Is Kitsap becoming kayak capital of Puget Sound?

Among locals, the Kitsap Peninsula has long been known as a great place to go kayaking, but now the 300+ miles of shoreline are quickly becoming a destination for out-of-area folks.

Kayakers paddle near Port Gamble.
Kitsap Sun photo by Larry Steagall

A new map of Kitsap’s shoreline features has been produced for the paddle crowd by the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau. The map is helpful for those trying to identify stopping points along the shoreline — whether one wants to spend days on the water or just a few hours.

Patricia Graf-Hoke, manager of the visitor bureau, said she believes it is the first map of its kind in Washington state and may be just the second or third in the nation.

Tourism on the Kitsap Peninsula is growing, she told the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council last week. As a whole, it is becoming a major industry and one of the largest employers in Kitsap County.

In a Kitsap Sun story about the new map, John Kuntz, owner of Olympic Outdoor Center, told reporter Rachel Pritchett that more than half the people who paddle around the peninsula come from somewhere else.

“It’s definitely a part of tourism that Kitsap County hasn’t really embraced in the past,” Kuntz was quoted as saying.

Kuntz has been working with the North Kitsap Trails Association to establish a designated water trail, first in North Kitsap and then throughout the region.

“Kitsap County is a destination for paddle sports,” he told the KRCC, which is made up of elected officials throughout the county. “There is such great scenery and so much to see. The water trails map is opening that to the world.”

The Kitsap Peninsula Water Trails Map (PDF 1.3 mb) can be downloaded from the website of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau or picked up at many outdoors shops in the area.

Speaking of the visitor bureau’s website, this is the place to go for every kind of activity and event taking place in Kitsap County. If you’re ever wondering what to do, this is the first stop. You’re certain to find something to your liking, whether it be outdoors or indoors, relaxing or intense, alone or with lots of people.

Click to download map (PDF 1.3 mb)

Check out the page on kayaking. By the way, would you like to guess the bueau’s motto? It’s “The Natural Side of Puget Sound.”

One of the annual kayaking events in these parts is the two-day Paddle Kitsap trip from Port Gamble around the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula and down the east side, winding up in Poulsbo.

Kitsap Sun reporter Tristan Baurick wrote about Paddle Kitsap last year, when Kuntz reported that the event had tipped the balance toward out-of-area visitors. Up until that point, he said, about 70 percent of the participants came from Kitsap. Last year, that ratio was reversed, with paddlers coming from Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, New York and Illinois.

Check out the story “Paddle Kitsap spotlights region’s marine tourism potential.”

The North Kitsap Water Trail is considered a branch of the larger Cascadia Marine Trail, a 50-campsite route from Olympia to the Canadian border. Seven of the Cascadia trail’s stops are on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Kuntz believes tourism focused on paddle sports is just beginning on the Kitsap Peninsula:

“Kitsap has huge potential. We live in Puget Sound, which is renowned for paddling worldwide. And around Kitsap, it’s as good as paddling gets. Most people have paddled lakes or easy-flowing rivers. Then they come here and they see this wide-open beauty. They see the Olympic Mountains and then they come around the north end of the county and see the whole Cascade Range open up, from Mt. Baker to Mt. Rainier.”

Other outings include a series of fall salmon tours offered by Olympic Outdoor Center. Kitsap Sun reporter Brynn Grimley wrote about that event last fall in her story, “Spawning salmon steal the show on North Kitsap kayak tour.”

Seabury Blair Jr., aka “Mr. Outdoors,” provides information about where to buy or rent equipment and take classes in a story he wrote at the beginning of the 2011 season, “Time to break out the kayaks and canoes.”

I’m wondering if Kitsap is becoming the kayak capital of Puget Sound, but I can tell you that promoters are thinking even bigger than that.

Paddlers (left to right) Dale Booth, Eli Abenroth, 7, and Isaac Abenroth, 12, paddle through Miller Bay in North Kitsap during a salmon kayak tour last fall.
Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

One thought on “Is Kitsap becoming kayak capital of Puget Sound?

  1. I’m the program director for the Olympic Outdoor Center and I just wanted to let readers know that for 2013 we’ve decided on a new route for Paddle Kitsap: Poulsbo to Silverdale, with an overnight at Illahee State Park. We’ll still be on the Kitsap Peninsula Water Trail, but it’s a little shorter than last year (20 miles this year, 35 miles last year) so anyone can do it!

    Thanks for the great article ~ as a kayak guide for 12 years on the Kitsap Peninusula, I’m really excited to share our beautiful area with visitors AND locals on the new water trail!

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