Marine and state parks dot Washington State’s San Juan Islands. Some small islands are entirely state parks. Other state parks are a small portion of a larger island. Some are historic parks. Parks on the bigger islands are generally accessible by car, and may be accessible by boat as well. Some have campgrounds, some are day use only. Marine parks on smaller islands are accessible only by boat. Some have docks and/or mooring buoys. Others with access only for human powered boats are popular with kayakers.
Besides the entire island chain called San Juan Islands, there is also one island within the San Juan’s whose name is San Juan Island. State parks on San Juan Island include San Juan Island Historical Park, which has two locations – English Camp and American Camp from a long-ago boarder dispute when both Canada and the USA claimed ownership of the San Juan Islands. Lime Kiln Point State Park is another historic park on San Juan Island, once the site of lime mining and the lime kiln for which it is named. Now a popular whale-watching spot. San Juan County park is also located on San Juan Island and has camping facilities with running water and flush toilets as well as day use areas and a boat launch.
The other ferry-accessible Islands besides San Juan Island are Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, all of which have parks as well. Lopez Island has two state parks – Spencer Spit and Iceberg Point. 200 acre Spencer Spit has views of Decatur and Blakley Islands and a sand spit within a salty lagoon. The park also has moorage, hiking trails, and a summertime Junior Ranger program for kids. Campsites and kayak rentals are among the amenities along with picnic shelters and potable water. Odlin County Park on Lopez Island also has campsites, mooring buoys, and a dock.
Iceberg Point is day-use trails with no facilities. Parking is available at nearby Agate Beach, a day-use county park. Shaw Island doesn’t have much in the way of public facilities besides the ferry dock and a small grocery store, but there is camping available at Shaw County Park. Orcas Island has Moran, Olga, and Obstruction Pass state parks.
At over 5000 acres, Moran State Park has more area than some entire islands. This park contains Mt. Constitution, the highest point in all of the San Juan Islands. A watchtower on the top of the mountain offers spectacular views on clear days. The park also has miles of trails and 3 campgrounds. Obstruction Pass State Park has primitive campsites and marine access. There’s also some day-use county parks on Orcas Island.
Small full island state marine parks include Blind, Clark, Doe, James, Jones, Matia, Patos, Posey, Stuart, Sucia and Turn. These islands are accessible by private or chartered boat only. All have campsites and mooring buoys. Some have docks – most of which are removed during winter to avoid storm damage. (No docks at Blind, Clark, Patos, Posey or Turn Islands.)
Most of these small island parks are just a short hop away from larger islands. Some like Patos, Sucia, and Matia are closer to each other than to any larger islands. Clark sits halfway between Orcas and Lummi Islands, not all that near to either.
The islands are also full of county parks, some of which are marine accessible like Odlin County Park on Lopez Island which besides the dock, mooring buoys, and campground, also has beach campsites for those arriving by kayak or other human powered craft.
Day use is also possible in some marine sanctuaries such as the Kimball Preserve on Decatur Island, which is accessible by kayak.
Island Marine Parks
Marine parks are accessible by boat. Powered boats are welcome at some islands, only human powered craft at others. Most do not have fresh water available. Garbage is pack in pack out as these remote parks do not have garbage service. Some of the campsites on most of these islands are reserved for people who arrive by human powered craft as they are part of the Cascadia Marine Trail which has a series of campsites throughout the San Juan’s and Puget Sound for those traveling in people-powered boats – mainly kayaks.
Blind Island is a 3-acre state park island near Shaw Island. Because it is has only two campsites they are available only to those arriving by human powered craft. Blind Island’s campsites sit at the top of the island in the midst of a former apple orchard still surviving among grasses and brush. The island’s two wells have gone dry or stagnant so there is no fresh water available. The island has moorage available. Visitors are to pack out anything they pack in on this island as well as the other marine park islands.
Clark Island is a 55 acre state park island between Orcas and Lummi islands with sand or gravel beaches and campsites. It also has moorage and picnic areas.
Much of James Island‘s 581 acres is designated as a natural forest area closed to public access, but this state park island still has plenty of room for hiking trails as well as a dock, mooring buoys, campsites, a picnic area, and primitive toilets – a composting toilet in the west cove and pit toilet for the east cove. There are 2 white sand beaches on the island, which sits across a small channel from Decatur Island.
Jones Island Marine State Park near Orcas Island has lots of wildlife within its 188 acres. Fresh water is available during summer months. This island state park has campsites, mooring buoys, trails, restrooms, picnic area, and a seasonal dock.
Matia Island sits at the northern end of the San Juans. This forested state park does not allow dogs anywhere on the island. It has campsites, restrooms, trails, a dock, and mooring buoys. Campfires are not allowed on this island. Most of the 145 acre island is a wildlife reserve, not open to the public. No fresh water available on this island.
Patos Island is the northernmost of the San Juan Islands, sitting just a couple miles from the Canadian border. This 207 acre marine state park has a lighthouse, ruins of a former coast guard station, a campground, trail, and mooring buoys. Lighthouse tours may be available during the summer depending on weather and tides. There is no fresh water on this island.
Saddlebag Island is at the eastern edge of the San Juan’s in Padilla Bay, just 4 miles from Anacortes. Sightings of marine wildlife and birds are common from this 26 acre island marine state park. The island has no fresh water. Motorized water sports like waterskiing and personal watercraft are allowed near this island. Wildflowers are profuse during the spring.
Stuart Island sits on the northwestern end of the San Juan’s near the Canadian border. This park is over 400 acres and includes moorage buoys and a dock as well as campsites and hiking trails. Park visitors can hike to a lighthouse, which is outside the park boundry. Potable water is available at this marine state park from May through September.
Sucia Island sits at the north end of the San Juan’s between Patos and Matia Islands. This horseshoe shaped island has a seasonal dock and mooring buoys as well as campsites, day use picnic areas, and primitive toilets. Dinosaur fossils have been found on the island, but it is illegal for visitors to remove them should they happen to find more. This 814 acre marine park has 10 miles of hiking trails and potable water available during summer months.
Turn Island Marine State Park sits just off of San Juan Island. This 35 acre island is part of the San Juan’s National Wildlife Refuge. It has 3 mooring bouys. Visitors are to stay on trails and not disturb the wildlife. Campfires are not allowed. Fresh water is not available.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2021