San Juan Island National Historical Park
San Juan Island is well known for splendid vistas, saltwater shore, quiet woodlands and Orca whales. But it was also here in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a dead pig.
San Juan Island National Historical Park was created in 1966 based upon an idea: that individuals and nations can solve their problems peacefully without resorting to violence. For it was here in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a pig shot by an American farmer. Actually, it was a bit more complicated than that. Pressures had been building between the two nations over possession of the San Juan Island group since 1846 when the Treaty of Oregon left ownership unclear.
Thus came the "Pig War" crisis, at the height of which more than 500 U.S. Army soldiers and three British warships were nose to nose on the island's southern shore, not 10 miles from Victoria, BC. Fortunately, officials on both sides quickly restored calm and the nations agreed to a joint military occupation of the island until the boundary could be decided. The American soldiers and British Royal Marines remained for 12 years until Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, as arbitrator, awarded the islands to the United States. Today the park is an excellent place to hike, picnic, play on the beach, experience wildlife and enjoy a wealth of programming, including the summer living history events.
Seasonality / Weather
American Camp Visitor Center
October 1, 2010 through June 3, 2011:
Wednesday-Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
June 1 through 4, 2010:
Closed for Seasonal Training
June 5 through September 30, 2010:
Daily: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grounds are open to 11 p.m. daily.
Phone: (360) 378-2902
Location: The visitor center entrance road is on the right, just past the park entrance on Cattle Point Road, the primary southbound thoroughfare on San Juan Island. Please, the entrance road speed limit is 15 mph.
Closures: Christmas, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving.
English Camp Visitor Center
June 5 through September 6, 2010
Daily: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 7 through September 30
Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Grounds are open to 11 p.m. daily.
Location: Off West Valley Road, between Yachthaven and Roche Harbor roads.
Closures: Closed during the winter season through June 3, except for the Holiday Social scheduled noon-3 p.m., Saturday, December 9 in the Royal Marine Barracks.
Driving To Anacortes
The Washington State Ferries terminal is 85 miles north of Seattle and 90 miles south of Vancouver, BC. Exit Interstate 5 and take State Route 20 west (Exit 230) from Interstate 5 at Burlington, Washington. The route to the ferry is well signed. Traffic along Interstate 5 (and its alternative 405 that loops east around Lake Washington) is intense throughout the day, as it is the only freeway running north-south across the state. Bottlenecks are scattered border to border, but the worst are within the city limits of Tacoma, Seattle and Everett in that order. Try to avoid transiting these areas during the Monday-Friday rush hours.
Ground Transportation to Anacortes from Sea-Tac and Mount Vernon/Burlington
The Island Airporter is handy for islanders because it leaves Friday Harbor on the 6 a.m. ferry (called the "Red-eye" by locals) and returns on the mid-afternoon boat from Anacortes. You can plan your Sea-Tac departure and arrival accordingly. The Bellair Airporter shuttle also is handy because it requires only a quick walk from the Anacortes terminal to the pick-up area. You transfer vehicles at a hub in nearby Burlington for the journey south to Sea-Tac and do the same coming home.
Airporter Shuttle: (866)235-5247 -- from SeaTac and Bellingham International Airport.
Island Airporter: (360) 378-7438 -- to and from Sea-Tac from Friday Harbor (boards ferry).
Amtrak Catch-A-Train: (800) 457-3549 -- year-round, daily service from Seattle (twice) and points south.
Greyhound Bus Lines: (800)739-5020 -- from Seattle to Mount Vernon.
Skagit Transit: (360)299-2424 -- local transit system in Skagit County.
Taxi: (866)670-2020 -- service to airports, Amtrak, ferry.
Washington State Ferries: Outside WA State: (206) 464-6400; In Washington State (800) 843-3779 (automated); (888) 808-7977 -- A division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington State Ferries serves the San Juan islands and Victoria, B.C., year round with six to 10 boats calling at San Juan depending on the season. Board the ferry in Anacortes, Washington (85 miles north of Seattle and 90 miles south of Vancouver, B.C.) after taking State Route 20 west (Exit 230) from Interstate 5 at Burlington, Washington.
All ferries carry passengers and vehicles. As no reservations are necessary for boats to the islands, plan on arriving one hour before sailing during the winter months and at least two hours or more in the summer. Vehicle reservations are required for the Victoria crossing during the summer season. For automobile traffic, waits of six hours or more are not unusual at peak season so bring books, snacks, drinks and Frisbees, but watch out for the traffic in the ferry lines.
Tips for Ferry Riders
The ferry system is complex, governed by law and the employees work under high stress during the summer months.
Once aboard, don't set the alarm on your vehicle. The pitch and vibration of the vessel will set it off.
No pets, other than service dogs and small animals in carriers are allowed on the passenger deck.
Food and beverages may not be available on board except in vending machines. You may want to consider eating before you board or bring a picnic lunch.