Attention canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders- there is a new destination for calm water paddling in Grays Harbor. While the City of Ocean Shores is best known for their beaches, as well as a good destination for surfing, kite flying, beach combing and beautiful sunsets, there is a hidden secret putting smiles on paddler’s faces.

While thousands flock to the largest community on the Pacific each year, few seem to know or experience the amazing waterways which extend throughout the entire city. Weaving through the sandy peninsula in an intricate web of water, the canals and lakes of Ocean Shores make for the perfect paddling destination.

Ocean Shores Canals
Over 20 miles of navigable waters await those hoping for a paddling adventure on the canals and lakes in Ocean Shores Photo credit: Geoff Taber

The canals, which stretch for 23 scenic miles, were built when Ocean Shores was a planned resort community in the late 50s and 60s. Initially, the plan for the canals and lakes of Ocean Shores was to allow home owners to launch their vessels directly from backyard docks and enter either the Pacific Ocean or Grays Harbor, setting sail for anywhere in the world. Once funding was received for the canals, locals and developers could hardly contain their excitement for the canals and possibilities offered to potential residents.

Construction on the 23+ miles of inter-connecting, man-made fresh waterways started in 1960 when the planned community of Ocean Shores was just getting started in its development. A huge electric hydraulic dredge, known as the “Razor Clam” by locals due to it digging through and spitting out water, worked on the canal system for half a decade. The first canal built was a water feature along the Ocean Shores Golf Course, with the rest of the canals constructed quickly throughout the peninsula.

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Built in the 1960s, the canals of Ocean Shores are an underrated recreation activity in this coastal town. Photo credit: Department of Ecology

By the last few months of 1965, the canals were finished, opening up lake and canal front housing to over 1,600 lots. While the dream of sailing from your home to open waster did not become a reality, the canals and lakes helped define this oceanfront town, giving it a unique experience unlike anywhere else in the state. Now, these waterways are becoming popular for those who using a canoe, a stand-up paddle Board (SUP) or kayak after years of being overlooked.

 

Today, the canals and lakes of Ocean Shores are considered a secret destination by tourists and kept mostly hush-hush by locals, helping to make this a relaxing way to spend the day. While the popularity of the region has increased in the past few years, few still know that Ocean Shores is home to some of the best kayaking, canoeing, boating and SUP experiences in Grays Harbor. With three popular launch sites, located at Texmar Ave, North Bay Park and Chinook Park, there are several options to begin your explorations.

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Paddling in the freshwater of Ocean Shores is a perfect way to relax and unwind. Photo credit: Bob Rhoades

The canals and lakes of Ocean Shores are perfect for paddlers of all ages and abilities. Since the waterways are mostly protected from the winds that blast the coast, the water is typically calm and boats gliding effortlessly though the canals. Today, most of the canals are lined with houses, but there is still an incredible amount of wildlife visible. Migratory and local birds use the waters as a place of rest and dining, while the local deer populations wander along the shores.

With a few islands to explore and 23 miles to paddle, it is nearly impossible to experience the entire water system in one day. One popular activity for boaters is to head to Duck Lake and troll for fish while slowly slipping through the water. Huge bass, rainbow trout and even yellow perch and bluegill sunfish have been caught in the region, giving you yet another way to pass the time while exploring.

Sadly, according to the Ocean Shores Visitor Information Center, there are currently no businesses that rent kayaks or canoes in town. However, you can rent SUPs at North Coast Surf Shop on Point Brown Ave. Hopefully more options will become available as paddling becomes more important to tourism and the local culture of Ocean Shores.

Ocean shores canals
Through narrow canals and fish filled lakes, the freshwater pathways in Ocean Shores are unlike anywhere else in Washington State. Photo credit: Geoff Taber

That shouldn’t deter you from loading up your watercraft, however, and exploring the miles of possible routes to paddle near the crashing waves of the Pacific. Remember to always wear lifejackets while paddling the canals and lakes of Ocean Shores. Each year, search and rescue has to save or recover individuals from the waterways. Also review the water safety tips recommended by the Ocean Shores Fire Department before heading out into the water.

Paddling in Ocean Shores is a perfect way to get out and see Grays Harbor in yet another beautiful way. Through the canals, see the homes and yards of locals, while enjoying the stunning scenes along the wilderness shoreline. Ideally done in the summer months, but enjoyable year-round, paddling is a beautiful and calming experience. This year, bring your human powered watercraft to the twenty-plus miles of waterways in Ocean Shores and reconnect with the dreams, history and future of the region.

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