Leslie Holmes (center) gives a brief talk on the native plants at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Leslie Holmes (center) gives a brief talk on the native plants at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Free days: When state parks say ‘welcome’ and there is no fee

Ten of Washington’s state parks are in Snohomish County and on Camano and Whidbey islands.

Whether you’re drawn to beaches, forests or the spectacular view from Deception Pass Bridge on Whidbey Island, you can enjoy these and other scenes at state parks across Washington on a “free day” on Aug. 25.

Among the local attractions is water dropping 367 feet over Wallace Falls near Gold Bar and the historic Cama Beach on Camano Island.

Up to 12 free days are scheduled each year. Legislation called for no fee days following approval in 2011 of a fee system at state parks. The charge is either $10 for a day pass or $30 for an annual pass.

Although tallies aren’t kept on the number of park visitors who turn out for the events, when the dates are announced, “it gets a lot of response, no matter what time of year,” said Toni Droscher, a Washington State Parks spokeswoman.

In Snohomish County, Wallace Falls State Park near Gold Bar has a variety of attractions, including, of course, the famous view of thundering water.

Leslie Holmes identifies lichen species at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Leslie Holmes identifies lichen species at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“You’ll get a good view of the falls no matter how far up you go” on the trail, Droscher said.

On summer Sundays, there’s a drop-in interpretive event at the nature station from 3 to 5 p.m. led by Leslie Holmes, senior park aide.

Her strong interest in botany is evident as she explains the interconnectedness of what might be overlooked parts of the forest such as mosses, lichen and liverworts. Mosses, for example, help trees gather moisture and nutrients.

“People stroll right past them,” she said. “They’re not aware that they’re there.”

She has magnifying glasses to allow closer looks at the plants, but if you or your family have your own, you should bring them.

The park has more than 12 miles of trails. For those who like longer hikes, there are trails to two lakes — 4.1 miles each way to Wallace Lake and 5.5 miles each way to Jay Lake, said park ranger Kevin Lease.

There’s fishing at the two lakes and wildlife viewing along the way, including pileated woodpeckers, deer and occasionally a glimpse of a black bear.

Gino Sanita, center, teaches his son Carlo Sanita, 5, left, and daughter Virgina Sanita, 7, how to fish off of the boat launch dock at Camano Island State Park. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gino Sanita, center, teaches his son Carlo Sanita, 5, left, and daughter Virgina Sanita, 7, how to fish off of the boat launch dock at Camano Island State Park. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

At Cama Beach Historical State Park Tina Dinzi-Pederson, an interpretive specialist, can barely contain her enthusiasm for what you can experience there.

Its history dates to 1934 when Cama Beach opened as a resort. In 2008, it became part of the state park system.

Park staff are happy to answer questions and help orient visitors. “People come back year after year on free days because it’s a happy place,” she said.

Summer ranger talks are scheduled each Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m. on the beach, discussing anything from kelp to eagles, to help visitors increase their observation skills and curiosity to discover, Pinzi-Pederson said.

The beach’s historic store has books and games to borrow, and ice cream and penny candy for sale.

“It’s an exciting place for kids — it’s like an old-time store,” she said. It’s one place that kids can shop and ponder their choices, asking cashiers how much can they can buy with the coins in their hands.

The Cama Beach Cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the summer.

Two eaglets have recently fledged and are learning to fly. One just began flying five days ago, she said.

A free shuttle can transport families with young children or older adults to the beach or up the incline from the waterfront.

“The whole place runs at a slower pace,” Pinzi-Pederson said. “Here, everyone is on island time. If people want to come out and unwind and relax this is certainly that place.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Leslie Holmes (right) gives a brief talk on the native plants at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Leslie Holmes (right) gives a brief talk on the native plants at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Free state parks days

Aug. 25: National Park Service’s 103rd Birthday

Sept. 28: National Public Lands Day

Nov. 11: Veterans Day

Nov. 29: Autumn Day

Nearby state parks

Wallace Falls State Park, 14503 Wallace Lake Road, Gold Bar; 360-793-0420; parks.state.wa.us/289/Wallace-Falls. A 1,380-acre camping park with shoreline on the Wallace River, Wallace Lake, Jay Lake, Shaw Lake and the Skykomish River.

Mount Pilchuck State Park, Granite Falls; 360-793-0420; parks.state.wa.us/548/Mount-Pilchuck. Access off the Mountain Loop Highway near Verlot. A 1,893-acre day-use park that features mountainous alpine terrain with views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and the North Cascades.

Possession Point State Park, 8343 S. Franklin Road, Clinton; parks.state.wa.us/964/South-Whidbey-Possession-Point-and-Usele. Undeveloped.

Deception Pass State Park, 41229 Highway 20; Oak Harbor, 360-675-3767; parks.state.wa.us/497/Deception-Pass. A 4,134-acre marine and camping park on Whidbey Island near Deception Pass, which connects Skagit Bay with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Joseph Whidbey State Park, Crosby Road, Oak Harbor; 360-902-8844; parks.state.wa.us/526/Joseph-Whidbey. A 112-acre park on Whidbey Island along the shore of on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Fort Ebey State Park, 400 Hill Valley Drive, Coupeville; 360-678-4636; parks.state.wa.us/526/Joseph-Whidbey. The 645-acre camping park on Whidbey Island, was originally built as a coastal defense fort in World War II.

Fort Casey Historical State Park, 1280 Engle Road, Coupeville; 360-678-4519; parks.state.wa.us/505/Fort-Casey. A 467-acre marine camping park on Whidbey Island with a lighthouse and views of Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

South Whidbey State Park, 4128 S. Smugglers Cove Road, Freeland; 360-331-4559; parks.state.wa.us/585/South-Whidbey. This 347-acre park on Whidbey Island has views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Cama Beach Historical State Park, 1880 SW Camano Drive; Camano, 360-387-1550; parks.state.wa.us/483/Cama-Beach. A 38-acre park on Camano Island that preserves the site of a 1930s-era fishing resort.

Camano Island State Park, 2269 S. Lowell Point Road, Camano; 360-387-3031; parks.state.wa.us/484/Camano-Island. The 134-acre camping park on Camano Island has views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier.

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