James Island Marine State Park sits low on the horizon, small and unassuming next to its neighbors in the San Juan archipelago. This tiny marine state park, accessible only by boat, may be the ideal retreat.
Remote as it seems, James Island is not to be missed. Featuring emerald coves, forested trails, spectacular views and an isthmus with two white sand beaches, the park offers only 13 primitive campsites – three for travelers arriving by human- or wind-powered watercraft and 10 sites clustered in two groups on different sides of the isle. There is moorage available for those who prefer to sleep in the comfort of their vessels.
You’ve worked hard to get here. Now it is time to relax and experience the lightly touched beauty of this watery paradise.
James Island is named for Reuben James, a U.S. sailor who saved the life of naval officer Stephen Decatur—the namesake of nearby Decatur Island—during a battle with Tripoli in North Africa. The name was given by Commander Charles Wilkes in 1841 during the Wilkes Expedition, which explored the Pacific Ocean between 1838 and 1842.
In 1875 the federal government set the island aside as a lighthouse reservation. No lighthouse was ever built on the island, however. The property was transferred to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in 1964 and officially named James Island State Park in 1974.