Whirlwind Beach Community Stewardship Program
About the Whirlwind Beach Community Stewardship Program – Whirlwind Beach, also referred to as Locust Beach, is located in northeast Bellingham Bay within the Nooksack Delta in Whatcom County, Washington. The Northwest Straits Chapter (NWS) of the Surfrider Foundation is proud to partner with the Whatcom County Marine Resources Committee (MRC), and the North Sound Kiteboarding Association (NSKA) in the launch of our Whirlwind Beach Community Stewardship Program. Through this program, we aim to inspire a sense of community stewardship for this beach through beach cleanups, providing additional needed facilities (restrooms/garbage/recycling), and education and outreach.
Location, location, location – Balancing Recreation and Ecology in a Unique Geologic Area.
Much of the Whatcom County coastline has limited beach access due to private property, cliffs, or other steep embankments; however, Whirlwind Beach is accessible by a steep trail and has become a popular recreation area for local community members.
Geology and Recreation – Due to anthropogenic alterations of the Nooksack River, Whirlwind Beach has an exceptional accumulation of sediment that provides for over 110 acres of hard sand tidal flats, which make the beach and its tidelands a unique and prime location for kiteboarding, skimboarding, windsurfing, wading, birding, beach walking, and picnicking.
Ecological Services – In addition, the nearshore adjacent to Whirlwind Beach is designated critical habitat for bull trout, Chinook salmon and likely steelhead. In fact, juvenile salmonids were discovered utilizing the natural drainage as refuge by the Whirlwind Beach access trail while the tide was out at Surfrider’s last beach cleanup in May of 2014. Whirlwind Beach is also important ecologically for forage fish and Surfrider hopes to support future forage fish surveys in the area. Birds also utilize Whirlwind’s ecologically critical seabluffs and tideflats for nesting, migrating, and foraging. Birds documented at Whirlwind Beach include terns, turkey vultures, purple martins, kingfishers, bald eagles, rough-wing swallows, gulls, as well as migrating waders.
Why be a steward?
This beach provides unique circumstances for both recreation and preservation/enhancement of habitat for wildlife; however Whirlwind currently lacks a long-term management plan. The Whirlwind Community Stewardship Program aims to increase public awareness about the beach and sense of stewardship so that recreational uses can continue while minimizing negative impacts on important wildlife habitat. For years, public beach access to Whirlwind has been limited; however, this may change in the future. Whirlwind Beach is a popular recreational beach that we can protect for the enjoyment of future generations. The main things that make this beach so special include:
- Recreational use – there are not many sandy beaches around Whatcom County. This one provides great recreational value for many including water sports, wildlife viewing, photography, dog-walking, picnicking, and more. This beach also provides a great slice of remote beach without having to go far from the city of Bellingham with its wilderness-like feel.
- Important wildlife habitat – many birds, fish, and other wildlife utilize this beach. By respecting migrating and nesting birds, beach visitors can experience unique and up-close experiences with bald eagles and more. By respecting forage fish habitat, the larger food web is supported for the benefit of fishermen and those who enjoy a tasty seafood meal.
- Unique geology and history – this area has a unique history and geology unlike any other beaches in Whatcom County. The build up of sand sediment and sandy bluffs make this area ideal for both recreation and wildlife habitat, that if treated right, can be enjoyed for many years to come.
Take the Beach Steward Challenge!
Be a Whirlwind Beach Steward by doing some or all of the activities below.
- Attend a beach cleanup! Check out the calendar for the next scheduled cleanup.
- Leave no trace – by doing this simple stewardship practice, you will be doing your part to leave the beach clean for others to enjoy; take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints
- Take 5 – each time you visit the beach, pick up 5 (or more) pieces of garbage/recycling, you may even inspire others to pitch in too
- Pick up after your pets – fecal coliform and enterococcus bacteria can be a problem when pet waste is left in the watershed and may be harmful to water recreationist, so be sure to scoop the poop so skim boarder, waders, kite boarders and others don’t get sick
- Be respectful of wildlife – there are nesting birds in the sand bluffs, migratory birds, forage fish, and other important habitat on this unique and special beach, so do your best to be respectful of wildlife homes by staying off the bluffs and deterring pets from chasing birds
- No fires! This is a difficult one for many, though it is highly illegal at this beach, but in addition driftwood is an important component of the beach habitat. Additionally, there are old growth logs with dense wood that will burn for a long time if left unattended and pose a real fire hazard. With limited access to this beach, out of control fires are a real threat. Please enjoy and be respectful of the beach.
- Park respectfully – stay on good terms with the neighbors and don’t block access of emergency vehicles. riding your bike or carpooling to the beach is encouraged and will do a further service for your beach by limited your CO2 emissions
- Become a Surfrider member today! Your membership helps support the backbone of our chapter so we can keep on protecting the places you love.
Why the name Whirlwind – There have been several names for this beach over the years, however there is yet to be an official name. Surfrider settled on the use of the name Whirlwind as part of an effort to give the beach area a new and fresh reputation because the name “Locust Beach” has the stigmatism of a “party beach” that gives connotations of an already “trashy beach.” With the name, Whirlwind, which is a translation of the native name for the beach, a new image can be created of stewardship where recreation and important habitat and ecological processes co-exist. This name also aptly describes the conditions that make it so wonderful for sports like kiteboarding.
Stay tuned for updates as we collect more information for this page.