San Juan Island Historical Park

San Juan Island National Historical Park is actually two completely separate parks. Each is a historic site in the San Juans that also offer magnificent scenery and things to do that involve the beautiful natural resources of the islands. Both of the parks are located along the coastline—one on the southern tip and one on the northern tip of the island—and both are known for some of the best kayaking opportunities in the entire Pacific Northwest.

One of the things that make this such an important historic site in the San Juans is the rather odd history that saw both United States and British military occupying camps on opposite ends of the island. Relations between the two nations who jointly occupied the island during the mid-1800s were fairly amicable, and this is where the famous Pig War of 1859 was settled through peaceful arbitration rather than armed conflict. It all began with an American farmer shooting a pig that belonged to a British subject and lasted for twelve years while the British lobbied for control of the region and the Americans were distracted by the Civil War. The Brits occupied the northern part of San Juan Island National Historical Park that is today called English Camp. The Americans occupied the southern part, which is today called American Camp. English Camp is about nine miles northwest of Friday Harbor, and American Camp is about six miles southeast.

Things to do in San Juan Island National Historical Park include hiking. Together, the parks boast six miles of saltwater coastline, making for excellent beachcombing and superb whale watching. There are many more miles of hiking trails, pristine forested areas, deserted beaches, and serene lagoons. Along the way, you can visit historic military cemeteries, soldiers' barracks, guardhouses, and parade grounds, and scenic lighthouses. There is even a lovely English formal garden built by a homesick soldier to remind his family of home.

Another historic site in the San Juans is Lime Kiln Point State Park, which is located on the western coast about halfway between the two national parks. Since the island is only about fifteen miles long, Lime Kiln is a neighbor of both of them and provides another facet of insight into the island's past. As its name suggests, this is an area was limestone was quarried and where kilns turned it into profitable lime. This industry flourished throughout the San Juan Islands from the mid-1800s into the early 1900s, and it was lime production that built what is today the popular resort town of Roche Harbor. Whale watching cruises and kayaking excursions will often visit all three of these related parks.

Those who don't visit San Juan Island National Historical Park or Lime Kiln Point by boat or kayak can easily get here by vehicle. It's possible to bring your own car on the ferries that dock in Friday Harbor, and there are some car rental outlets if you haven't brought your own car. Another popular form of land based transportation is the bicycle, and there are a number of bicycle rental outlets in Friday Harbor. Many of the resorts and hotels around the island have a resident fleet of bicycles available to their guests.


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