An Illustration of Orcas Island
Oct 27, 2015
Orcas Island was first explored by the Lummi Tribe of the Salish Nation that visited the island seasonally to hunt deer and fish for salmon.
The island received its current name not after the black and white whales that cruise the shores, but after a Viceroy named Horcasita, a Mexican Count who sent the first western exploration into the region.
This name was shortened to Orcas and given to the whole island chain. Eventually the islands became collectively known as the San Juan Islands; however Orcas Island retained its name.
The 57 square mile island is larger than the San Juan Island but with fewer people and a permanent population near 4,500. The second largest town in the San Juan Islands, Eastsound, is on Orcas Island.
Un-Cruise Adventures travelers explore the shops, cafes and brewery in this cute, two block town. One of the most notable sites on Orcas Island is the Rosario Mansion, that was built by former Seattle mayor and shipbuilder, Robert Moran.
Moran arrived in Seattle as a young man, surviving as a deckhand before working his way up to become an engineer and eventually a ship builder. While working as an engineer, he accompanied John Muir on several expeditions to Alaska.
Eventually, Moran and his brothers built U.S. Naval ships, including the U.S.S. Nebraska in 1902. By 1904, Moran’s stressful life took a toll on his health and doctors told him he only had a few years to live. He purchased 7,000 acres of land on Orcas Island and built his retirement home on a bluff overlooking the water of Eastsound. The home was completed in 1909.
At a time when the industrial revolution threatened to displace woodworkers, Moran put a value on craftsmanship, choosing to build his house in the solid and elegant arts and crafts style.
Guests from the Wilderness Adventurer explore the mansion and learn about Robert Moran in the exhibits housed in several rooms. The center of the house has a beautiful, cathedral-like music room with a 1913 Aeolian pipe organ that features 300 pipes. In addition, the room is lit by a Tiffany’s chandelier and a beautiful stain glass window of a harbor scene. The woodwork around the house has dark mahogany paneling, stain glass lighting and beautiful fireplaces.
Moran became interested in the conservation of wild places in large part from the influences of Muir. In 1911, Moran donated thousands of acres of forested land to the Washington State Parks Department. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped create the parks trail network and bridges as well as the medieval style tower at the 2,400 ft. Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands.
After Un-Cruise guests hike around the park’s lakes or up to the Mt. Constitution peak, they are rewarded with an expansive view over the island chain as well as the snow capped Mt. Baker.
A great philanthropist, Moran left his legacy to be shared with future generations by protecting the park lands and opening the forests and his regal home for all to explore. We thank him and look forward to the next adventure.