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San Juan
San Juan Island locator map.svg
Location of San Juan Island in the San Juans
San Juan is located in Washington (state)
San Juan
San Juan
Location in Washington (state)
Location Pacific Northwest
Coordinates 48°32′N 123°05′W / 48.533°N 123.083°W / 48.533; -123.083
Archipelago San Juan Islands
Area 55.053 sq mi (142.59 km2)
Highest elevation 1,080 ft (329 m)
Highest point Mount Dallas
United States
State Washington
County San Juan County
Largest settlement Friday Harbor (pop. 2,162)
Population 6,894 (2010)
Pop. density 47.84 /km2 (123.91 /sq mi)

San Juan Island is the second-largest and most populous of the San Juan Islands in northwestern Washington, United States. It has a land area of 142.59 km² (55.053 sq mi) and a population of 6,822 as of the 2000 census.

Washington State Ferries serves Friday Harbor, which is San Juan Island's major population center, the San Juan County seat, and the only incorporated town in the islands.


The name "San Juan" originates from the 1791 expedition of Francisco de Eliza, who named the archipelago Isla y Archiepelago de San Juan to honor his patron sponsor, Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo. One of the officers under Eliza's command, Gonzalo López de Haro, was the first European to discover San Juan Island. During the Wilkes Expedition, American explorer Charles Wilkes renamed the island Rodgers Island; the Spanish name remained on British nautical charts and over time became the island's official name.

The island saw seasonal use for salmon fishing. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) established the first permanent, non-native settlement on the island on December 13, 1853, with the intention of creating a sheep farm. The island was also occupied by Native Americans, many of whom arrived seasonally for fishing. Both the British and Americans asserted control of the island. A small force of American soldiers was sent to the island over concern for this issue and with Native American raids on American settlers. The territorial dispute over this island and the rest of the San Juan Islands heightened when an American settler shot an HBC pig, starting the Pig War in 1859. The dispute was finally resolved in favor of the Americans in 1872.

Island life

San Juan Island has one weekly newspaper, and an online daily news site, is dotted with numerous farms, and is a tourist-driven economy.

Outside of Friday Harbor, the only major commercial establishment resort is the village of Roche Harbor, located on the northwest side of the island.

Other notable landmarks are the old British and American Camps at opposite ends of the island, which together comprise the San Juan Island National Historical Park, which commemorates the 1859 Pig War. Interpretive centers and reconstructed buildings, formal gardens, etc. recall the history of early European settlement in the area.

The University of Washington runs a marine research lab and campus outside Friday Harbor. The campus has been extant since 1909 and has dormitories, a food service, and classrooms for holding lectures.

San Juan Island is ultimately considered a "small town" community, in that it is relatively quiet rural living with little distractions or incidents aside from tourism. One notable resident would be Lisa "Ivory" Moretti, a retired female professional wrestler of World Wrestling Entertainment fame.

It has a number of interesting attractions including The Whale Museum; a new Art Museum building completed in 2015; the San Juan Community Theatre; the Sculpture Park (located near Roche Harbor); Lime Kiln Park where on many days you can sit and watch orca pods swim by; and, its own resident camel, Mona.


The waters surrounding San Juan Island are home to a variety of unique species including red sea urchins and pinto abalone. Though no commercial fishing of abalone has ever been allowed in this area, recreational fishing of abalone was outlawed in 1994. The National Marine Fisheries Service listed pinto abalone as a Species of Concern in 2004.

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