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Originally published Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM

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Enjoy a scenic, salty walk on Camano Island

A visit to Camano Island's Iverson Spit Preserve.

Special to The Seattle Times

Location: Iverson Spit Preserve, Camano Island

Length: One-mile loop, plus beach.

Level of difficulty: Level to gentle.

Setting: This 120-acre preserve lies tucked away between a forested hillside and the southwest corner of Livingston Bay, an important estuarine habitat and a northern portion of Port Susan bay. Once a tidal saltwater marsh, the area was diked for farming in the 1940s, and acquired in 1999 by the county. With several different habitats, the preserve attracts a wide variety of birds; around 125 species have been recorded here. Near the trailhead, steps lead up to two viewing platforms and allow access over the fragile dike, where you can go down to the beach and clamber over a thick tangle of drift logs to reach the shoreline. If the weather's good, views of the Cascades dominate the skyline to the east.

The loop trail runs behind the dike through thickets of rose hips higher than your head, then meets up with the top of the dike near a linear grove of madrona trees. Continue along on top of the dike with a good overlook of the saltwater marsh. The trail curves into the forest then heads back to the trailhead via thickets of thimbleberry and salmonberry, a freshwater marsh and open fields (the well-marked "Hobbit" trail offers an alternative route to the last section of trail if it's not too muddy).

Highlights: Time your visit for low tide to have the most beach to walk on and to see the empty tidal channels, which leave muddy conduits into the saltwater marsh on the north side of the preserve. On May 1, at 9:45 a.m., join a free naturalist-led tour of Iverson Spit Preserve and two other local habitats, Kristoferson Creek Habitat and English Boom Historical Park. For more information about the walk, call Friends of Camano Island Parks at 360-387-0889 or 360-387-4000.

Facilities: Vault toilet at trailhead.

Restrictions: Leash and scoop laws in effect.

Directions: From Interstate 5, take Exit 212 and head west 10 miles on Highway 532 through Stanwood and over the bridge to Camano Island. Stay left on East Camano Drive, where the road splits, then at the light turn left on Sunrise Boulevard and go 2.5 miles. Turn left on Iverson Beach Road, turn left at the "T," go down the hill, turn left at the next "T," and drive to the preserve at the end of the road.

For more information: 360-679-7331 or www.whidbey.net/camparks/coparks.html.

Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She's currently a travel guidebook editor at Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: nwwriter@hotmail.com

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