American and English Camps Visitor Centers Open Labor Day
The American and English camps visitor centers will be open on the Labor Day holiday, September 1. Call 360-378-2240, ext. 2226 or 360-378-4409 for information.
English Camp Visitor Contact Station on Winter Schedule
The English Camp visitor contact station in the Royal Marine Barracks is closed for the season, starting September 2. Grounds are open daily from dawn to 11 p.m.
American Camp Visitor Center on Winter Schedule
The American Camp visitor center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from September 2 to June 6, 2015. Grounds remain open daily from dawn to 11 p.m. Telephone 360-378-2240, ext. 2227 or 2226 for information. More »
Garry Oak trees
Garry oaks are an important part of the park's history. During the time of the joint occupation (1859-1872) at English Camp, there were about 100 acres of open Garry oak woodland inside the park boundaries. Earlier, native peoples collected foodstuffs such as acorns, camas roots, and bracken ferns here, and burned the forests regularly to create habitat for game animals, promote the growth of weaving materials and food such as camas, and maintain an open prairie.
But lack of fire in recent years spurred an increase of Douglas fir trees, which have deprived the oak trees of sunlight, water, and nutrients.
To stimulate the growth of Garry oaks, the park has initiated a prescribed burn regimen to clear out the thick underbrush and firs on the south side of Young Hill at English Camp. Since 2003, the park has conducted numerous prescribed burns, which are conducted by fire crews from the Olympic National Park. This method effectively eliminates invasive exotic plants and allows native plants to thrive. Without burns, the prairie would convert to forest.
Clearing out the aggressive young firs will help restore the forest's ecosystem and reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfire. Fire scars on some of the older Douglas firs are evidence they were subjected to fire before Europeans arrive on the island.
Another benefit of the burns is to restore habitat for wildlife. The band-tailed pigeon will come in the fall if there are ripe acorns about, and some species of butterflies, such as the rare Island Marble butterfly, live in the Garry oaks.
Park status: Common. Native.
Did You Know?
George E. Pickett, a West Pointer and Mexican War veteran, was the first U.S. commander on San Juan Island. He would resign his commission on San Juan and go on to lead his Confederate division in the climatic charge that bears his name at the Battle of Gettysburg.