Our first Sucia Island Picnic Cruise was on June 28th, and was a private charter. We will have our first public Sucia Island Picnic Cruise next Sunday July 6th. These cruises will be every Sunday until August 24th. Along the way we saw many harbor seals, along with newborn pups, one of which was nursing. They were hauled out on the rocks sunning themselves. It is pupping season here in the Salish Sea.
Arriving at Sucia Island we tied up at the dock and went to shore. We took a short trail to the west side of Sucia Island where there are many tidepools to investigate. The name Fossil Beach comes from the fact that this area was formed 90 million years ago in a marine environment. It is called the Nanaimo Formation. Only the western part of the island is this formation. The rest of the island is the Chuckanut Formation, a sandstone that was formed 50 to 60 million years ago. The sandstone in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was quarried and barged to Seattle and Bellingham to create buildings and roads. The sandstone is easily eroded by the sea and creates beautiful formations. There are marine fossils embedded in the rock everywhere in the Nanaimo Formation.
The tidepools are full of marine life: crabs, anenomes, sea stars (starfish), sculpins , chitons, barnacles and various shell fish. We had a rare find of a blood starfish Starfish, or sea stars are not a fish, but are an echinoderm more closely related to a sand dollar or sea urchin. There were also many of the sea stars that are purple or orange and are called the Common Sea Star. (Pisaster ochraceus) There is a disease called the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome that is affecting sea stars from Alaska to Mexico, so this was heartening to see these icons of the tide pools still here.
After our walk, we returned to the picnic pavilion for a wonderful lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, fruit, chips and brownies. There was also champagne or sparkling cider available. On our two hour trip home, we took a different route along the west side of Lummi Island and saw Bald Eagles and other marine birds. Of course, the beach walk is not mandatory. Other people explored the well maintained trails around the island, and some just stayed in the picnic pavilion. They had an early start on lunch and a chance to visit with each other.
Sucia Island is a jewel among the many state parks here, and is accessible only by boat. Don’t miss a chance to get out there and explore this beautiful island with its many Madrona trees and interesting geological formations.