Picture an island with turquoise inlets and craggy coves. The northern San Juan Islands may not come to mind at first, but Stuart Island Marine State Park could surprise you.
Stuart Island, near the U.S.-Canada border, is one of the northernmost islands in the famed archipelago, and you can only reach it by boat.
Anchored in two harbors, boaters mingle as they fish, crab, dive or swim. Hikers can walk up to higher ground or hoof it to the Turn Point Light Station outside the park. Canoeists and kayakers can pitch their tents in the primitive campsites near Prevost Harbor or on the spine of the island. In the evening, all faces turn west as the sky glows red and the sun falls below the horizon.
Whether you expect it or not, you will find a little bit of Paradise (and a friendly boating community) at Stuart Island Marine State Park.
Counting waterways and anchorage areas, Stuart Island Marine State Park is a 433-acre marine camping park with 33,030 feet of shoreline. The park is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail and offers camping and moorage at Reed and Prevost harbors. Some campsites are for the exclusive use of those arriving by human- or wind-powered watercraft.
Located in the San Juan Islands in San Juan County, Stuart Island State Park offers 20 buoys and 448 feet of dock, as well as a pumpout station. Additionally, there are plenty of good anchorages the entire length of the harbor. Please respect the private buoys, docks, and property surrounding the park.
Moorage fees are charged 1 p.m. to 8 a.m. year-round. All boaters must register and pay upon arrival. Boaters must also pay for boats rafted to another boat.
Latitude: 48° 40' 31.8" N (48.6755) Longitude: 123° 11' 55.68" W (-123.1988)
Prevost Harbor has seven buoys and a 128-foot dock (256 feet total).
Latitude: 48° 40' 41" N (48.6780) Longitude: 123° 11' 49.99" W (-123.1972)
Reid Harbor has 13 buoys and a 96-foot dock (192 feet total).
Latitude: 48° 40' 19.92" N (48.6722) Longitude: 123° 11' 34.97" W (-123.1930)
This facility is open year-round, 24 hours a day. This facility has a floating dock available year-round. There are two slips available for pumpout usage. Access to this pumpout is limited to vessels with a length of no more than 60 feet. The pumpout is located on a barge. There is a stationary pumpout located at Reid Harbor. This facility also has a portable toilet dump station located at the Reid Harbor barge.
Latitude: 48° 40' 28.90" N (48.6747) Longitude: 123° 11' 55.87" W (-123.1989)
Unless arriving by kayak, boaters should not attempt to enter the harbor at the east end. This entrance is full of rocks and reefs. The only safe entrance is at the west end of Satellite Island. Stay in the middle of the channel and harbor until you are adjacent to the park dock. Consult your charts before you arrive. Once inside Prevost Harbor, there are plenty of deep water anchorages available if the park buoys and dock are full.
The park has 18 primitive campsites. Most sites are located on Prevost Harbor or on the ridge that separates Prevost and Reid harbors.
Cascadia Marine Trail sites
Campsites 15-18 at the head of Reid Harbor are designated Cascadia Marine Trail sites and are for the exclusive use of those arriving by human- or wind-powered watercraft. There are an additional 14 campsites available to all boaters.
There is no garbage service on the island. Visitors must pack out what they pack in. Potable water is available May through September.
Composting toilets are near the dock at Reid Harbor and to the right of the Prevost Harbor dock. Pit toilets are available at the head of Reid Harbor.
Stuart Island is one of many San Juan Islands known to have been used by Coast Salish peoples beginning more than 10,000 years ago. The island is most strongly associated with the Saanich peoples, who maintained a village there.
Stuart Island was first charted by Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza in 1791. Eliza named the combination of Stuart Island and the adjacent Waldron Island Isla de Moralesa.
In 1841, American explorer and naval officer Charles Wilkes assigned the island’s present name during the United States Exploring Expedition. The name honored Frederick D. Stuart, who served as the captain's clerk on the expedition.
Euro-American settlement of Stuart Island began shortly after it became part of the United States in 1872. For decades prior, Stuart and the rest of the San Juan Islands had been the subject of a border dispute between the U.S. and Britain, which ultimately led a military confrontation known as the “Pig War.” The Treaty of Washington established Haro Strait as the boundary between the U.S. and British-held territory in present-day Canada.
Bernard Mordhorst, a German immigrant to the U.S., was the first to apply for a land claim on the island in 1876. He settled near Reid Harbor and made a living fishing for herring. Over time, a handful of additional settlers established claims on the island, with farming and fishing being the primary industries. The Turn Point Lighthouse was constructed at the west end of the island in 1893.
Stuart Island Marine State Park was established in 1952 when descendants of Mordhorst sold 80 acres of their family’s land to the State of Washington for use as a park. The park has since grown to include a separate site at the west end of the island as well as land on neighboring John Island.