Lime Kiln Point State Park

Lime: Not Just for Margaritas

From limestone mining to whale watching, this rocky point has served San Juan Island for over 150 years.

Lime Kiln Point State Park, on Washington’s San Juan Island, is a prime location for exploring the beauty of Washington and a chance to see migrating orcas. Close to the rocky shoreline, the seafloor quickly drops off which allows whales like orcas and minkes to come within 20 feet of the park. Besides the welcoming wildlife, visitors can also explore the history of lime production in San Juan County.

In the mid-1800s San Juan County began producing lime after the discovery of limestone on the island. As the limestone is superheated, it turns into quicklime which can then be used as a construction material found in cement, concrete, bricks, and even mortar. In 1861, the San Juan Lime Company was formed by Lyman Cutlar (the man behind the fatal pig shooting that sparked the Pig War). The limestone works had many owners over the next few decades.

Like many other lime sites, those on San Juan Island’s Lime Point were far removed from settlements. In the 1880s a two-story boarding house was constructed to house the men working the kilns. Towns soon sprung up near the island’s lime kilns, including Eureka and Roche Harbor. Though lime mining waned in the following years, lime production continued to be a significant industry in the San Juan Islands until the 1930s. The limekiln in Roche Harbor was in production until the 1950s.

In 1984 the Lime Kiln Point State Park was created. By then many of the island’s lime kilns had fallen into disrepair, but one kiln on the northern side of the park was reconstructed in 1996 by the State Parks. The park also features the 1914 Lime Kiln lighthouse. After becoming electric in 1960, the Coast Guard took over control of the lighthouse. Today the lighthouse is used for navigation aid and marine research and is also open for tours.