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San Juan Island
I-5, Exits 226/230 to Anacortes Ferry Terminal
the san juan islands.
A national treasure.
On March 25, 2013, President Obama formally recognized the timeless beauty and immeasurable value of the San Juan Islands by preserving 1,000 acres of land scattered across the islands for perpetuity as a national monument.
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of more than 450 islands, rocks and pinnacles in the Salish Sea between the U.S. mainland and Vancouver Island. Their rugged coastlines, pastoral villages and verdant forests make them a wonderful place to escape the pressures of modern life. The president’s designation
of the San Juan Islands National Monument ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy them unchanged.
“These islands form an unmatched landscape of contrasts, where forests seem to spring from gray rock and distant, snowcapped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches,” President Obama said in his proclamation.
The rationale behind the President’s decision goes far beyond visual splendor, however – the islands offer major historical and scientific significance as well.
Archeological sites of the Coast Salish people, who were the first to inhabit the islands, provide clues to early human settlement. There is evidence of human activity on the islands as far back as the end of the last Ice Age – more than 12,000 years ago.
The Coast Salish people often lived in wooden-plank houses, fished and harvested shellfish, and maintained meadows of great camas, an edible and nutritionally-rich flowering herb. Their communities were well established, as evidenced by remains of
the villages, processing sites, reef net locations and burial sites found throughout the San Juan Islands.
The first Europeans arrived in the late 18th century. Explorers mapping the complex coastlines were followed by trappers and fur traders, and by 1852 the first American settlers had built their homesteads, some of which remain today. The Bureau of Land
Management administers two lighthouses, Platos Island Light Station and Turn Point Light Station, that were built in the late 19th century and are registered historical places.
A diversity of habitats critical to supporting many species makes the San Juan Islands a valuable scientific resource. The island marble butterfly, for example, was once thought to be extinct but is currently limited to a small population on the San
Marine and terrestrial mammals including orcas, seals, otters, mink, black-tail deer and porpoises and many bird species attract enthusiasts who come to watch and scientists who come to study. The biodiversity of the San Juan Islands was a major reason behind President Obama’s decision to preserve the landscape.
The 75 sites of the San Juan Islands National Monument are scattered throughout the islands, and include some of the small islands and outcroppings that pepper the channels between Orcas, San Juan, Shaw and Lopez islands where ferries routinely
ply. These sites are all worth visiting and collectively add yet another reason to explore the diverse historical, scientific and visual treasures of the San Juan Islands.