Driving east on Highway 20 from Concrete, the road follows the Skagit River. Rockport State Park is an enchanting and pristine 500 acres of old growth forest on your left. If you’re driving by on the weekend, you’ll notice their hand-painted “Forest Program Today” sign, and if you’re smart, your curiosity will be piqued. If you pull over, before you know it, you’ll be immersed in a deeply enriching ecological experience you’ll never forget.
History of Rockport State Park
In 1931 Sound Timber Company sold 500 acres of old growth to the state for “One dollar and other considerations,” according to Melissa Wender, Rockport State Park’s interpretive specialist. There is much speculation as to what these “other considerations” were. In 1961 Rockport State Park was established with a campground. The campground closed in 2007 due to the possibility of certain trees falling. Thanks to habitat fragmentation coupled with the possibility of root rot, these old growth forests are subject to more wind damage and are more susceptible to gravity’s pull. Rockport State Park is proud to offer a .7 mile-long Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) trail, complete with interpretive signage. Remember to bring your Discover Pass to park at any of Washington State Parks.
The Discovery Center is a small building on the west side entrance of the park. It contains a wealth of resources for all ages when it comes to understanding and experiencing the amazing and rich natural world we live in. Melissa is here to help facilitate your experience and answer any questions you may have.
Melissa creates, plans, organizes and oversees educational programs like The Deep Forest Experience. On this 45-minute, half-mile long educational excursion you will learn about lichen, moss and the incredible interconnectivity of mycorrhizal fungi and the rest of the forest. This program is only offered during winter weekends starting on Fridays. You will meet at the Discovery Center where they will have a wood burning stove heating up the place for you before and after the hike. Popcorn and coffee are available at the entrance. Arts and crafts for children and adults will beckon guests further inside upon entering the building.
Another program currently offered is “Monday healthy hikes.” Participants are encouraged to hike three miles every Monday and log it in the Healthy Hike Logbook posted outside the Discovery Center. Once you’ve completed 100 miles in the logbook, Rockport State Park promises to gift you a beautiful handmade walking stick. Starting this spring, healthy hikes will be coming to Rasar State Park on Sunday mornings.
From April through mid-June Melissa will be offering roving interpretation. If you’re looking to escape the crowds during the Tulip Festival, come to Rockport, Rasar, and Bayview State Parks to learn about life before tulips. The intricate lives of moss and lichen will steadily creep right in to your brain cells before you know it.
The Unique Relationship Salmon Have with the Pacific Northwest Old Growth
Melissa begins to start a fire in the Discovery Center’s wood burning stove on a typical cool and damp day in the Pacific Northwest. “Do you know the salmon tree story?” Melissa asked. Sitting in front of the toasty wood burning stove, Melissa begins to tell one of the coolest local stories ever told. “Salmon have a special connection to the old growth forests here in the Pacific Northwest,” Melissa begins. During the smolt’s, or young salmon’s, process of smoltification in the ocean, the fish adapts to saltwater after hatching in freshwater. Depending on the species of salmon, the fish will stay out in the ocean for 3-5 years. Then, when these 20- to 70-pound fish spawn and swim back upstream into fresh waters, bears, bald eagles and all sorts of creatures right down to maggots consume these fish and excrete their waste. As we all know, what wildlife poops out becomes part of the soil in the forest. “Well, Pacific Northwest trees have high components of Nitrogen 15, which is an isotope of Nitrogen found predominantly in the deep ocean,” Melissa explains. The salmon carry Nitrogen 15 from the depths of our oceans right in to the depths of our forests! To learn more cool stories about how nature works check out Rockport State Park today.
Rockport State Park:
51905 State Route 20, Rockport
Monday – Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – dusk
Deep Forest Experience:
December – February:
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m.
February 16: Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Katherine Glew, “Lichens”
March 10: Sunday: TBA. Elyssa Kerr, “All About Beaver”
March 23: Saturday: TBA. Michael Stein-Ross, “Forest Bathing”
May 25: Saturday: TBA. Kevin Zobrist, “Trees and the Forest Community”