The irony of driving through some of the most scenic country on the Washington Coast is that at 55 mph it can all look the same. Any good drive needs a few spots where you can pull off and experience the landscape, the middle-of-nowhere quiet and the smells you didn’t know you were driving past.
On State Route 105 southbound, about two miles east of Tokeland, at the mouth of the Cedar River, is one of those places, an access area created by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Cascade Land Conservancy (now Forterra), the Wildlife Forever Fund and the Pacific Coast Joint Venture. The gravel parking lot has benches with a view of a meadow where Roosevelt elk are known to gather, along with numerous other mammals and birds.
The parking lot and benches are accessible to the differently-abled. The trail itself is a little more difficult to access due to the cattle guard stretching across its base.
Keep in mind the directions are in relation to the roadway itself; in this area, southbound 105 runs in an easterly direction along the northern edge of Willapa Harbor.
Beyond the lot are two trails: The first is straight out of the parking area, a small brushy gash in the woods. The other is a nicely groomed old logging road off to the right. Cross the cattle guard and follow the incline and you’ll find yourself overlooking the town of Tokeland jutting into Willapa Bay. Along the way you’ll get a good idea of coastal Pacific County’s terrain, natural beauty and the multitude of plant and animal species that call it home, some unique to the area.
While Jim Gerchak, Manager of the Johns River Wildlife Area, calls the spot “mostly a waterfowl area,” there are a lot of other things to see, including the aforementioned elk.
“We conducted helicopter surveys in that area two years ago and counted about 26,” said Anthony Novack from Fish & Wildlife. “They like those estuaries and meadows there by the coast.” Of course, wild animals are unpredictable and patience is the key to observing any form of wildlife, particularly Roosevelt elk.
The land was purchased by Forterra, called Cascade Land Conservancy at the time, and transferred to the Department of Fish & Wildlife. State Representative Brian Blake has observed the facility and “supports the efforts to allow public access” to the scenic area.
Take I-5 south to exit 104, U.S. 101 North
Follow signs for Montesano/Aberdeen, Highway 12
Take the Montesano/Raymond exit onto State Route 107
Turn left onto State Route 107
In eight miles, turn left onto Highway 101 South
At Raymond, take a sharp right onto State Route 105
Parking area is 10 miles from Raymond on the right at the mouth of the Cedar River
Take I-5 north to exit 77 for State Route 6 West toward Pe Ell/Raymond
Turn left onto State Route 6
Turn right onto U.S. 101 South
Turn left onto State Route 105
Lodging options can be found in the town of Raymond and west of Tokeland at the Shoalwater Bay Casino.