Willapa Bay Interpretive Center; a gem in the heart of pristine bay

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Janet Herring, Willapa Bay Interpretive Center guide, shows visitors how small native oysters are in one of the displays. The center, just east of the Ark Restaurant in Nahcotta, is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Labor Day.

NAHCOTTA - The Willapa Bay Interpretive Center has everything one would ever want to know about the 150-year history of the oyster industry on Washington's southwestern-most bay.

The center features many informative pictures, artifacts, and maps of the 65 square miles that is Willapa Bay. A turn-of-the century oyster boat, complete with oyster tongs and other gear early oystermen used to wrestle their catch from the mud bottom of the pristine bay is the centerpiece of the center.

The "mini-museum" features a video of the history of the oyster industry on Willapa Bay. A mammoth map of the area covers one entire wall and displays outside describe the flora, bird life, fish, and other wildlife that abound in the area. The only other oyster museum in the United States is in Chincoteague, VA.

The interpretive center is smack-dab in the middle of the historical and scenic area it describes. To the south dredges can be seen dumping shell for future harvests or gathering this season's crop of delectable oysters.

Looking northward to the Nahcotta Mooring Basin one can see the picturesque home for the modern-day oyster fleet. The dock provides one of the few places on the Peninsula where recreational crabbing can be done without a boat. The basin is abuzz with the sites and sounds of workers processing oysters from dredge to container.

The Willapa Bay Interpretive Center is open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and during holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day and admission is free. Groups may make an appointment at other times by calling 665-4547. The center is located east of Sandridge Road at 273rd Street in Nahcotta, just past the Ark Restaurant and is wheel-chair accessible.

The museum is manned by informative volunteers who can make your bay-side experience even more enjoyable. The center was funded by the Washington Department of Ecology, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, and the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Division of the Department of Natural Resources.

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