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Deer Harbor – Orcas Island

Deer Harbor – Orcas Island

Deer Harbor is one of our kayak tour locations on Orcas Island. Due to the sheltered location and dock launch, we offer tours here earlier and later in the season than our other sites. Almost anyone can enjoy kayaking from Deer Harbor.

For centuries the area was used by the local Lummi people, part of the Coast Salish tribes. There was ample fresh water, fish, shellfish, deer, ducks, and other game. They were a peaceful people who were sometimes raided by aggressive groups from the north seeking slaves.

The name Deer Harbor comes from the first white settlers on the island — trappers for the Hudson Bay Company — who made this home in the 1850’s. Deer meat and hides, transported to a fort in Victoria, were their main source of income. Over time a community grew around the encampment and protected harbor.

A fish cannery, small farms, and large fruit orchards were developed here and around Orcas Island. The buildings that housed the first post office, dance hall, and an early school in the 1890’s are still in use. During prohibition, the many nearby small islands, coves and channels made the area popular for smugglers.

Whale-watching, kayaking, recreational fishing, and sailing are now the most common activities at Deer Harbor, with the marina serving as a community hub. Seals, bald eagles, osprey, mink and river otters are common wildlife sightings.