San Juan Island National Historical Park


In 1859 on San Juan Island, at what is today the San Juan Island National Historical Park, the United States and Great Britain almost went to war over a pig. With the water boundary between the United States and Canada in dispute, tempers boiled over when an American farmer, Lyman Cutlar, killed a British resident's pig that had been rooting in his garden. Great Britain amassed over 2,000 troops and the U.S. faced them with fewer than 500 soldiers and a dozen cannons. Cool heads defused the crisis and both countries jointly occupied the island. It took 12 years before the dispute officially cleared after Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany mediated the situation and decided in favor of the United States. Today, the two former military installations, English Camp and American Camp, make up San Juan Island National Historical Park. American Camp consists of 1,220 acres of windswept prairie and five miles of beach, while English Camp is located on a sheltered bay and comprises 530 acres and two miles of shoreline. Wooden barracks have been restored in English Camp, and other buildings include the old hospital, blockhouse, and commissary. This site also sports a formal garden, which was reconstructed. In American Camp two of the original buildings still stand, the officers' and laundresses' quarters. The remains of Bellevue Farm and the Redoubt have not been reconstructed. A seat atop Mt. Finlayson (actually a 290-foot hill) offers the dramatic views of Mt. Baker, the Olympic Mountains, British Columbia, and Mt. Rainier. What to see and do: Besides touring the historic sites at San Juan Island National Park, you may be able to catch in-season programs on birding or stargazing, demonstrations on blacksmithing, historic cooking or woodworking, or enjoy the fort in full regalia for the annual military encampment with reenactors or the popular candlelight ball. Call ahead for details. You can take advantage of miles of hiking trails that wind around through both sites, and visit the lookout post on Mt. Young. Picnic areas are available. Be sure to visit South Beach, the island's largest beach, where you can watch shore birds and other sea life. The cold water has a strong undertow in spots, so swimming is not recommended. Other activities include interpretive walks and exhibits, and the island is a good place for nature-watching. San Juan Island National Historic Park is a day-use-only area; no overnight camping is allowed. Visitor centers at Friday Harbor, American Camp, and English Camp are open daily in the summer, with shortened hours the rest of the year. The English Camp Center is only open in summer. You can reach the island via Washington State Ferries from Anacortes, WA.


125 Spring Street
Friday Harbor, WA 98250


48.58203900, -123.14424100
Visit Website
(360) 378-2240

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