Neah Bay, Washington, on the Makah Reservation, is the gateway village to Cape Flattery, the northwest tip of the Lower 48. I’ve been intrigued with Neah Bay and Cape Flattery for several years as Joe has traveled there several times for birding trips. As it turns out, Neah Bay and the surrounding area is a hot spot for bird migration in the fall and the spring. We stayed one night in a cozy little cabin at the Cape Resort.
After a four and a half hour drive from Seattle, including a ferry crossing from Edmonds to Kingston, we found ourselves in Neah Bay, welcomed by the towering painted wooden Makah figures of the Makah Museum. Neah Bay is a fishing village and the most prominent feature in town is the marina full of fishing boats, some modern, and some in desperate need of repair or retirement.
As we strolled around the marina, we saw several fisherman hauling in their catch for the day. We chatted with two fish biologists who keep tabs on the daily catch.
I spent an afternoon at the Makah Museum which houses a collection of 500 artifacts dating back 500 years. These artifacts are part of a 50,000 piece collection recovered from the village of Ozette which was covered in a mud slide five centuries ago. The mud covering the precious artifacts for several centuries preserved them until they were discovered and recovered in 1970-1981.
The artifacts include fishing tackle, tools, wooden baskets, bags, games, cooking supplies, blankets, and more. The display of artifacts and printed narrative takes visitors on a journey through the four seasons while telling the story of Makah tribal life, which centered around whaling, hunting seals, and fishing.
Some of the artifacts are teeny tiny such as fish hooks and small tools the size of a sewing needle. I imagined someone holding these tools close and going about their day as the deadly mud slide came down centuries ago. I was touched that many of the tools were decorative as well as functional such as delicate combs showcasing intricate carvings of fish, and other symbols. No photographs are allowed in the museum.
The museum has true-to-size replicas of whaling canoes and fishing boats carved from spruce and a full-size longhouse. There’s also an impressive woven basket collection from the early 20th century made by Makah women who sold the baskets in order to purchase food for their families.
I spoke to the person at the front desk, a Makah tribal member who worked on the excavation of Ozette. He told me the dig was closed up in the 1980’s due to lack of funding, even though he estimates the team only recovered a half of the artifacts.
A short drive out of Neah Bay leads to the Cape Flattery hiking trail. The 3/4 mile hiking trail winds from the parking lot through ancient looking ferns and trees and down a steep and curved boardwalk which leads to several lookouts including the final lookout point with a stunning, sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean including Tatoosh Island, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island. The water churns and crashes against the cliffs while Pelagic Cormorants swoop in and out of crevices and caves. Breathtaking!
We stayed one night in Neah Bay which really took us out of our normal city life and into another world. Thank you, Joe, for taking me to this dramatic corner of the Washington state. Thank you for the beautiful bird photos below!