UW Oceanic Laboratories


620 University Rd
Friday Harbor , WA 98250


Every day 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM


A visit to the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington can be enjoyed from several perspectives including historical, environmental, oceanographic, architectural, and recreational. Most people have their first glimpse of the facility as they enter Friday Harbor on the ferry. To the right, the campus is easy to find; the dock often with research vessels moored, is framed by glimpses of low profiled buildings against a backdrop of thickly forested hills of Madrona and fir trees.

The oceanographic laboratories at Friday Harbor have a surprisingly long history beginning in 1904. Located on what was reserved for a planned 1800s fortification to protect Griffin Bay as a "Place of Refuge" for American naval vessels, it was eventually given to the University of Washington. The early focus of the laboratory on teaching and education has evolved now making it a world famous facility for oceanography and marine biology research. Many sites and smaller islands throughout the San Juans are maintained as biological preserves and study areas by the laboratory.

Any visit to the campus begins with a stop at the office. Quite generously, the current policy allows visitors on foot to wander through the laboratory grounds and onto trails through an extensive biological preserve of forest, grassy balds, and untouched marine shoreline. There are clear restrictions while visiting that must be followed including: never entering any buildings, avoiding living quarters and family housing, no smoking, and due to the preserve status, no pets are allowed on the grounds (this is enforced even for families spending the summer at the facility).

The architecture is an interesting blend indicative of changing influences through more than 100 years of changes but with a noticeable northwest and Native American influence. Some buildings are reminiscent of old style youth camps yet there are also the new and architecturally advanced buildings of the adjacent Whiteley Center; "a living facility envisioned and maintained for scholarly and artistic pursuits in an exceptional environment." The laboratories, located down by the waterfront and dock, have a fascinating high-tech industrial look with their network of pipes, tanks, tubing, and special equipment.

Once each year, typically during May, the annual open house is conducted, inviting the public and particularly local residents to come visit the laboratory to view the interior facilities and hear presentations about current research and the status of the natural environment in the San Juans. Other than this one day, there are no tours or guided trips through the facility.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/22/2009


Walk or drive it’s only a couple of miles from Friday Harbor; if walking you’ll have to use a road shoulder for part of the way, be careful of vehicles and pay attention to crossings and pedestrian direction signs.

From the ferry dock in Friday Harbor, drive up Spring Street and in a couple of blocks turn right onto 2nd Street North. In a few blocks the road angles through an intersection and become Guard Street. One block later turn right onto Tucker Avenue/Roche Harbor Road. Just a 1/3 of a mile further take the fork to the right onto University Road; watch for pedestrians! This road curves through forest and into the laboratory campus. Turn into the parking lot on the right and check in at the office in the large low-profiled building directly below the parking lot.


Walking Trails


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