Paddling Waldron Island

When John proposed a weekend Waldron Island kayak trip to the Hole in the Wall Kayak Club, I signed up because I had not paddled the western part of the San Juan Islands and wanted to get some exposure to that area. I had no idea that I would paddle to a place that few kayakers see because it has no overnight campgrounds, and I had no understanding that my weekend would take me to a lifestyle that in many ways is 100 years old. Waldron Island is near the northwest corner of the San Juan Islands. From Waldron Island, one can look at the Canadian Gulf Islands a few miles away to the north and to the west.

Waldron Island is about 4.6 square miles, and is 11 miles in circumference. About 100 people live on it full time, and about that many again have summer dwellings. There is no electricity or water service on the island, no stores, no gas stations, no scheduled ferry service, and no private boat docks. There is a grass strip of an airport, but one may not keep and airplane on the island for more than 72 hours. One may not run a business on the island with a few exceptions, one being that it provides a service in connection with logistics coming from off the island. There are no paved roads on this very wooded island, and most of the few roads on the island were put in by mining and logging operations 100 years ago. A few private roads have been added since. In short, many residents of the island have little income, few places to spend money, and they live a very quiet, subsistence life style. They love their way of life and strictly protect it from outside pressures.


Our groop,

Ready to shove off from West Beach Resort on Orcas Island are the six of us;
Vanessa, Don S., Marianne, John, Don W., and Becky


We took a morning ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island. We then drove northwest across Orcas Island to West Beach Resort. The West Beach Resort provides paid parking and has a very suitable beach for launching. From there it was a 2 1/2 mile straight shot across President Channel to Waldron Island. We had beautiful, sunny weather the whole weekend and very light winds. It should be noted that President Channel can be formidable if the winds pick up. Reasonably strong currents can play a role in navigation as well as causing tide rips and standing waves.

By 10:30 we were doing our safety briefing and a few minutes later got underway. We did the crossing in 50 minutes and were soon on a beautiful, gravel beach, unloading our kayaks. Most of us carried our tents up onto a 200' bluff where we found scenic sites to set up. Don S. preferred to camp on the beach where he could enjoy close proximity to the waves and watch the wildlife on the water. John had some picnic tables and other amenities on his property, so we soon had a comfortable camp established.

After setting up our tents and a leisurely lunch, most of us did a walk to explore the eastern side of the island. With essentially no vehicle traffic on the gravel roads, and very few people, we found our blood pressure falling as we drank in a very natural, quiet and beautiful rural setting.


Don S. packing his kayak.

Don S. packing his kayak at West Beach Resort. The resort has cabins for rent and is able to provide guests with kayaks and other recreational gear.


Safety Briefing

As we did our safety briefing, a flock of Canadian Geese swam by which, of course, demanded our attention.


Hatch problem

As we start out, Becky makes an adjustment to Don's hatch cover.


Under the dock.

John lead us under the dock and put us on a northwesterly heading. Marianne is usually seen using an Eskimo Paddle.


Leaving the west side of Orcas Island.

Moving off from the west side of Orcas Island.


John leads across President Channel

John takes us across President Channel. Patos Island is in the background.



Approaching Waldron Island

We approach Wladron Island.


Unpacking on Waldron Island

Unpacking on one of Waldron's many fine pebble beaches.


Marianne setting up tent 1.

Marianne sets up her tent with a stunning easterly view .


Marianne setting up tent 2.

This backpacking tent packs very small.



My tent.

Tents are a compromise. Mine is larger, packs larger, but has room for stuff.


Don W. enjoying the view in a lawn chair.

Don W. pauses to take in the view from a lofty setting.



Lunch on the beach.

We enjoy a leisurely lunch as Vanessa does some sorting and Don S. sets up the tent on his chosen beach site.

title: A Walk on Waldron


We start a walk to explore Waldron Island.

We start our walk to explore Waldron Island.


Monarch Butterfly

The Monarch Butterflies were out.



A meadow on Waldron Island.

We enjoy a meadow, which opens up the view towards Orcas Island. Most of the homes have solar panels, and nearly all have electric generators. However, gasoline


Marianne pets a horse.

These horses were quite happy to get some attention.


An old boat in the trees.

An old boat is retired in the woods.


An old stove in the woods.

Wood stoves make sense on Waldron Island.



A carved burl on a tree.

Burl folk art. Many residents used distinctive artifacts to mark their property.


A nice home on Waldron.

Stunning craftsmanship, largely using available materials.