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San Juan Island National Historical Park

San Juan Islands

Northern Puget Sound, Washington

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San Juan Island National Historical Park

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  • Whale watching boats below the Olympic Mountains.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Pullout overlooking Cattle Point Lighthouse.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Viewpoint above South Beach.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Path to a bluff overlooking the Salish Sea.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • A lot of foxes wander the meadows near the San Juan Island National Historical Park.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • View from a meadow east of South Beach.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Cattle Point Lighthouse from San Juan Island National Historical Park.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Panorama of a cloudy sunrise over Jakles Lagoon with Orcas Island in the distance.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Sunrise over South Beach with wildflowers in the foreground.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • South Beach.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Picnic area in South Beach.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Wildlife-proof trash receptacles throughout the park.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Parking area of English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Pathway to English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Main barracks building (now the visitor center) of English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • The Blockhouse on Garrison Bay in English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Parade grounds up to Garrison Bay in English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • The garden of English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Commissary of English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Native Americans offering outrigger rides on Garrison Bay.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Panorama of Garrison Bay.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • View of the English Camp parade ground from Officers' Hill.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Historical marker on Officers' Hill.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Tall trees line the entrance road to English Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Cattle Point Lighthouse atop the bluff.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Mount Baker as seen from the road above Jakles Lagoon.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Parking area of American Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Parade grounds of American Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Laundress Quarters of American Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Officers' quarters in American Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Parade grounds of American Camp.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Olympic Mountains through the porch of the Officers' Quarters.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Grandmas Cove.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Panorama above Grandmas Cove.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
  • Trail above Grandmas Cove.- San Juan Island National Historical Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Whale watching. Interesting history. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Northern Puget Sound, WA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

San Juan Island National Historic Park stands as a testament that two nations can work together peacefully to resolve their differences. Its two locations on the island also happen to provide some of the most scenic views in the area. So, if you're interested in learning some unique and profound history while checking out some amazing views, whale watching vistas and some of the only hiking trails on the island, visit this amazing park in the San Juan Islands.

The border between the U.S. and Canada was originally established in 1846 along the 49th parallel, which intersected the islands, holding the actual border in dispute. Citizens from both the United States and Great Britain (which was governing Canada at the time) resided on San Juan Island, which was ideal for sheep and pig farms due to its rich soil. In 1859, an American shot and killed a British-owned pig. This quickly sparked a military response from both countries. Three warships and 500 troops were eventually dispatched to the island from both sides. With a battle imminent, it was decided that a peaceful resolution had to be found, and therefore a joint occupation of the island would be a temporary solution. The Civil War then occurred, putting this issue on the back burner, causing the joint occupation to last 12 years. Governments sought resolution through arbitration, and a request was submitted to the emperor of Germany. The resolution was that the border between the two countries would be the Haro Strait, west of the island. The British soldiers left their camp peacefully, but only after chopping down their flag pole. In 1998, the British replaced the flag pole with a modern, 90-foot fiberglass pole in an act of additional peace. The United States and Canada now share the longest unfortified border in the world, and today the park stands as evidence that two countries can work together peacefully to resolve significant issues.

Today, original structures of both the American and British camps stand on opposite ends of the island. These camps are well-maintained and preserved. Knowledgeable park staff are outwardly available as resources during your visit. These two areas of the park are quite different and worth exploring. English Camp resides in a dense forest of madrona and Garry oak trees on the edge of Garrison Bay. A short, strenuous hike up nearby Young Hill will give you a grand overlook of the camp, Garrison Bay, and the surrounding bays. The American Camp is significantly larger in size and boasts open prairies, beaches, bays, tall bluffs, whale watching vistas and a lighthouse. 

A significant network of trails also exists on the American Camp end of the island. Strolling across the open prairies on these trails is worthwhile as most of them tend to have views of the Strait of Jaun De Fuca, and orcas can be seen in the right conditions. Grandmas Cove has a small beach nestled away among some bluffs. Continue across the grasslands, admiring the various species of wildflowers in the spring and early summer, and follow the South Beach Trail to one of the longest public beaches on the island. Cattle Point Road rises high above the water offering panoramic, unobstructed views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the distant Olympic Mountains. This is an excellent vantage point to spot whales and other wildlife such as red foxes (which are numerous on the island). Continue on to Cattle Point Lighthouse, which is technically outside the park's border.

Visitors to San Juan Island typically come to escape busy lives. The island has a culture of rest and relaxation. One will not typically find a lot of crowds. Visiting the two areas of this park is a perfect way to experience the island. The variety of activities and amount of history that can be absorbed reflects the culture of the island perfectly.

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(7 within a 30 mile radius)

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