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¼ mile off the northwest shore of Orcas Island
Eastsound , WA 98245

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Review

Tiny Freeman Island, located just off the northwest shore of Orcas Island is the apparent remnant of a small sharp ridge that barely survives above the current sea level. At various times it has been a state park, wildlife preserve, and an otherwise forgotten piece of federally owned real-estate. This obscurity and lack of determined interest has probably been partly responsible for the salvation of its natural environment. With so little room to develop facilities and offering little in the way of strategic location, Freeman Island has managed to continue on with little sign of human disturbance.

True, its proximity to the resorts and camps in the West Beach area of Orcas Island insures plenty of youthful daytime visitors during the summer months; but the nearby presence of publicly available facilities and better known Point Doughty tends to focus many visitors attention elsewhere.

The name Freeman conjures up exciting and romantic possibilities but it was in fact named for a man; J. D. Freeman a sailmaker aboard the ship Peacock, during the Wilkes Expedition of the 1800s. As obscure as the island, little else is known about this forgotten sailor.

For those who decide to visit this island speck, there’s a special enjoyment to being the sole inhabitant of your very own island, at least for a little while. Somewhat difficult to land on even for small boats, most paddlers attempt to find a sandy spot on the eastern shore. Once on land the less than an acre of island is dotted with a surprising assortment of Madrona, cedar, and stunted fir trees. Somewhat hidden in the underbrush is a boot trail that traces the entire length of the island’s narrow ridge. A survey bench mark will hopefully be the only other sign of human presence that you find since there is no camping allowed on this island.

Along the northern shoreline, the strong wave action has sculpted the rock into a fanciful honeycomb of shapes and sizes. Tidepools, each containing their individual universes of life, dot this area. Occasionally the peaceful setting makes it attractive for marine mammals to pull-out to get their necessary daily "beach time." These jagged rocks and the steep eroding bluffs indicate that Freeman Island is quickly vanishing. Geologically speaking of course; on a human scale you still have plenty of time to visit.

In the spring, there can be a delightful blush of wildflowers among the grassy balds and rocky outcrops pushing out from beneath the trees and shrubs. But be warned. There is danger on this island. Nearly every spring as long as people can remember, wild geese have made this their nesting site. While geese may not sound like ferocious wildlife, disturbing them during their nesting period or while rearing their young will illicit a remarkably violent reaction from them in defense of their island home. If you visit here in the spring, just give them a wide berth, which admittedly isn’t easy on this little rock of an island. If you don’t, they’ll be sure to make you wish you had.

On the sometimes less than hospitable north shore of Orcas Island, little Freeman Island offers small boat enthusiasts a diversionary pullout, a chance to stretch their legs, to enjoy a small scale wildlife experience, and possibly a last chance to rest up before challenging the tides, winds, waves and currents of the northern waters of the San Juan Islands.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/27/2009

Directions

Freeman Island is located less than a ¼ mile from the shores of Camp Orkila on the northwest corner of Orcas Island. It is positioned midway between Pt. Doughty to the north and West Beach to the south, about a mile from either one. The launch sites on the Northshore of Orcas are 2-3 water miles away but involve passing through the often turbulent waters swirling around Point Doughty.

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