Three-quarters of the seabirds in Puget Sound nest on Protection Island, including about 17,000 pairs of rhinoceros auklets, glaucous-winged gulls, pelagic cormorants, tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, double-crested cormorants, and black oystercatchers. The island is also a pupping and hauling area for about 600 harbor seals. Explorer George Vancouver named the island noting how it protected the entry to Discovery Bay. With a colorful history, the government owned and sold it in the 1860s.
It was a farm for awhile, then in the 1940s an out-of-control beach fire burned the entire island. The island almost became a 1100-unit housing development in 1968 until environmentalists stopped construction. In 1988, the island became a National Wildlife Refuge partially managed by the US and Washington State Fish and Wildlife Service. There is no public access on the island to protect wildlife, and paddlers must stay 200 yards offshore of the island. The last time I was there, I could hear the island birds 1 mile away from Diamond Point and a whale breaching in the distance.
© 2012 Rob Casey/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.