Smaller jewels in the crown of the San Juan Islands, uninhabited islands fall into two broad categories: those for people and wildlife and those just for wildlife. There is a wonderful system of Washington State Marine Parks on the smaller outlying islands. Most have floats, docks and mooring buoys. Tremendously popular in the summer, it is possible to have theses coves and harbors nearly to oneself in the spring and fall.
Many of the more isolated rocks and islets are included in The San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Gulls, cormorants, oyster catches and pigeon guillemots all have nesting colonies. Since humans can drive the parents from the nests, exposing chicks to predation from other birds, it is important to leave these islands for the birds. It is crucial to their existence.
Deadman Island & Goose Island, located off the southwest shore of Lopez Island and the southeast shore of San Juan Island, are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Not generally open to public use. Access is treacherous.
Sentinel Island, 15 acres, is located just off the southwest shore of Spieden Island and north of San Juan Island. It was homesteaded by Farrar and June Burn in 1940, (the last island in the San Juans to be homesteaded), and is a primary subject in June Burns wonderful autobiography, Living High. Sentinel is now owned by the Nature Conservancy and public access is not generally allowed.
Skipjack Island & Bare Island are located north of Waldron Island and are part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Closed to public use.
Yellow Island, due west of Shaw Island, is owned by the Nature Conservancy. Its precious 11 acres have more than 150 varieties of wildflowers - nearly every natural species to be found in the San Juans, including cactus. From March through June the island is particularly full of natural colors. You can visit Yellow Island as long as you go ashore where the caretaker's cabin is located, stay on designated trails and follow other restrictions.
Most of the information in this Island section was derived from three books: The San Juan Islands, Afoot & Afloat by Marge & Ted Mueller, San Juan Islands by Don Pitcher and Pig War Islands by David Richardson. At Home Magazine contributed material about San Juan, Lopez, Orcas and Shaw Islands.
Photos courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Ecology