A thin layer of clouds parted over San Juan Channel revealing sunbreaks and patches of blue sky on a cool fall afternoon as we made our way from Friday Harbor to Jones Island. I suspected we’d be the only boat in the North Cove and my suspicion was confirmed while rounding the reef at the northeast corner of the island; the main float had been removed for the winter and the mooring balls sat empty on a pane of glass-flat water.
After taking our pick of moorings, we launched the dinghy and shed a layer of clothing as the amount of sunshine continued to grow. The cove was calm, sheltered from the southerly breeze, and we rowed leisurely around the rock formations on the eastern edge, watching water droplets fall and land in the gin clear water below.
Ashore we strolled through the middle of the island and across the bright green lawn to the South Cove. There were no boats here either and we walked the waters edge, played in tide pools and enjoyed the view of San Juan Island across the channel.
The following morning we came back ashore for a loop hike around the eastern part of the island. While traversing the highest point in trail, we watched a bald eagle soar between Jones and Orcas Island above Spring Passage and seals play in the water beneath us. When we got to the South Cove, the bright green grass flowing over the rocks looked like a scene straight from an Irish golf course, and black-tailed deer munched on the luscious grass near the group campsites.
It’s scenes like these that keep bringing us back to Jones Island — especially in the offseason.
About Jones Island Marine State Park:
While exploring Jones Island by foot or boat, it’s fun to imagine how the place would have looked to the Salish residents and later European and American explorers surveying the area. The island was named during the Wilkes Expedition of 1841. Its namesake, Captain Jacob Jones of the U.S. Navy, was the master and commander of the sloop-of-war Wasp who famously captured the British Brig Frolic in 1812.
This was our first time on the island and we were the only people here for two days. Between the campsites, mooring buoys and the park dock, Jones can get quite crowded in the peak season, and it is easy to see why. Four miles of beautiful and varied levels of hiking are available on the east and west loop trails and there are quite a few campsites at the South Cove.
The last time we stopped at Jones Island there were two mooring balls in South Cove and four in North Cove. The 128-foot span of dock gets removed in October and put back no later than May 1. Anchorage is said to be good close to either cove. Wakes from boats passing through San Juan Channel can be an issue at the South Cove, as would a strong southerly wind or winter storm. Northerly tempests could make the North Cove uncomfortable.
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