san juan islands
archipelago of more than 170 islands, comprising San Juan county, northwestern Washington, U.S., in upper Puget Sound. The islands are near the Canadian border, south of the Strait of Georgia and east of Juan de Fuca Strait. Part of a submerged mountain chain, the islands were explored (1790-92) and named by the Spanish Francisco Eliza expedition. Visited by George Vancouver in 1792, the main islands (including Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez) were occupied for a time by the Hudson's Bay Company. Following the bloodless "Pig War" of 1859 (precipitated by a marauding British pig in an American potato patch and involving American forces commanded by Captain George E. Pickett, who would be better known as a Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War), San Juan Island was occupied by both British and American forces for 12 years. San Juan Island National Historic Park, divided into English and American camps, commemorates this period. The islands were awarded to the United States (1872) after settlement of a boundary dispute. Orcas Island includes Moran State Park and Mount Constitution (2,400 feet [730 metres]), highest point on the islands. Linked by ferry services, the islands have had extensive summer resort development. Friday Harbor, largest town and county seat, is the base for a fishing fleet and site of the University of Washington Oceanographic Laboratory. Pop. (1990) 10,035; (2000) 14,077.
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