“Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday” – John Wayne.
Sitting just East of Vancouver Island and a few hundred kilometres South of the city of Vancouver, Spieden Island is an elongated, roughly 516 acre, stunning piece of Pacific Northwest history. While mainly accessible by boat today, a landing strip also sits atop the sun-drenched island: a remnant from the 1970s when a hotel and small hanger were built to house American taxidermists.
As the legend goes, John Wayne used to venture to this beautiful island with his Seattle-based hunting pals to stalk ‘wild’ big game on their newly claimed geographic spoil. Many say that giraffe, tigers, and kangaroos were brought to the island by these adventurists as they sought to create an exotic land that was near to home. While the geography and climate couldn’t sustain these majestic creatures, the tale of their short existence still lives on.
The island has yet to host a permanent human population, but today, wild deer from this celebrity-influenced era still live off its grasses. Mouflon sheep from Corsica, fallow deer from Europe, and Sitka deer from Central Asia were brought over and, impressively, managed to sustain themselves on the island after the hunters moved on to their next conquest.
Currently, Oakley cofounder James Jannard owns this history-rich strip of land that runs parallel to the Spieden Chanel. Deer hunting on the island has since ceased because Spieden Island sits just a few kilometres north of the relatively more populated San Juan Islands. The worry of bullets reaching across made certain that continued gaming could not be a safe bet for locals. It’s unknown if Jannard or family still visit, but it has certainly been kept quite serene.
Passing by in the spring (just in time for our April-start Zodiac tours!), you’ll spot a purple tone that paints the grooves in the hillside: peppered wildflowers grow in the sun and ocean air. The north side of the island is oddly stark in its inverse: a deep, heavy forest gives it a contrasting hue. This flush in flora is caused by an unusual climate of Olympic Mountain rainshadow, which makes it a popular island for perching Eagles.
Many of our Victoria Zodiac tours will venture over to Spieden Island, and, while hopefully this blog has gotten you excited to view these sights for yourself, your naturalists will know all about this rich history themselves, so don’t hesitate to ask: it’s quite the opportune class in our ‘floating classrooms’!
Have fun out there!