A coastal clamming adventure at Washington state parks
There’s just something about clamming.
Often, even the hesitant who try a mid-winter razor clam dig on Washington’s southern shores get hooked. There’s a magic in it — an intoxicating combination of frosty salt air, roaring surf and the thrill of the hunt. There’s an excitement in it, too—strolling the tide flats with other clammers, stooped shadows reflected in the glassy surface of barely wet sand, scanning for a telltale dimple and then abruptly plunging into the dark sand for that gritty, tasty prize.
Razor clamming is an unparalleled rite of passage for the Pacific Northwesterner. And some of the best beaches to dig at are on the southern coast, in and around your Washington state parks.
So just how does one razor clam? In Washington, it’s likely that most everyone has a friend — or six — willing to let you come along on a dig. But who better to show you the ropes than the folks at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Here’s Dan Ayres, WDFW’s coastal shellfish manager, to show you how it’s done!
There’s no denying clamming also is a superb family activity and makes for not just a delicious dinner, but a lifetime of happy memories. Bringing the kids? Here are the folks at WDFW again to give you some pointers on clamming with kids.
Now, where to go? With the exception of Kalaloch Beach, Washington’s recreational razor clamming beaches are located along the 60-plus miles of coastline south of the Quinault Indian Nation Reservation. Be prepared to be one of the crowd, too! Digs are popular, and you may be among hundreds of others combing the same stretch of shoreline! For information on upcoming digs, always check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website for up-to-date information.
Got your shovel? Rubber boots? Current shellfishing license? Then set your compass for a great place to go! Washington state parks provide not only access to some of the best recreational clamming beaches, they also offer excellent recreation opportunities!
You’ll find ample camping, as well as yurts and cabins, if you are looking to plan a quick vacation around a clamming excursion or two. Enjoy a relaxing night’s stay and brag about your catch — and maybe even cook it — around the fire!
Here are our picks for some parks to visit before, during and after your dig!
Pacific Beach State Park
Pacific Beach State Park is small and simple as camping parks go. But it offers nice views and soft sand in grassy dunes for the kids to play in. It also happens to be smack dab in the middle of a stellar clamming beach! Bring your tent or RV and set up camp; then, spend the day catching your limit on the Mocrocks Beach, which extends from about the Moclips River at the north end to the northern mouth of the Copalis River at the southern end. Fires are not allowed in the park, but you can have one on the beach!
Griffiths-Priday State Park
Griffiths-Priday State Park is much more than a good spot for clamming. It offers the perfect vantage for observing some of the most beautiful and fascinating migratory birds in the nation! At the park’s northern border is the Copalis National Wildlife Refuge and Copalis Spit natural area. Among the low, grassy dunes you can spot snowy plover, oystercatchers, puffins, bald eagles and more! Bring along your binoculars or camera and do some bird watching before heading to the park’s south end and filling your bucket with razor clams at Copalis Beach! The clamming beach extends far south of the park, all the way past the city of Ocean Shores.
Ocean City State Park
Ready for a little vacation? Pitch your tent or park your RV in one of the lovely, forested spaces at Ocean City State Park. You’ll have access to Griffiths-Priday and Copalis Beach for clamming. The campground is a classic northwest coastal forest sandwiched between the dichotomous environments of the Pacific and the North Bay Natural Preserve. The nearby freshwater wetland attracts birds and other wildlife. Nearby Ocean Shores is perfect for supplies, or even to grab dinner out after a long day on the beach.
Dig clams at the beach then camp in the woods — all at one park! Twin Harbors is enormously popular in the summer but slows down when the weather turns cool and cloudy. That doesn’t mean it’s any less dynamic! Twin Harbors Beach offers miles of razor clamming on the Grayland Beach. It’s also a nice place to just walk and enjoy the Pacific Coast in winter. And it’s well known as a spectacular place to witness the drama and spectacle of winter storms.
After a day on the beach, it’s a short walk back to the campground, where trees offer shelter from the ocean winds. Some campsites are closed during the winter, but those that are open are first come, first served. If hanging out in a tent after the hunt doesn’t appeal to you, book a stay at one of the park’s two yurts or five cozy cabins. They have fire pits out front, are located near the bathrooms AND they have heat!
Bonus: A visit to Twin Harbors puts you close to another cool state park — Westport Light. The park is home to some wonderful ocean views, easy strolls and the spectacular Grays Harbor Lighthouse! Stop into the nearby town of Westport for some fresh seafood, and pay a visit to the Westport Maritime Museum, Be sure to get a selfie with the whale skeleton!
Grayland Beach State Park
Clam! Crab! Camp! Do all three — and lots more — at Grayland Beach State Park. Bring your kite and stay overnight! Located just south of Grayland, this park on the southern end of the Twin Harbors Beach has ample camping, pull-through RV sites and 16 yurts that can accommodate up to five visitors. It’s the perfect location for mid-winter beach camping getaway. Weather permitting, you can get a taste of why so many people make this park a go-to destination for kite flying.
There’s plenty of clamming and camping to be had at your Washington State Parks.
Where will you go? Where have you been? Tell us about it and share your pictures here!
Are your clam digging plans taking you to the Long Beach Peninsula?
While there are no camping beaches on the peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park is a gem of a day-use destination where you can spot all manner of wildlife. Read all about it here!
Interested in learning more about shellfish safety?
Read all about it from the experts at the Department of Health here!
NOTE: In the winter months, flooding or other damage from storms and rain may require closing some sections or all of a park. Park staff and / or our central reservation system will do their best to contact reservation holders of any closures. If you have a reservation and are concerned about whether or not your campsite, yurt or cabin is affected, be sure to call the park before you head out. You can also sign up to receive alerts on our Alert Center.
Photo of baby razor clams by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.