• American Camp parade ground looking west

    San Juan Island

    National Historical Park Washington

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  • Park on Spring Schedule

    The American Camp visitor center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.Wednesday-Sunday. The English Camp contact station is closed through May 31. Grounds at both units are open from dawn to 11 p.m. More »

Camas

Camas budding_close_up
Camas, camassia leichtinii var. suksdorfii, appears around late April at both park sites. Look for large clusters at the Redoubt at American Camp.
Mike Vouri
 

Camas
(Camassia leichtinii var. suksdorfii)

Locals celebrate the appearance of these abundant purple blooms that blanket the prairie in early spring. Multiple flowers with six points climb one- to two-foot stems.

The bulbs were highly prized by Northwest Indians for their creamy potato/baked pear taste. In fact, because this was one of the most important staple foods, battles were fought over the best growing areas, and people traveled great distances to harvest the bulbs and prepare them into thin, dry cakes. To ensure future harvests, the Indians burned the prairie regularly.

Beware: The bulbs of these prized flowers resemble those of the white poisonous Death camas (Zigadenus venenosus), which often grow nearby. Both the black-coated bulbs and foliage are poisonous.

Where in the park: Look for this prolific wildflower in spring on American Camp's prairie and the summit of Young Hill at English Camp.

Did You Know?

West Valley Road on San Juan Island

Many of San Juan Island's roads trace sheep runs cut by Hudson's Bay Company workers. They were led, in part, by Fort Victoria Chief Factor and colonial Gov. James Douglas, from 1853 to 1859. Many of the workers were Cowichan Indians from Vancouver Island.