Along the picturesque shores of Rich Passage on Bainbridge Island, Washington, lies a hidden gem that promises an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Fort Ward Park, a former military base turned state park, is a sprawling 137-acre oasis of lush forests, vibrant marine life, and breathtaking views. Join us on a journey to explore the rich history and natural wonders that make Fort Ward Park a must-visit destination on Bainbridge Island.
A Glimpse into History
Fort Ward Park’s history dates back to the late 19th century when it served as a crucial military installation during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Its strategic location overlooking Rich Passage made it an ideal spot for coastal defense. Today, visitors can still see remnants of the past, including historic gun emplacements, concrete bunkers, and interpretive displays that offer fascinating insights into the park’s military history.
Trails and Natural Beauty
As you step onto the park’s well-maintained trails, you’ll find yourself immersed in the serenity of nature. Fort Ward Park boasts an extensive network of hiking and biking trails that wind through dense forests and underbrush. The lush canopy of towering trees provides ample shade, creating a tranquil environment for exploration.
One of the park’s highlights is the Perimeter Loop Trail, which takes you on a scenic journey along Rich Passage. The trail offers stunning vistas of the Olympic Mountains and glimpses of marine wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, otters, and various bird species that call this area home. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the diverse avian population that frequents the park, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and cormorants.
Rich Passage and Marine Life
Fort Ward Park’s proximity to Rich Passage ensures that visitors are treated to mesmerizing views of the water. The tidal currents in Rich Passage create a dynamic and ever-changing seascape, making it an ideal spot for whale watching during certain times of the year. The opportunity to witness majestic orcas and humpback whales passing through the passage is a breathtaking experience you won’t soon forget.
In addition to whales, the marine life in Rich Passage is abundant. Bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of playful seals and sea lions frolicking in the water. Low tide reveals tide pools teeming with colorful sea anemones, starfish, and other intertidal creatures.
Recreation and Amenities
Fort Ward Park caters to a wide range of outdoor activities, making it a versatile destination for all ages. Picnic areas with tables and grills are available for those looking to enjoy a meal in the midst of nature. The park also offers a playground for children, providing a perfect break for families.
Anglers can try their luck at fishing from the park’s shoreline, and kayakers can explore the calm waters of Rich Passage, taking in the scenic beauty from a different perspective.
Fort Ward Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, history, and outdoor adventure. Whether you’re interested in learning about its military past, taking in breathtaking views of Rich Passage, or immersing yourself in the tranquility of its forests, this former state park has something for everyone. Bainbridge Island’s Fort Ward Park is not just a destination; it’s an experience that will leave you with lasting memories of the Pacific Northwest’s incredible beauty and history. So, pack your hiking boots, grab your camera, and embark on a journey to discover the magic of Fort Ward Park.