San Juan County
Every day Never Closes
Approaching Eagle Harbor from the east the tiny but picturesque Cone Islands are the welcoming offshore markers located to the northeast of the bay’s entrance. The dramatic rock face lining the northern or right side of the entrance is visually stunning. Often bathed in warm sun glow, this cliff face sports a fringe of artistically stunted trees and on quiet days provides ideal resting and launching sites for seabirds. Avoiding the submerged rocks and old pilings on the south side, boaters can take advantage of the numerous public mooring buoys floating on the bay’s surface. While this relatively protected and deeply indented bay may feel spacious with only a boat or two, the arrival of more than a few can quickly make it feel crowded; making the presence of buoys rather than long widely swinging anchor lines a great benefit. Another reason anchors are avoided is not apparent but extremely important. Below the floating craft is a sea meadow of eelgrass. The long blades of this true flowering grass provide a nursery habitat supporting literally hundreds of species in a many layered ecosystem: from buried clams, microscopic snails, delicate nudibranchs, crawling crabs, spawning herring, migrating salmon and ultimately the eagles and orcas of the islands. In the past, anchor lines and even the leads from old style mooring buoys scrubbed the sea floor denuding and destroying this wonderfully productive and fundamental component of the native environment.
When it’s time to approach the shore of Eagle Harbor there are two distinct choices. The right or north end provides a long beach, lined with driftwood logs. Here you’ll find a well marked trailhead for the Duck Lake Loop. Besides wildlife-rich Duck Lake you can eventually find connections to Smuggler’s Bay on the west shore of Cypress, Pelican Beach to the north, and when open, the famous Eagle Cliff Trail (for seasonal closure information see article this website). On the south end of the shore, nestled between substantial rock and boulder outcrops and old pilings, is a small narrow pebbly ramp. This provides immediate access to the Cypress Mainline, a trail following an old road bed that begins here, runs through the middle of the island and reaches nearly to Reef Point, the island’s southernmost tip. The importance of natural area preservation requires that dogs be leashed at all times when brought to Cypress Island and that pet exclusion areas such as Cypress Lake and the Eagle Cliff Trail be strictly observed.
Between these landing sites a trail connection exists a short distance inland allowing you to comfortably walk between beach ends without negotiating rocks, mudflats, or high water. For those who like a little adventure in rock hopping and poking around, the outcrops on the shore between these two trailheads can provide an interesting array of discarded artifacts revealing some of the past uses of this location. Since its time as an ancient seasonal subsistence village, this location has been hard used for a variety of more modern purposes including farming, sheep ranching, logging, landing ramps, and docks. Among the rocks, mud and boulder piles you can find broken pipes still flowing with fresh spring water from some unknown source, fragments of tea cups, large iron plates that were once the "feet" of a tracked vehicle, huge links of chain and "dogs" from logging operations, and even a piece or two of some well ground beach glass.
Despite the sheltered feeling of the bay, it is open to the southeast and when the winds are from that direction, which isn’t often, the shallow water can become a bit of a rock and roll. Also, while the bay is well protected from the fair-weather north winds that occasionally blow, the large sheltering cliff sided knob that dominates the northern view tends to funnel wind around its inland forested flank and can set boats gently spinning around their moorages in different directions making for some interesting moments but hopefully nothing worst than a few near touches.
Today, Eagle Harbor has lost most of the obvious signs of its industrious past and is now all about the pleasant moorage and easy island access. Boaters are welcomed to spend the night but there is no onshore camping here making the surroundings of this popular moorage appear surprisingly natural and wild with relatively little evidence of man’s intrusion on nature visible from the water.
The well defined and deeply indented bay is located on the northeast side of Cypress Island, about midway between Cypress Head to the south and Pelican Beach to the north.
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San Juan Islands