Island of Ducks

An Island That Belongs to the People

The entirety of Patos Island belongs to the people of Washington state...if they can get there.

Patos Island is the northernmost in the San Juan Islands group. The entirety of the island--all 207 acres--is a state park, one of the most remote in Washington state. With no ferry service, visitors to the island must ferry themselves in any seafaring vessel, no small feat in the rocky waters of the Salish Sea. The park has no potable water and no trash service, requiring all visitors to “pack it in” and “pack it out,” as the old hiker adage says.

Patos is Spanish for duck, and the name is a reminder of the early Spanish explorers who visited the Salish Sea in the 1700s. The name Island of Ducks was given by Spanish explorer Juan Pantoja y Arriaga. The British attempted to rename the island “Gourd Island” in 1841, but the old name, Patos, won out in the end.

A lighthouse was established on the island in 1893 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Just a few years before, the lighthouse was automated, and no longer requires a full-time keeper.

Visitors to the island enjoy the rocky, pebble beach and the hike from the first-come, first-serve campground to the abandoned Coast Guard station. Near the station is the Coast Guard International Boundary marker, necessary for the closest American island to Canadian waters.

Visitors can also clam and fish in the waters, as long as they have the necessary passes, of course.