Lime Kiln Lighthouse
Set along the rugged western shoreline of San Juan Island, Lime Kiln Lighthouse is one of the most iconic lighthouses in Washington. Located within the 41-acre Lime Kiln State Park, the lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and this year turns 100 years old.
MORE THAN A BEACON
On June 30, 1919, Lime Kiln Lighthouse’s fourth-order (about 2 ½-feet tall) Fresnel lens officially lit, providing a signal for mariners traveling the Haro Strait shipping route. Named after the lime kilns that dotted the island landscape in the 1860s, the lighthouse is one of the last built in the state.
Every year, more than 350,000 people visit the state park—known unofficially as “Whale Watch Park”—and Lime Kiln Lighthouse, which serves as a whale research facility. From the shore, visitors and locals spot orcas, humpbacks, minke, and grey whales as they pass along the shores of San Juan Island, cruising right in front of the lighthouse from May to September. There are also other marine mammals to see, like porpoises, seals and sea lions as well as birds like oystercatchers, cormorants, and bald eagles. If you have binoculars, don’t leave them at home.
For more than 30 years, marine scientists, interns, and volunteers have manned the lighthouse, tracking movements of resident orca whales. From mid-June to mid-August, Bob Otis gives public presentations Fridays and Saturdays at 3 P.M. about their research and resident orcas. You can even listen to the sounds of the sea and calls and clicks of whales via the lighthouse’s hydrophone, an underwater microphone.
From mid-May to mid-September, The Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS) offer evening lighthouse tours Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to sunset.
CELEBRATE 100 YEARS
“I want people to have a sense of renewed appreciation for all the lighthouse offers,” says Erin Corra, founder and executive director of the FOLKS. “It’s a community gathering spot and a place for inspiration for all to behold!”
The centennial celebration takes place on June 30. Festivities begin at 3 p.m. and include keynote speakers such as lighthouse experts Elinor DeWire and Chad Kaiser, along with officials from the state park and U.S. Coast Guard. Additional activities include lighthouse tours, live music, arts and crafts, a fun zone for kids with animals, and a raffle. The event is free, but those planning to drive to the park will need a day pass or Discover Pass. Parking onsite is limited, and it is advised to take the San Juan Transit Shuttle ($5 round trip). To learn more about whales and stewardship, visit The Whale Museum in downtown Friday Harbor before heading out to the lighthouse.