Whatcom County is full of hidden treasures. Obvious ones include sweeping views of Bellingham Bay and the rushing waters of the Nooksack River. But there are also plenty of treasures to be discovered in the land and rock right under our feet. You just have to know where to look.
“It’s fun to think about the ways the landscape we live in was created,” Jennifer Parker, a member of the Land Trust’s Board, says. Here in Whatcom County we owe much of our geology to glacial movement, including fossil fields in Deming. These fossil fields contain evidence of marine life such as bits of shells. Marine fossils in Deming? How did they get there? Well, during the ice age a notable percentage of the Earth’s water was locked up in big glaciers, which caused sea levels to drop. The weight of these massive glaciers actually pushed the Earth’s rigid layer called the “lithosphere” into the more viscous underlying layer. In what is now Whatcom County these sheets were between 4,500 to 6,000 feet thick and stretched at some points from Canada to Olympia. When the glaciers began to melt, the sea level rose faster than the land could spring back, leading to marine environments farther inland than could exist today, and eventually leaving behind marine fossil fields miles away from the ocean.
Another unique local feature is the honeycomb weathering in the bluffs by the beach at Teddy Bear Cove, a Whatcom County Park on which the Land Trust holds a conservation easement. This distinctive pattern of rock face erosion looks similar to the wax walls inside bee hives. This feature is rare, found only in three climates: hot deserts, cool deserts, and coastal areas. In coastal regions like Whatcom County the distinctive pattern is caused by the evaporation of grains of salt deposited on the rock by waves (which you can learn more about in our Geologic Feature of the Month).
One more fascinating feature of Whatcom County is the Twin Sisters. This mountain range is composed almost entirely of dunite, a rock originating in the Earth’s mantle and containing high quantities of the green-toned mineral olivine. Entire ranges of dunite are quite rare, as they are essentially a section of the Earth’s mantle uncovered. Interestingly, the Twin Sisters lack of dense vegetation is due in part to the unique composition of the mountains. Dunite doesn’t contain certain minerals which plants need to grow, causing the unusual bareness of the Sister’s slopes.
Whatcom County has so many special places and beautiful sights to offer us, and it’s not just the rivers, plants and wildlife that are special but also the land itself. From ancient fossils to unique weathering patterns to striking mountain ranges, all these pieces come together to create the land we love and work to protect!
Note for appropriate usage of Teddy Bear Cove
Teddy Bear Cove is a beautiful Bellingham spot and we encourage you to go check it out for yourself, if you visit however please keep in mind that it is a Whatcom County Park and be respectful of the land during your time there!
Enjoying the park sunrise to sunset
Spending time on the small beach
Walking / hiking
Admiring the forest of Madrone and Garry Oaks
Packing out what you pack in
Collecting firewood or having a fire
Damaging vegetation such as the Garry Oaks
Vandalism of natural resources
Traveling off trail