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Lopez Island, Salish Sea

Lopez Island, Salish Sea

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Lopez Island screams natural wonder with a mild climate, rolling farmlands, quiet bays, driftwood-strewn beaches, lush forests, shimmering vistas and distant, snow-tipped mountain ranges. Also known as “the Friendly Isle,” Lopez Island is 15 miles long, with 63 miles of shoreline, and is situated in Washington State's San Juan Islands in the northwest corner of the state, about 100 miles north of Seattle. It is part of the San Juan Island archipelago and is surrounded by the beautiful waters of the Salish Sea. The island was first named Chauncey Island during the Charles Wilkes Expedition, between 1838 and 1842, after the American naval commander Isaac Chauncey. However, in 1847, British naval captain, Henry Kellett struck Wilkes' names from the official admiralty naval charts and renamed the island Lopez, for Spanish Naval Officer, Gonzalo López de Haro, the first European to discover the San Juan Islands archipelago.


Before European exploration, some of the first inhabitants of Lopez Island included the Lummi on the northern portion of the island and the Samish on the southern portion. Led by Captain Francisco Eliza, the Spanish were the first to enter and map the region, and later, the British, with Captain George Vancouver, and the United States led by Charles Wilkes followed suit. It was not until the San Juan boundary resolution in 1872 that a formal settlement was established, but prior to that time, early settlers included British subject William Pattle, who started a logging operation on southwest Lopez after his arrival in 1852, and later, Hiram E. Hutchinson who became the island's first permanent non-Native settler.


Today, farming, ranching, and fishing are the major economic drivers of Lopez Island. Lopez Village is the commercial center of economic activity, and only town on the island. Port Stanley, located at the north end of the island, is home to the historic Port Stanley Schoolhouse. Richardson, on the south shore was homesteaded by George Stillman Richardson in the early 1870s, but thrived under William Graham, a canny businessman, who tapped into the potential of the area and set out to make it a trading center.


Lopez Island is a natural paradise that has unique activities and sites to enjoy. The island has several state and county parks, including Oldin County Park and Spencer Spit State Park. Shark Reef Sanctuary, Hummel Lake Preserve and Agate Beach County Park are places to enjoy nature and wildlife viewing.

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