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Review

Photo Credit: Bud Hardwick
Maple Beach is one of the four Whatcom County Parks that anchor the corners of Pt. Roberts (See Lily Point, Lighthouse Marine Park, and Monument Park, all on this website). The beach is located in the far northeastern corner of the Point where the international boundary is marked by homes in British Columbia on one side and Roosevelt Way on the U.S. side. The beach faces east and provides one of the few places in Whatcom County where the sunrise can be viewed over saltwater. The wide waters and at low tide the extensive sand and mud flats of Boundary Bay are internationally famous for their bird communities. These flats not only provide extensive exploring opportunities but when the summer tides slowly creep in over the sun baked flats the heated water creates one of the warmest wading and swimming beaches in Western Washington.

Along the roadside paralleling the beach is a concrete buttress with walkways providing access to the sand and pebble beach directly below it. Pleasant opportunities for sunbathing, beach combing and shallow water wading are almost always available. When the tide goes out, the beach may grow to over a mile distance from shore. Across this vast area, freshly revealed for exploration, can be found a myriad of plant and animal life that thrives on the flats. Occasionally something unusual trapped by the falling tide may be available for closer inspection. Here and there relics of broken ships and storm swept objects will seemingly rise up as the water falls. While low tide generally moves the viewable bird life farther from shore the opposite is true for the numerous eagles that live year-round or are migrating through this habitat rich area. On quiet days it’s not unusual to see a congregation of them surprisingly close to shore often jousting over a particularly delectable find. They too enjoy exploring this area at low tide.

When the tide comes in and the beach begins to shrink there’s more rather than less opportunities to enjoy. The birdlife both wading and floating that has been so distant now moves closer to shore. In the sunny summer months the sun baked flats provide a heating source for the shallow film of returning seawater. By the time it reaches the shore waders and bathers can enjoy a short-lived but deliciously warm-water experience.

Following a line of water bound monuments, the international border leads directly across the bay to the large white and easily discernable Peace Arch Border Crossing between the White Rock and Blaine communities. Behind it, undulating over the near foothills, the border stripe can be seen beginning its straight unbroken way across half the North American continent. In the morning, from the beach and depending on weather conditions and visibility, the sun can appear rising from the saltwater, a rarity on the Pacific Coast. While often calmer and quieter in the morning the wildlife viewing and photography can be more difficult while viewing directly into the sun. Later in the day and as evening approaches, the sunset colors can light up the distant shore and occasionally give the Peace Arch a pinkish alpenglow like brilliance.

Visitors to the Maple Beach area can forego the parking difficulties by arriving on bicycles or paddle craft. Cyclists can take advantage of the near distances of all that Point Roberts has to offer but they’ll have to contend with transitioning between this sea level location and the higher plateau that makes up the majority of Point Roberts. Kayakers often enjoy stopping here while rounding Lily Pt and viewing the exceptional on and off shore scenery from the water. They’ll have to keep the tides in mind though or they may be marooned for a few hours if the falling tide catches them too close to shore.

While winter days are short and cool the long winter nights offer something special that summer can’t provide. The lowest tides of winter occur in the dark of night. Without the hot summer sun to contend with, many forms of marine life on the flats tend to be on or closer to the surface and more viewable. Seen only in dim pools of flashlight or headlamp, a constant stream of new discoveries can be fascinating. While the shallow water and extensive flats make tidal changes rather slow it would be wise to never lose awareness of conditions or locations particularly in the dark to avoid getting wetter than expected or worst, losing one’s direction entirely.

Often quiet, particularly on weekdays and mornings, the Point can be crowded on holidays, both U.S. and Canadian so consider both calendars when planning your visit. With few if any services available most non-resident visitors spend only a few enjoyable hours before moving on to another of Point Roberts scenic locations.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 5/23/2011

Directions

Please note that the Point Roberts roundtrip requires crossing the international border four times. Proper identification is required and for children not accompanied by their parents additional documentation may be required. For driving directions please refer to the Lily Point and Lighthouse Marine Park articles (this website). Just before reaching the end of the APA road to Lily Point turn left/north on Boundary Bay Road. From the forested plateau the road eventually curves down and to the right. Road signage will indicate Goodman and Elm but essentially continue down to the shore in the Maple Beach community. At Bay View Drive turn left/north and drive along the seawall that buttresses Maple Beach. There is no shoreline parking at Maple Beach so find appropriate street side parking on adjacent residential streets. Be respectful of property owners and driveways. (Slightly shorter routes are possible by turning east off of Tyee Drive at either Johnson or Benson before reaching APA Road.)

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