Snow Peak is opening its first campground in the United States in Long Beach, Washington. In summer 2023, the Long Beach Campfield will welcome outdoor enthusiasts to experience the healing power of time outside on Washington's scenic southern coast. In anticipation of the opening, we're featuring the sights, activities and rich heritage of the Long Beach Peninsula in a series of blogs. Follow along on Instagram and sign up for our newsletter to learn more about the project.
On the shortest day of the year, Long Beach receives 8 hours and 36 minutes of daylight. Rainfall in December and January averages 20 to 30 inches combined. Residents of these coastal communities look to fun, festive traditions to brighten the winter months, while at the same time, Nature offers her own grand displays.
Storms are big in the winter, especially on this weather-beaten spit of land. Storm-generated swells, when combined with king tides, create powerful spectacles. The most dramatic is that of massive waves crashing into the Cape Disappointment headlands, sending sea spray shooting far up the basalt sea wall. Watching from ground level, it creates the illusion of the spray reaching the Cape D lighthouse, perched 167 feet above.
Birds are also big. Snow-white trumpeter swans usually arrive by mid-December to spend the winter on Black and Loomis lakes. Dedicated birders are rewarded with sightings of snowy owls, and almost anyone walking the beach in the morning from the Seaview to Cranberry Road beach approaches will see bald eagles perched over the rustling grass of the dunes or feeding on washed up Dungeness crab and more near the shoreline.
Winter birding from the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge’s South Bay Trail that goes out to the bay and the Tarlatt Slough trail along a stream, wetlands and fields rewards with sightings of Canada geese, cackling, mallards, widgeon, green-wing teal, dunlin, Western sandpipers, greater yellowlegs, great blue heron, American kestrel, Northern harrier hawks, and bald eagles. Further up the peninsula in Nahcotta on the docks at the Port of Peninsula on Willapa Bay, pelicans are plentiful.
Void of summer crowds, the 28-mile beach appears even bigger in the winter months. Solitude reigns except on days when digging for razor clams is permitted. Even then, watching eager clammers hunt for the elusive bivalves is ever so entertaining. One might even be inspired to give it a try.
As for the traditions that brighten these short days, check out a holiday tree constructed of crab pots at the Port of Ilwaco, a colorfully lit community Christmas tree in Ocean Park, a seven-foot gingerbread tree near the indoor pickleball courts at the Cape Columbia Pickleball Club, festive lights strung on boats at the Ilwaco and Nahcotta marinas and on buildings throughout the coastal villages.
In Long Beach on the weekend after Thanksgiving, take a 5K run with Santa at sunset, watch a holiday movie at the Neptune Theatre, sing along with carolers, see the lighting of the town’s Christmas Tree, and more. Watch as the city ushers in the new year with five minutes of fireworks over the beach at midnight on Dec. 31.
A Christmas Concert by the Water Music Society, a Tuba Christmas performance, community tree lighting festivities, open-studio tours, and shop-local handmade bazaars are among the other holiday traditions that complement Nature’s winter offerings.
Carol A. Zahorsky: An adventurer by nature, Carol put down roots in the Northwest and has been touting its wonders ever since. When not at her computer or walking the beach, you'll find her hiking with her dog, tending to her gardens, and visiting with her daughters, wherever on the globe they might be