10 Little known Facts about San Juan Island

Updated on March 20, 2023


Even if you have been coming to the San Juan Islands every year since you were a child, some fun facts about this beautiful slice of paradise may surprise you. May we present, in no particular order, 10 little known facts about San Juan Island:

Text Editor

1. No squirrels

A species must either come by boat or airplane or cross 20 miles of water to get here. We have deer, rabbits, rats and foxes, but these little bushy-tailed friends have not made it to the isle.

2. Tons of Bald Eagles

You probably have seen eagles on the island, but did you know there are more nesting Bald Eagle couples than in any other county in the country? They live on the north and northwest side of San Juan Island, because the light is better for hunting there. 

San Juan Safaris, Friday Harbor, WA
Text Editor

3. We are Mountains Tops

The San Juan Islands, an archipelago of over 700 islands with 172 having a name, are 100-million-year-old mountaintops, carved out by glaciers.

4. Longest and Last War on US Soil

San Juan had the dubious pleasure of hosting the longest running war on American soil, and so far the last one. The Pig War between England and America lasted from 1859 to 1871 and decided once and for all, that San Juan Island is on American soil.

Teren Photography, Friday Harbor, WA
Text Editor

5. John Wayne and President Roosevelt were here

Both, John Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt were once avid visitors at the Roche Harbor Resort. John Wayne’s custom made, oversized bathtub is still in use at the hotel.

6. Excellent smuggling

Our practical location between Canada and the American mainland made the island a smuggler’s paradise--perfect for wool, liquor, drug and slave smuggling. Deadman Bay was so-named because a smuggler of Chinese slaves was in the habit of throwing the slaves, chained together in burlap sacks, overboard whenever border patrol boarded his ship. The ocean currents then dragged the poor souls to this beach.

San Juan Island, Washington
Text Editor

7. No Rivers

We have several freshwater lakes, springs and creeks, but no rivers.

8. No Traffic Lights

None. Anywhere. We have stop signs and a round-about at which it becomes very apparent who paid attention in Driver’s Ed and who didn’t.

Friday Harbor, Washington
Text Editor

9. No Fast Food Chains

We are proud of that one. Most places here serve made-from-scratch, locally-sourced, yummy, healthy food. We have quite a few Farm-to-Table restaurants, an excellent Farmer's Market and an outstanding Food Coop. Our high school has a vegetable garden and its own chef preparing healthy, gourmet meals for our kids.

10. The world’s most awesome Documentary Film Festival

The Friday Harbor Film Festival is held every November and continues to hold its promise to entertain, inspire and enlighten. It is so much fun to walk from venue to venue in our little town and meet the filmmakers at the gala held at our lovely Community Theatre. 

Friday Harbor, Washington
Bird Rock Hotel Washington