Hunting for fun at Washington state parks

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                                   Scavenge up some fun before school starts—and even after— at a Washington state park! 

Kids looking to squeeze the last bit of fun out summer?

Take them for a hunting trip—the scavenger kind!

The new school year is nigh, and your clan may already be growing wistful for summer’s joys. But you still have plenty of time to enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends! A scavenger hunt is a great way to motivate the troops. And, chock full of fun discoveries, your state parks make great venues for a scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are fun, inexpensive, educational, good exercise and quick and easy to customize for a variety of interests and ages. Need ideas? Here are just a few treasures from parks around the state. Use these, and add your own interests and create a hunt that fills out a morning, a whole day or even an epic weekend!

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The (Literal) End of the Trail

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                              O! The joy! Go find where Lewis and Clark ended their westward journey—it's no disappointment!

Where is it: Cape Disappointment State Park
What is it: A marker commemorating the Corps of Discovery reaching the Pacific Ocean.
Why find it: It was late November 1805 and the end (of the first half) of a long journey when Lewis and Clark’s moccasins touched down on what is now Waikiki Beach in Ilwaco. Find this marker on your visit to Cape Disappointment and reflect on the tremendous 2,000-mile trek that opened the way to the West. Near here you also will find some outdoor art including inscribed pathways and driftwood sculptures. While you are at the park, stop into the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center for more great history and interactive displays!

Life of Salmon

Scavenger hunt Salmon

'Wall' what do you know? A lot more about the life cycle of salmon when you find this sculpture at Dosewallips State Park. Find it, then check out the real deal a few steps away in the Dosewallips River.

Where is it:Dosewallips State Park
What is it: “Life of Salmon” is a sculpture commissioned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and it swims across a concrete wall where Highway 101 crosses a path running through the park.
Why find it: Here in the Pacific Northwest, salmon is, in a word, everything. Salmon are an important food resource and an integral part of native northwest culture. Salmon’s survival is an indicator of the health of our streams and lands, and their end-of-life upstream battle to ensure the next generation’s survival is nothing short of awe inspiring. Visit this beautiful relief sculpture to learn more about this icon of the Northwest. Then, return in fall to watch the chum salmon challenge the Dosewallips River just yards from the sculpture.

Torpedo X-Ray Tower

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Tower of power! It may LOOK like a plain-old brick bunker, but it once served to house and diffuse some dangerous enemy munitions! 

Where is it: Fort Townsend Historical State Park
What is it: A tall brick bunker at the North end of the park.
Why find it: Picture this scenario: You pull an enemy torpedo or mine—the kind that will turn a large military vessel into confetti—out of the ocean. Then you CAREFULLY carry it up to your fort on a cliff overlooking the Admiralty Inlet, string it on a chain and haul it into a brick bunker where you zap it with a 2-million-volt X-ray machine trying to discern what makes it tick. Then, you work on diffusing it. Yep, that’s what real people did during World War II in this unassuming brick warehouse. This building is a great catalyst for talking about early military history and the role of Washington’s forts in coastal defense during the first half of the 20th Century.

Atlas Gas Engine Saw

Scavenger hunt Steam Donkey Cama

I saw it first! This giant wood cutter had a big role in keeping the Cama Beach resort running back in the 1930s. Come discover how!

Where is it:Cama Beach Historical State Park
What is it: A large, gas-driven saw mounted on wheels.
Why find it: Camano Island has been a popular fishing spot since, oh…forever. Native peoples came to the island to collect the rich bounty of seafood, shellfish and berries still abundant in this area. So, when the fishing resort and cabins at Cama Beach were built in the 1930s, it’s no surprise many visitors came to collect and preserve some of these delights as well. Wood stoves were used for cooking (and even canning), hot water and, of course, to keep warm. That required a lot of firewood. Enter the rather vicious-looking apparatus in the above photo. Much wood passed through this toothy monster until electricity surpassed wood fires as the preferred heating source. Reflect on how people recreated in days when things we take for granted—such as heat and refrigeration—were harder to come by.

Vantage Forest

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Can't see the forest for the rocks? Look carefully—these magnificent 'stones' hold clues to the Columbia River region's ancient past!

Where is it: Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
What is it: One of the most diverse and visually stunning petrified wood deposits on the planet
Why find it: Travelers zooming east and west on Interstate 90 through the hot, shrub steppe badlands near the Columbia River often drop into the tiny burg of Vantage for gas and ice cream. But this popular stop also is home to remnants of a once-lush, 15-million-year-old forest of Gingko, Sequoia and other trees. In 1932, Professor George Beck discovered a Gingko log here, petrified by water and minerals percolating through layers of ash left on by a series of volcanic eruptions. Natural and human history run deep at this park, which also is a national natural landmark. Don’t miss the interpretive center for even more awesome discoveries!

The Watermelon Cooler

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Where is it: Fields Spring State Park
What is it: A simple cement trough structure with a wood lid.
Why find it: This simple lidded 'box' is not much to look at, but it is an important reminder of the history of this region. When Ben Fields settled here as a rancher in the 1880s, there were few opportunities to provide water for livestock. Fields, for whom the park is named, rerouted the spring to provide water for his livestock and opened the way for others to have access to this precious resource even though it was not his land. Little is known of the exact origin of the box. But it was an important part of the reason this land was built into a park. Into the later part of the 20th Century, the box had the icy stream waters running through it and visitors would often store watermelons and other foodstuffs in it as refrigeration was not available, thus giving it the colloquial name "watermelon cooler." Spring water doesn't run through the box anymore, but it is a great starting place for a talk about resourcefulness of homesteaders and later visitors before electricity became available. 

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