Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sun! and Bellingham Bay

December and well November were remarkably cloudy and wet in 2012. Long stretches with little to no sun. One gets used to it. Sun is not expected so it is not missed. But the New Year started out with sun. And what are those white areas on the horizon. Mountains, oh that is right we live surrounded by mountains. Nearly forgot them.
Bellingham is in a spectacular setting, but in a way that is its problem as a town - it is in a great setting. I can see the summit of Mount Baker from my office window, but just the uppermost summit. To see the great setting of Bellingham requires heading a bit west. A drive on the north shore of Bellinham Bay allows one to see the mountain and the setting.
Bellingham Bay, Bellingham with patches of fog, Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters Range

And a drive around the north shore of the bay provides an opportunity to see some engineered shore works.

Rock armored shoreline along Marine Drive

Rock armored shore and rocked slope

The north shore of Bellingham Bay west of the Nooksack River gets pounded by waves driven by strong south winds. Steady erosion began taking out the road along the top of the bluff starting at least in the 1970s and progressively worsened into the 1980s. In the 1990s the shore was lined with rocks for several miles to stop the erosion. A few of the steeper clay slopes were lined with smaller rocks to stabilize the slopes.

The above pictures were taken during a fairly high tide. At other times miles of tide flats extend out away from the bluff. Its a bit of a unique area as there is plenty of sediment from the Nooksack River, but the nature of the periodic waves and shoreline processes has kept the tidal area fairly flat and had maintained a very erosive regime.

The rock work was jointly funded by Whatcom County along with a hefty grant from the Federal government. The shore is part of the Lummi Indian Reservation. That loss of limited reservation land may have played a key role in getting the funding.

Besides the Cascade peaks, other less lofty mountains surround Bellingham Bay.

Lummi Peak rises steeply out of the Salish Sea on Lummi Island.
The forest land under the cloud is Portage Island

Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham
The Cascade Range and Olympics are the best known and highest Mountains in western Washington. And because of that the east-west range of folded summits that extends westward from the Cascades to the San Juan Islands has gone unnamed. Locally, a portion of this range is referred to as the Chuckanut Range. The section of the range pictured above is only a bit over 2,000 feet; however, the height is reached in just a hair over a mile from the shoreline.

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