Hammersley Inlet: The Shelton Shuttle


A swift and enjoyable route of approximately 7 to 10 miles or so, depending on just where you launch and take out, and whether or not you include a side trip to Hope Island. Not a good route for a novice due primarily to turbulence around the capes, and beginners too should be cautious and give the capes plenty of space. As always, dress for immersion; it can be difficult to avoid some of the turbulent areas. Private property lines the route.


The Shelton Shuttle is so named because it’s a relatively narrow passage feeding Oakland Bay (above Shelton), resulting in currents which are regularly over 3 knots and can be noticeably faster. This can make for a fun paddle, but due to turbulence around the points it is not a good place for a novice; beginners especially should not go solo, and should be careful where the water sweeps around a point. Cape Horn and Cape Cod can be especially turbulent (the latter less visibly, but can have very confused waters) and I advise giving them a wide berth unless you are experienced and comfortable with such conditions. Additionally, the currents outside the mouth of the inlet can be significant and somewhat confused due to the confluence of Hammersley Inlet, Totten Inlet, and the other channels that sweep around Hope Island. The fetch from Totten Inlet, at a minimum, can be noteworthy. Powerboats do traverse the inlet, and especially the area outside the mouth of the inlet, so paddlers need to be alert and avoid being trapped in the middle of the channel at narrow points, which can conflict with the need to give some space to the capes.

The above warnings aside, the paddle between Shelton and Arcadia Point or Hope Island can be interesting and fun and fast for a prepared and reasonably-capable paddler. If you want a longer paddle or wish to avoid a shuttle between launch and takeout points and are willing to wait out slack, you can take advantage of current to get a boost in both directions. For instance, if the current timing is appropriate, you could paddle from Shelton to Hope Island, have lunch, and then paddle back. Or you could paddle to Hope Island, camp for the night, and paddle back the next morning.


  • Distance: 7–10+ miles (one way)
    • Between Walker Park and Arcadia Point is 7+ miles
    • Add ~1.5 miles if launching from Shelton Boat Launch (beside Shelton Yacht Club)
    • Add ~1.5+ miles to include a side trip to Hope Island
  • Suitable for: Any kind of kayak
  • Hazards: Significant boils and eddy lines
  • Launch / Take-out Points:
    • Walker Park: There may once have been a boat launch here but no longer, and you can’t drive to the edge. Launching or taking out here requires carrying your craft through the park.
    • Shorecrest Park: Opposite Walker Park (I have not visited here)
    • Shelton Boat Ramp: There’s a good bit of parking here and it’s easy to launch
    • Arcadia Point Boat Launch: Owned and operated by the Squaxin Island Tribe. Popular with motorboats.
    • Hope Island (South) Marine State Park: Accessible only by boat. Picnic tables in the orchard; visitors are allowed to snack on the apples from the orchard. Deer frequent the orchard. Raccoons as well frequent the orchard and camping area. Plenty of mosquitoes in the campground at the right time of year. A trail runs around the island, with several side trails giving access to the water at multiple points, but the main access is on the southwest tip of the island. On the west point by the big Hope Island sign is the orchard and the group camping area. Immediately to the east is the main camping area. Various spots have wooden racks for stacking kayaks; very good for campers.

Other Notes

  • A bike shuttle looks pretty reasonable, especially between Walker Park and Arcadia Point with around 300 ft of elevation gain. There are no sidewalks or bike lanes, nor is there much space beside the road, but given the location, traffic seems to be pretty calm and considerate, and locals can often be seen walking on the roads.