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San Juan Islands


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I have two questions for our NSPN community.

1. Anyone camping in the San Juan Islands this summer?

2. Could those who have local knowledge about the San Juan Islands, PM me? I am particularly interested in the following islands, Patos, Sucia, Matia, James and Jones. Any experience camping on those islands as well as any knowledge pertaining to paddling concerns from Orcas Island, such as Parker Reef, would be helpful.

I will be camping in the San Juan Islands in August.

Thank you,


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Hi Warren,

A few years ago my wife and I spent about 5 nights circumnavigating Orcas starting and ending near Friday Harbor. The group was another couple and a guide, so I cannot give you the specific information you need, but certainly remember how important local knowledge was. At one point on the east side of Orcas moving a couple of 100 yards futher away from shore turned a serious slog against the current into a neutral paddle. I wonder how we might have known this without a local guide. On the next to last morning, we woke up early to get a start on what was to be a relatively long day and found the current much more benign that even the guide expected. This allowed us to get into a following current much ealier than expected and the day ended up being relatively short!

So all of this is to say exactly what you know already. Local knowledge really seemed to make a difference, but even in large stretches of open water it was hard even for the guide to know for sure. This was something he had said the first day. Wish I had more specifics for you except except to say it was a wonderful, interesting area. Yes there was some boat traffic at times, but that part sure seemed a lot less bothersome than Boston Harbor.

Have a great trip.


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Warren, if you'd like to take a hop skip & jump from the San Juans over to the Gulf Islands (BC) I've been there.

Geologically they're all the same just with an international border in between. Gulf Islands are wonderful; very civilized, less upscale, very camper friendly, cheaper than San Juans.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I lived north of Seattle for six years in Snohomish County. If I had to make the trip to or through Mount Vernon this summer, I'd do my dead level best to time it for the middle of the night. Here's the WA DOT detour map:


BTW, I just spoke to a store owner at the intersection of SR 534 and SR 9. "Lots of traffic." I'd think long and hard about relying on WA DOT's advice to bypass Mount Vernon on SR 9. It really isn't engineered for high volumes. Here's a pic that I would keep in mind when choosing routes:


Edited by eidsvolling
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Liz, Al and Peter,

Liz, last night, with the cold rain outside, it seemed like a good time to watch the DVD entitled "Pacific Horizons - Exploring the Northwest Coast by Kayak". I was drawn to the chapter on the Bunsby Islands. In August I will be paddling with one of the presentors of that chapter. This year will be a good opportunity to work out the logistics for paddling areas that require flying to the launch site. I would value any our your insights.

Al, over the last couple weeks, I have learned to appreciate how Puget Sound creates significant tidal flows, especially on the ebb, in and around the San Juan islands. Although there are many live current stations to provide helpful data, the islands have a way of bending and distorting the current in unexpected ways. Add in the many areas of varying ocean depths, and you have currents that are inconsistent and difficult to predict. Al, as you completed your circumnavigation around Orcas Island, I suspect the guide was particularly careful in and around the Parker Reef, which is very near North Beach. Although I would like to paddle those waters and visit Sucia, I really hope to camp on Jones Island on our way to the northwest section of the San Juan Island to see the three Orca pods.

Peter, in a way the San Juan island trip will hopefully be just the beginning of my goal to explore the Northwest. Some day I hope to explore the Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Perhaps next year!


Edited by Warren
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  • 4 weeks later...

Warren, you are ignoring or forgetting the very best resource of all -- Bob Burnett, founder of this little club, is operating a kayaking business/school out of Gig Harbour and you may find him at Rogue Wave Adventures. (Perhaps you didn't know that?)

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