Accessible only by water, Jones Island Marine State Park is a dream destination for boaters, sailors and paddlers. Among the most enticing of islands, Jones features 24 campsites spread over 188 acres, making it the place to get quiet in nature.
Otters and deer may welcome you to the North Cove. Heading up from the long, low-angle dock, an ADA-accessible trail leads through a light-dappled forest of mossy nurse logs - former trees downed by the legendary wind storm of 1990.
The path emerges in a fruit orchard above the dramatic South Cove. That orchard was planted more than 100 years ago by the Kittles family, who settled the island in the mid-1800s. Picnickers may have to share this prime spot with native deer, which are not shy about begging for handouts. (Please don’t be swayed by their big brown eyes; feeding wildlife is dangerous for them and for you.)
Before the Kittles family settled, the island was charted in 1841 by American explorer and naval officer Charles Wilkes during the United States Exploring Expedition. Wilkes named it for U.S. Navy Captain Jacob Jones, master commandant of the sloop-of-war Wasp. Jones and the Wasp became famous for capturing the British brig Frolic in 1812. Sometime after the Kittles’ son died (in 1897), the island was used as a fox farm.
A short stroll from the orchard descends onto an untamed beach, where kids like to play on the twisted driftwood, or splash in the cold, clear waters.
A 4-mile trail circles the island’s western perimeter, where seaside campsites dot rocky outcroppings, kayak-sized pocket coves and grassy headlands shaded by Doug-fir, Pacific madrone and Garry oak trees. These sites are part of Washington’s famous water trail, the Cascadia Marine Trail, and they welcome campers arriving by human or wind-powered watercraft (first come, first served).
Also along the perimeter, picnic tables offer million-dollar views of Yellow and Low Islands and savannah-like Spieden Island. Look for remnants of the Kittles homestead and outbuildings, and for an elusive cactus patch that only blooms in some years. Settle into your campsite, and check out a book from the informal “Jones Island Public Library,” located in one of the restrooms.
In addition to the primitive sites, a group camp is set in the orchard and is available by reservation. Jones Island also provides seven mooring buoys and 128 linear feet of dock moorage at the North Cove from April to October.
Visitors cannot help but be enthralled by the beauty and diversity of Jones Island. Even the most seasoned boaters and kayakers will agree: this little island in the the San Juan Archipelago is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For park information click here.