Visiting Kukutali Preserve

I’ve studied the Deception Pass State Park map many times in order to prepare for trail runs and hikes, envying Kukutali Preserve (Kiket Island) visitors because indicated below the name is this disappointing phrase, “access by reservation only.”

Chrome Legacy Window 3192015 113734 AM.bmp

Fortunately, as of last spring, the note no longer applies. According to information available at the Kukutali Preserve link on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community site,

“Kukutali Preserve is the first Tribal State Park in the history of the United States to be co-owned and jointly managed by a federally recognized Indian tribe and a state government…The preserve encompasses 83 acres spanning 3 islands with over two miles of natural shoreline, and is adjacent to 38 acres of Tribally owned tidelands.

On June 16, 2014, Kukutali Preserve was officially opened to the public…it symbolizes a coming of full circle for the Swinomish people, who now have access to traditional lands and tidelands and can, once again, guide the stewardship and protection of Kukutali for future generations.

Our Kukutali Preserve logo is a representation of a cattail mat creaser. Creasers were small hand tools with a triangular relief notch on the bottom. The creaser was used in conjunction with a triangular cross-section rod to create a scoring across many cattail leaves to aid in sewing them together as a mat…

Historic use of the area by the Tribe included shellfish gathering and beach seining for salmon. The traditional name of the area, Kukutali, means “place of the cattail mat”, referring to the temporary shelters of cattail mats erected at the summer clam digging and beach seining sites.”

Last month, on a sunny Saturday morning, I found and printed directions to the preserve as well as the trail map. (Find more important information at the Visiting Kukutali link, including, “People hiking only. No dogs, bikes, or horses.”)

Chrome Legacy Window 3192015 115844 AM

Finding Snee Oosh Road was not difficult, but I must have blinked as I neared the parking lot entrance because I drove right by and had to back track. My biggest fear, beyond accidentally treading on territory that was not allowed, was that it would be packed with persons like me competing for peace and quiet. I arrived, at about 8:00 am, and realized I needn’t have worried. I was the only one there! The parking lot contained about eight parking places, an ADA-compliant porta potty and an information kiosk.


IMG_8721IMG_8737IMG_8728I headed down the road, noting the conspicuous, “No pets allowed” and “No Bikes” signs. The preserve was dead ahead. Kiket Lagoon was to the right. Birds swam in it, but were too far away for me to identify. In Similk Bay, half a dozen cormorants and a couple of gulls hung out on a small floating dock. As I neared the preserve, a flock of cormorants flew over.

The view to the south was beautiful and I took several photos of what I think is High Tide Island (with the lone tree) in the foreground and possibly Deadman Island in the distance.


I checked out a sign that greets anyone who might enter the area by sea.


IMG_8742Then looked back at the access road as I reached the island. My nemesis in photography bird, the Belted kingfisher, greeted me with its call, as did, high up in a tree, a Bald eagle making a chatter call.

IMG_8753IMG_8760IMG_8756Because I’d already read the rules and other information, knew I could choose between three trails, the North, South or Kiket (actually a gravel road) and headed to the right in order to hike in a counterclockwise direction. The plant life was much like I’d seen elsewhere in Deception Pass State Park. There were several types of lichen: dog, some sort of foliose, and blood-spattered beard.

The trails were also similar to those that can be found in DPSP and the ACFL, very green with plenty of salal and ferns.


IMG_8780IMG_8787IMG_8792As usual, I kept my eyes peeled for fungi and moss, and found them. As I walked I tried to keep track of my position within the preserve, hoping to get my bearings. I was glad that I’d taken the counterclockwise route when I came upon this inconspicuous opening in the trees with a great view of the Deception Pass Bridge with Strawberry Island in the foreground.


I continued on towards the west end of the preserve, noticing more moss and lichen.



crustose lichen


antlered perfume lichen

IMG_8830IMG_8822IMG_8828I got these shots of a red flowering currant, a polypore fungi and some sort of crustose lichen, respectively, as I neared a large open grassy field where all three trails again converge.


Pink-tinged bright yellow mahonia was in bloom along the shore. The only birds I noticed were a pair of flickers.


crustose lichen


IMG_8842I knew that one of the most important rules was to stay on designated trails, so I proceeded towards the preserve’s limits with caution. This is along the southwest side of the path. Skagit Island is to the left, Flagstaff Island is to the right.


IMG_8845IMG_8846IMG_8850IMG_8855I was so scared of doing something wrong that I stopped well short of the barrier that blocks anyone who is not paying attention from attempting to enter Flagstaff Island, which is off limits. I turned around and made my way back to Kiket Island, crossed the field, took a look at the beach (Deception Pass Bridge is on the background, Flagstaff Island is ahead and to the right), and hit the South Trail. It was extremely wet and muddy, which is probably why I found more fungi, (witch’s hair) lichen, mosses and ferns.


Step? moss















IMG_8885IMG_8934IMG_8895IMG_8897When I returned to the intersection of the three trails to the east, I decided to follow the road (Kiket Trail) westward to see what I might find. And was glad I did when I noticed these three species of mushrooms that I’d never seen before. The cap of the first species looks a bit like a slice of bacon, the second was unusual due to its dark cap and I thought that the third’s cap resembled a sombrero.


A banana slug moved to the edge of a dog lichen, probably in search of fungi.


banana slug on dog lichen

I noticed this stropharia ambigua, which I’d also observed at Heart Lake and Mount Erie.


stropharia ambigua


crustose lichen on a maple leaf

IMG_8940When I reached the open field on Kiket Island’s west end, I decided it was time to go. As I made my way back to my vehicle, I noticed a loon and several mergansers in Similk Bay. Ninety minutes had passed since I’d arrived, during which I’d covered just over 2.5 miles from parking lot to parking lot. In order to hit all three trails, I’d followed a counterclockwise course from North Trail to South Trail to Kiket Trail (and back). Although, except for a few of the mushrooms, most of the flora and fauna I observed were familiar from hikes I’d done at Deception Pass State Park and the Anacortes Forest Lands, I really enjoyed my first visit to the preserve, a peaceful place with great views.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s