{explore} Potlatch State Park

When faced with dozens of state and local parks within day-trip distance, sometimes it’s nice to just pick one with a fun name and go see what’s there.

Potlatch State Park is about a 90-minute drive from Seattle. Head down I-5 to Olympia, then north on highway 101. The park is just south of the small community of Potlatch, which was built as a company logging town in 1900.

The Washington State Parks website describes the park as:

“Potlatch State Park is a 57-acre camping park with 5,700-feet of saltwater shoreline on Hood Canal. The park’s beautiful grounds are home to a variety of activities, from interpretive programs for kids to boating and shellfish harvesting. Sunny days and low tides attract many to Potlatch to harvest oysters, dig for clams or catch crab and fish. The beautiful Hood Canal offers scenic views, and windy days bring out kite fliers and windsurfers. Scuba divers favor Potlatch for its accessibility and easy descent, and kayaking is a popular day-trip activity.”

Oyster shells and small waves at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

I’d describe it as a “working” sort of beach. On the warm, bright early June day we visited, there were picnickers eating at wooden tables on the grass, but the main event was down on the beach itself. Dozens of small groups and families were out on the shelly beach catching clams, oysters, and geoduck.

Oyster shells at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

Clam shell and barnacles at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

Evidence of the popularity of Potlatch as a shellfish beach was everywhere — the beach itself was mostly covered in oyster and clam shells. Not a comfortable place for lounging by any means, but on a sunny day with a moderate breeze, a beautiful place to explore. (And if you’re in the mood to sit, there’s a grassy bank just above the beach to spread a blanket and watch the water.)

Underground water surfacing to run to the sea at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

One of the more interesting aspects of the beach was its odd wetness in some spots. We never did figure out whether there’s underground freshwater that runs down the beach to the saltwater, or tidepools that stick around just under the ground and seep water back onto the beach. (Next time I’ll just taste a drop of water and find out for sure!)

Saltwater grasses and oyster shell at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

A few folks were also gathering the very tips of these grassy beach plants? Medicinal, maybe?

Crabs competing for clam meat at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

Tiny crabs at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

We spent a few minutes watching tiny crabs fight over the meat in a broken-open clamshell, and scurry under rocks to hide (not always successfully) as they sensed our movement.

Cars looking very small below enormous trees at Potlatch State Park in Shelton, WA

(We didn’t look into the camping grounds, since we only visited the day use area, but the Yelp page for the campground has good information.)

Ease of access: Very easy
Parking: Very easy
Level of effort to explore: Very easy
Bathrooms: Yes
Picnic spot: Yes
Beauty: 3/5

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