Every spring as we begin our San Juan Islands kayak tours, one of our favorite specialty tours is the Spring Wildflower Experience. The months of April and May see a fantastic variety of colorful flowers blooming on tiny Yellow Island, near Deer Harbor on Orcas Island.
Our wildflower tours include a lunch stop on a nearby island and plenty of time to enjoy strolling through the flowers and the taking in the wonderful views surrounding Yellow Island. More than 50 species of wildflowers can be found on the island, including the surprise native cactus! A variety of bird sightings is also common, from hummingbirds to bald eagles. Seals and porpoise are frequently seen along this route.
Hummingbird Hill is the name given to the highest point on the island, and it is obvious why. As soon as the earliest blossoms appear each spring, rufus hummingbirds return from their winter migration to warmer climes. Their calls and diving courtship displays can be heard all over the island, especially on Hummingbird Hill. The sunny exposure on this part of the island supports the most colorful progression of flowers through the season.
Yellow Island is a private preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy. Day-use visitors are welcome, provided they follow the short list of rules for the island: visit between 10am and 4pm, stay on the trails, and no food allowed. Since purchasing the island in 1979, TNC has tried to minimize negative human impacts on the island. They have also actively managed the island to encourage the native grassland species, through brush clearing and controlled burning. A steward is often in residence to share the island with visitors.
Spring is a magical time to experience Yellow Island, and Shearwater is happy to cooperate with The Nature Conservancy to share this experience with visitors every year. With continued respect and care, Yellow Island will be there for future generations to marvel at the beauty of this special place.