History of Deception Pass Bridge
The Deception Pass Bridge began as a dream, became a convenience, and developed into an icon.
courtesy: Island County Historical Society
by Elizabeth Guss
The Deception Pass Bridge began as a dream, became a convenience, and developed into an icon. Curving gracefully between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, it crowns the most visited state park in Washington. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this bridge is recognized for its engineering and the elegant architecture that complements the scenic and geologic wonder of Deception Pass. Its history brings together the place, the people, and the popular park that draws visitors from around the world.
Finding Parking around Deception Pass…
There are several places you can park, get out, and enjoy Washington’s most popular state park. All parking is $10 a day or free with a Discover Pass.
Washington State Park Service Ranger Rick Blank is one of several folks who have guided visitors through the Deception Pass State Park. With 4,134 acres, 14.6 miles of saltwater shoreline, three lakes, and 35 miles of trails, this park has national park size and quality. Known for breathtaking views, old growth forests and abundant wildlife, its topography features rugged cliffs that drop to meet the swirling waters of Deception Pass. The park has historical interest and many varieties of landscapes. Yet, as Ranger Rick states, “When people think of Deception Pass, the first thing they think of is the bridge.”
This great achievement began with an idea from a New England seaman, Captain George Morse, who sailed through the narrow, turbulent waterway called Deception Pass and eventually settled in the tiny village of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. Pointing at the two promontories of Whidbey and Fidalgo in the 1880s, he told his children that “one day we will have a bridge across this pass with Pass Island as a center support.” Fifty years later, with the persistent work of citizens and legislators, and the public works support of the Great Depression, the bridge became a reality.
Some 700 cars traveled on the bridge on July 31, 1935, the day it was dedicated. About 20,000 cars now cross the bridge 180 feet above its swirling water every day. Dramatic and intriguing, the bridge is the Pass’s great connector. It links three islands together and interweaves history, recreation, commerce, nature and more.
Human history in the park dates back thousands of years when the first people settled in Cornet Bay, Rosario, and Bowman. They hunted, fished and harvested edible native plants like nodding onions. Shellfish middens are found in all these locations. Juan de Fuca may have been one of the first white explorers to visit the area in the late 1500s and the strait named for him marks his voyage. Nearly two centuries passed, however, before Deception Pass’s mysteries were revealed to the world.