Frequently Asked Questions

doug birding with visitor

Gary Tarleton Photo

George E. Pickett in the uniform of a Confederate major general.

Library of Congress

When was this park created?

San Juan Island National Historical Park was created by Act of Congress, and signed into law by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 9, 1966 "...for the purpose of interpreting and preserving the sites of American and English camps on the island and commemorating the historic events that occurred from 1853 to 1871 on the island in connection with the final settlement of the Oregon Territory boundary dispute, including the so-called Pig War of 1859.

Is the park included in the San Juan Islands National Monument created in 2013?

No. San Juan Island National Historical Park, while enjoying a close working relationship with the monument, is an independent entity. The park is a unit of the National Park Service and monument is a unit of the Bureau of Land Management.

Is the George Pickett who commanded Co. D, Ninth Infantry on San Juan Island, the same who led "Pickett's Charge" for the Army of Northern Virginia in the Battle of Gettysburg (1863)?

Yes. A native Virginian, George Pickett was an 1846 graduate of West Point, was cited for bravery in the Mexican-American War and served on the frontier until he resigned his commission (June 24, 1861) on San Juan. He remained at this post until relieved on July 24. That means he was still a captain in the U.S. Army while his Southern brethren were fighting as colonels and generals at the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) on July 21. He left Washington Territory at the end of that July and did not arrive in Richmond until September. Pickett led only his three brigades (of 11 total) in the charge, which is officially known as "Longstreet's Second Assault," and was planned and ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Did Great Britain and United States actually go to war over the pig, and therefore the name "Pig War?"

No fire was ever exchanged between the two nations during the crisis, which lasted from July 27 until October 31, 1859. The only casualty was the pig, which was owned by the British Hudson's Bay Company and shot by an American named Lyman Cutlar. We do not know who ate the pig (a question we're asked everyday during the summer months). The name "Pig War" was coined in jest many years after the incident.

Young Hill summit
The summit of Young Hill at English Camp offers vistas of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Victoria, B.C. and the northwest San Juan and Gulf island groups.

Gary Tarleton

Was English Camp created before or after the Pig War crisis of 1859?

The Royal Marines did not establish their camp on the island until March 1860--five months after the British and American forces stood down on Griffin Bay.

When did the Hudson's Bay Company arrive on the island?

The Company first established salmon salting stations on the Cattle Point peninsula in 1851. Belle Vue Sheep Farm was founded on Dec. 15, 1853. However, the British claimed that they mounted a plaque on Mount Finlayson (American Camp) as early as 1845.

How far apart are the two camps?

The camps are separated by 13 miles of county roads, about 25 minutes apart by automobile.

Do I need to pay for parking?

No. The park is a day-use only facility. Washington State Parks, including Lime Kiln State Point State Park on San Juan, do require a Discovery Pass, which can be purchased at ACE Hardware in Friday Harbor, or by leaving as fee in an envelope at Lime Kiln Point State Park.

Do I need to pay both ways for the ferry?

No. Your ticket is for a round trip. But make certain you make a reservation for the ferry before driving to Anacortes. Only 10 percent of the automobile capacity is set aside for drive ups. Click here for information.

Do you have dining facilities or snack bars at the camps?

No food services are offered at either camp. We do sell bottled water.

Is South Beach part of the national park?

Yes. South Beach, on to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is part of the American Camp unit.

Is there a bald eagle nest at American Camp?

Yes. The nest is located in the vicinity of the visitor center. Ask a ranger or volunteer to show you. An osprey nest is located on a snag above the English Camp parade ground. Park staff have spotting scopes in place at both units while the nests are active.

What is the highest viewpoint in the park?

English Camp's Young Hill, at 650 feet. It is accessible via the English Camp parking area.

The rare Island Marble butterfly was thought extinct up until a few years ago when it was spotted and identified on the American Camp prairie.

Keith Van Cleve

Are there stroller- and wheel chair-accessible trails in the park units?

A hard-packed gravel trail, accessible to strollers and wheel chairs, passes through the former military and Hudson's Bay Company sites at American Camp offering splendid views of the San Juans, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic and Cascade ranges, including Mount Baker and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier. An electric golf cart is available during the summer and shoulder seasons. At English Camp, the Royal Marine camp area lies at the base of a steep hill, which makes the parade ground inaccessible to disabled persons and seniors with mobility issues. An all-season accessible trail is in the planning stages. Meanwhile, in the summer months (June-August) the camp is accessible via an all-terrain vehicle that accommodates three persons. As the parking area is within mobile telephone range, visitors requiring the cart can call the contact station at 360-378-4409.

Where can I mountain bike in the national park?

As of this writing (Jan. 29, 2015), mountain biking is allowed only on designated trails in the Mitchell Hill trail network at English Camp. The trailhead is located at the end of Horse Trail Road, off West Valley Road about a mile south of the park entrance. Parking at the gate is limited. For a San Juan Island Trails Committee map of Mitchell Hill and other northwest San Juan trails click here.

Can I hike to American Camp from Friday Harbor?

The ACT (American Camp Trail) between Friday Harbor and the American Camp Visitor Center, opened to the public in June 2013, is still a work in progress. Starting on upper Spring Street across from Hartmann Baseball Field, it leads through Airport property, along Golf Course Road and Fairway Drive, along Cattle Point Road sometimes on easements over private property and other times on the road shoulder, then through the Land Bank's Fraser Homestead Preserve, exiting at the American Camp visitor center. For a San Juan Island Trails Committee map click here.

Who ate the pig?

We don't know. But it is hard to imagine meat going to waste anywhere on the frontier. Belle Vue Sheep farm agent Charles Griffin had several Hawaiians in his employ. Perhaps they had a luau.

end with a bang
The park's volunteer group, Battery D, ends the day with a bang at Encampment 2014, firing off their 12-pound mountain howitzer. Encampment 2015 is scheduled July 25-26 at English Camp.

Gary Tarleton


Last updated: October 23, 2017

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 429
Friday Harbor, WA 98250


(360) 378-2240

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