Blake Island – An introduction

Posted by Ken Campbell October 27, 2010 0 Comment 2740 views

Blake Island sits at the top of Colvos Passage, between Southworth and the northern tip of Vashon Island. It is a State Park, about 475 acres, with excellent camping and kayaking opportunities.

The island was used by the Suquamish tribe as a fishing camp. It is widely held that Chief Sealth, the great native leader and namesake of Seattle, was born here back in 1786.

George Vancouver was the first explorer to make a note of the island in his charts, but it actually received its name from Lt. Charles Wilkes, of the 1841 United States Exploring Expedition. Wilkes was mad for naming things, and he chose this particular jewel on which to hang the name of George Smith Blake, the commander of the United States Coast Survey at the time.

From the north side of the island, you can look across to Restoration Point, on the southeast tip of Bainbridge Island. In 1792, Captain Vancouver, concerned about possible shallow water to the south, anchored just off this point while waiting for Lt. Peter Puget to finish his longboat circuit of the south Sound.

At one point, the name “Smuggler’s Island” was in common usage when Blake Island came up in conversation. During the dark and misguided days of prohibition, smugglers used the island as a way station for Canadian booze on its way to American hangovers.

Between 1917 and 1936, it was owned by one William Pitt Trimble, a wealthy Seattlite. He built an estate, lived there, moved away after his wife’s death, and finally sold it and moved back to the Emerald City. He named it “Trimble Island” for a while, but that name never did catch on.

The Army resided on the island during WWII. The Coastal Artillery, as it happened. I don’t believe they ever shot at anyone.

Blake Island became a State Park in 1959. Most of the camping sites are near Tillicum Village, a reasonably harmless depiction of native culture and cuisine that is aimed at tourists riding the Argosy from Elliott Bay. More sites are available on the south side and the Cascadia Marine Trail site is out on the northwestern edge.

Fires are allowed, but rangers actively discourage gleaning wood off the beach. If you want a fire, be prepared to bring the wood with you.

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