Lopez Island – San Juans

The view north to Mt Baker, just one of a number of volcanic peaks in the area. On clear days the massive bulk of Mt Rainier is visible to the south.
The San Juans are the US equivalent of the Canadian Gulf Islands are have some great kayaking opportunities. We were on Lopez Island, which is easily accessed from the Anacortes in Washington State. Most people we spoke to moaned about the Washington State Ferries but compared to what is on offer in the UK and the Channel Islands they are a revelation.
Compared to some of the exorbitant fares charged on Channel Island routes they are amazingly cheap and efficient. Turn up minutes before and you are on, contrast this with generally having to book weeks in advance in Britain. We paid $38 for two passengers and a car for a 40 minute return crossing.
We spent a few days on Lopez Island, the third largest island in the group, both Orcas and San Juan being larger. It is the first stop on the ferry route and covers an area of about 30 square miles with a year round population of about 2,200. Giving a population density of about 73 per square mile, contrast this with Jersey’s of at least 2,000 per square mile.


This Rufus Hummingbird appeared whilst we were packing the kayaks. A pleasant surprise.
Our paddle was going to take us along the south coast of Lopez Island, into the small inlet of Watmough Bay, a return journey of 16 nautical miles through a variety of coastal scenery and encounters with wildlife.
Harbour Seals were numerous along this stretch of coast and there were some Californian Sea Lions close to where we launched. Although pods of Orca’s had been seen in the vicinity were didn’t see any on this particular paddle.
There were numerous species of birds along the coast including these particularly confiding Harlequin Ducks. A species which is rarely encountered in Europe outside of Iceland.
Paddling along the south shore of Lopez Island. The Olympic Mountains are visible across the other side of the Juan de Fuca Straits.
The appropriately named Castle Island. The tides run with considerable speed in this area and although we didn’t paddle in the main tidal flows the energy is still visible in this photograph.
Iceberg Point Lighthouse.
Entering Watmough Bay. A kayak is just visible on the left. As we sat on the beach having lunch we watched a number of Bald Eagles gliding along the cliff face.
We really only scratched the surface of the kayaking potential of the San Juans, it was clear that the paddling possibilities are huge. With a daughter who is now living on the west coast of Canada it is likely that we will be visiting the area on a more regular basis and I am sure that we will be seeing more of the San Juans from sea level!