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Wednesday, July 3, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Camano Island State Park Offers Wide Choice Of Facilities, Activities

If you go: The park is 19 miles from Interstate 5 in Snohomish County. From I-5, take Exit 212. Travel west on State Highway 532 through Stanwood, onto Camano Island and follow the signs to the park.

-- CAMANO ISLAND, Island County

Camano Island State Park is on the west side of Camano Island, a short drive from Snohomish County. Its 6,700 feet of pebbly beach and the waters of Saratoga Passage have long been a favorite of fishermen and shellfish gatherers.

At Camano Island you can fish from the beach for perch in spring and salmon during fall. You'll generally find good salmon fishing regardless of whether from land or water during the winter months.

Clamming and crabbing are less productive. Although shellfish gathering is allowed all year, declining populations of steamer and butter clams have limited digging to Saturdays only. The restriction is likely to continue through April 1, 1992.

If you're a beachcomber, sunbather, windsurfer, wader or water-skier, chances are you'll find a kindred spirit on the shoreline. Bring a wetsuit if you plan to swim, or be prepared to endure cold water. Swimming is at your own risk since there are no lifeguards.

The North Beach and Point Lowell areas attract scuba divers, who are likely to see starfish, octopus and bottom fish. A three-lane boat launch is popular with pleasure boaters and fishermen.

A series of trails total close to five miles in length. The North Beach/Point Lowell trail winds for a mile along a bluff overlooking the beach. From the cliff, you can see Saratoga Passage and Whidbey Island. In evening this is the perfect hike for watching spectacular sunsets over the Olympic Mountains.

The South Cliff Trail also offers a quiet walk through the forest. It has two vista points with a view south to Paine Field in neighboring Snohomish County.

If you want to learn about the park's flora, which is primarily second-growth Douglas fir, western hemlock and red cedar, there's a half-mile, 17-station self-guided nature trail. Some trees are more than 600 years old. You'll also see evidence of early logging, nurse logs, and Pacific yew trees. The trail also has a glacier erratic, which is a large boulder that was transported here during the ice age of 12,000 years ago. An interpretive folder explains the garden of groundcover and how Indians used each plant.

The Olympic Mountains are a natural barrier. Because of them, the park receives annual rainfall of only 15 to 20 inches. That makes it considerably dryer than surrounding areas and attractive to picnickers and campers.

At Camano, 87 standard campsites are arranged in 13 clusters that accommodate five to 30 people each in a forested setting. They rent for $8 per night and include a table and stove, a place to park a trailer or pitch a tent, and restrooms with showers in the area. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis with a 10-day limit from May through September.

A separate group camp has a capacity of about 150 people. It enjoys a heavy repeat business from camper clubs, youth groups, churches, schools and family reunions. A $10 non-refundable fee is required to reserve it.

Six RV sites are also on a reservation basis and rent for $5.50 per night. Hikers and bikers can camp overnight in a primitive site for $4.

Two large picnic areas overlook Saratoga Passage. A kitchen shelter in the North Beach picnic area is rustic, contains a cook stove, and serves about 20 people. Another at Point Lowell is enclosed on three sides, but does not have cooking facilities. Both are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

You can either bring your own food or buy it at a grocery less than two miles from the park. Firewood is available during summer.

Camano Island State Park attracts about 300,000 visitors per year, with 35,000 to 40,000 of them campers.

It is open all year. Park hours are 6:30 a.m. to dusk through Sept. 30 and 8 a.m. to dusk to March 31. Got a great idea for a local getaway? Give us a call at 745-7800 or write to us at Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau, 1211 164th St. S.W., Suite 101, Lynnwood, WA 98037.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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