ORCAS Island, san juan islands, washington state
The name "Orcas" is a shortened form of Horcasitas, or Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo, the Viceroy of Mexico who sent an exploration expedition under Francisco de Eliza to the Pacific Northwest in 1791. During the voyage, Eliza explored part of the San Juan Islands. He did not apply the name Orcas specifically to Orcas Island, but rather to part of the archipelago. In 1847, Henry Kellett assigned the name Orcas to Orcas Island during his reorganization of the British Admiralty charts. Kellett's work eliminated the patriotically American names that Charles Wilkes had given to many features of the San Juans during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838–1842. Wilkes had named Orcas Island "Hull Island", after Commodore Isaac Hull. Other features of Orcas Island named by Wilkes include "Ironsides Inlet" for East Sound and "Guerrier Bay" for West Sound. One of the names Wilkes gave remains: Mount Constitution. Wilkes' names follow a pattern: Isaac Hull was the commander of "Old Ironsides" (the USS Constitution) and won fame after capturing the British warship Guerriere in the War of 1812. The islands were first claimed by Spain, then by England, who agreed that all below the 49th parallel was part of the US, in the treaty signed after the War of 1812. The Oregon territory, which then included Washington state and this island. was used jointly by the US and England until 1848, but border disputes specifically concerning the San Juan Islands, including the Pig War (1859), were not settled until 1871.
With a land area of 57.3 square miles (148.4 km²) and a population of 5,387 (2010 census), Orcas Island is slightly larger, but less populous, than neighboring San Juan Island. Orcas is shaped like a pair of saddlebags, separated by fjord-like Eastsound, with Massacre Bay on the south side, and tiny Skull Island just off the coast. At the northern end of the island is the village of Eastsound, the largest population center on Orcas and the second largest in San Juan County. In 1989, the people of San Juan County asked the federal government to purchase a Lummi Nation site on Orcas Island's Madrona Point in Eastsound. The land was given to the Lummi who agreed to operate it as Madrona Point Park, a private preserve characterized by hundreds of twisting madrona trees sprouting from the rocky shoreline. Several years ago, the Lummi tribe declared the land sacred ancestral burial grounds and the park was closed following incidents of vandalism. Public access has been denied since that time.
Other, smaller towns - or hamlets - on the island include Orcas (where the inter-island/mainland ferry lands), West Sound (technically part of Eastsound), Deer Harbor, Rosario (technically part of Eastsound), Olga and Doe Bay. There are a number of former settlements that no longer exist, which were mostly built up around the lime kiln industry, including Ocean, Newhall, and Dolphin Bay.
Orcas Island is accessible by air via Orcas Island Airport or water landings by seaplane as well as by water via the Washington State Ferry system or private watercraft. During the summer season, there is an island shuttle that runs from the ferry landing to Eastsound and other points.