city. The view is postcard-perfect; a photographer’s dream.
Deception Pass is the straight that separates Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island, connecting Skagit Bay with the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It’s great for either a day trip, or a three-day weekend full of camping and hiking.
Salish tribes have lived in the Deception Pass area for thousands of years. The first Europeans to see it were members of Manuel Quimper’s expedition in 1790, but it wasn’t until 1792 that the beautiful area received its scintillating name. That’s when George Vancouver gave it the name “Deception” because the area had fooled him into thinking Whidbey Island was a peninsula.
The islands in the area have quite the scandalous history full of smuggling, torture, prisoners, and, of course, deception.
Ben Ure Island, just east of the Deception Pass Bridge, became infamous for being an area for smuggling in illegal Chinese immigrants. Ben Ure and his partner, Lawrence “Pirate” Kelly, would tie up the immigrants in burlap bags so that they could toss them overboard if U.S. customs agents came near. The currents would then carry the bodies to San Juan Island, in what is now known as Dead Man’s Bay.
Between 1910 and 1924, a prison rock quarry was operated on Fidalgo Island. About 40 prisoners, including convicted murderers, worked at the quarry. The camp was taken apart in 1924, but remains of it can still be found.
The beautiful Deception Pass Bridge was completed on July 31, 1935. Before it was built, you had to take a ferry between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. You can walk along it and below it, taking photos of the beautiful scenery.
The pass has also found its way into popular culture. In 1993, Seattle grunge band Mudhoney named a song on their EP “Deception Pass.” And in 2002, parts of the horror movie The Ring were filmed in the area.
Camping. There are 167 tent sites, two dump stations, 20 restrooms, and ten showers in Deception Pass Sate Park. There are three different locations for camping, including Bowman Bay, Quarry Pond, and the largest site at Cranberry Lake.
Rent an island. You can rent your own island for a night, along with a cabin! You’ll have to paddle to Ben Ure Island yourself, and bring your own water, but you’ll certainly feel like you’ve gotten away from civilization. With great views of Puget Sound and Mount Baker, you’ll be able to relax with a friend in the 12-by-24-foot modern cabin.
Take a boat tour. For a different view of Deception Pass, you can take a guided boat tour of the area. You’ll learn more about the rough and tumble past of the islands, as well as get the chance to see a lot of the area’s wildlife.
Take a hike. There are more than 4,000 acres and almost 40 miles of trails near Deception Pass. From coves, to rugged headlands, there’s something for everyone.