Kayaking from Steilacoom to Bainbridge Island

It has always been a dream of mine to do a longer mileage trip that included island hopping and lots of fresh seafood. Unfortunately, this trip wasn’t quite what I had expected and left me wanting to search further up North in the future. But that isn’t to say that I had a bad time- it was a fantastic experience and I will do more trips in the area in the (hopefully near) future. The weather was perfect for paddling and due to the timing- I had most of the water to myself.

And so it began. After debating whether it was a good idea or not to go on this solo trip for an hour… I finally took the first step out the door and headed towards Steilacoom. The delay in departure changed my starting point a little further North as I did not want to get stuck in the flood tide’s currents around the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. After a quick launch at the ferry dock, I looked around at the water and couldn’t believe how calm it was.

As I paddled, I looked at the East side of the channel and found old ruins of what look like military structures with a lot of runners enjoying the sun. A few freight trains passed by as I paddled along- the fake train horns blaring at nearby crossings (I am not entirely sure why they do this, it might be a combination of speed of the trains as well as keeping noise down for the local population.) Realizing that I was making excellent time (5 hours ahead of schedule) by the time I was at the bridge with the Tacoma Narrows Park as my planned campsite on the left of the picture below:


After making a quick stop at the park, I decided that with the noise pollution of the bridge and the close proximity to Washington’s #1 most dangerous city… I should look up the next CMT campsite. I am very happy that I did this as the site on Vashon Island was incredibly welcoming compared to the Tacoma Narrows Park.

After about an hour or so past the park, I made it through to Gig Harbor and it started pouring. It may sound like a bad thing to experience, but with my spray skirt on, only half of me could get wet and the noises that the water makes when it hits the water is quite beautiful and peaceful. Found some interesting currents just South of the harbor, and took me a little time to figure out where they were moving a little slower.

The sky cleared once again as the sun began to set. It was beautiful. You can see the rain near the right side of the picture below (Port of Tacoma). Vashon Island is the closest land mass.


I officially entered Colvos Passage which runs on the West side of Vashon Island. One of the more interesting features is the nearly constant flow of the water in a Northern direction. I will say that I was expecting a little faster current to help me along, but at least it was not going towards me! I think it peaked at .5kt, but remained near 0kt for the duration of the paddle.


Upon arrival, I found two people on the beach and greeted them as I struggled to lift my kayak out of sight before showing weakness. I had 2.75 gallons of water in the boat still and it was a little heavy to lift after paddling 18 miles. I hurriedly setup camp and started dinner prep while watching the sun set. Some whale was out in the passage letting out breaths rather audibly as I waited for my food to rehydrate.


When I woke up I found two boats idling right off shore, they were making breathing noises. I looked up the flag and found out they had a diver in the water (blue and while flag, not red and white stripe) and saw that they were pulling up some kind of seafood. I decided to keep my distance as I did not want to interfere so I wasn’t able to ask what they were catching.

I headed out and hoped that the marine layer would flee and reveal a nice warm sun… and it did! My next destination was Blake Island, which is a state run Marine Park. The Island looks like an excellent spot to camp at, but again… I was making better time than I had planned and made it there for lunch. I took a long break on the island.


The campsites themselves look like they are quite nice for larger groups- these ones are non CMT sites, and the price reflects that status. Each site is ranked as a $, $$, or $$$ which means you pick which site looks best and is most affordable. These sites here were ranked $$ and are quite nice, but lack privacy.

I left after eating some top ramen and spaghetti-os that I dehydrated 8 months ago. still tasty… well at least… still tasted like they did a long time ago. As I left, I decided to head to go to Eagle Harbor and end my trip there as I didn’t really want to do the crossing from Kingston the Mukilteo the following day. I will save that for a multi-paddler trip.

Overall I had a good time and made good progress each day, I was surprised by how many houses cover the shoreline these days- it was not the natural experience that I had hoped for. The broken Group may be on my list of soon-to-visit locations as they should be a lot more wild, and a lot less polluted.


The trip took me 36.2 miles from Steilacoom to Bainbridge Island in 29 hours (12 hours of travel time) and I enjoyed it greatly. Huge thanks to my mother who drove my car back from Steilacoom and also to Bainbridge to pick me up. The route that I took is below:


Next time, I will bring someone with me to share the experience with 🙂

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