Shaw Island

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Shaw Island locator map.svg
Location of Shaw Island in the San Juans
Shaw is located in Washington (state)
Location Pacific Northwest
Coordinates 48°34′24″N 122°57′26″W / 48.5732°N 122.9573°W / 48.5732; -122.9573Coordinates: 48°34′24″N 122°57′26″W / 48.5732°N 122.9573°W / 48.5732; -122.9573
Archipelago San Juan Islands
Area 7.7037 sq mi (19.952 km2)
United States
State Washington
County San Juan County
Population 240 (2010)
Most of the southern half of Shaw Island (looking to the east), with the much smaller Canoe Island immediately past it, then Lopez Island most prominent in the background
The ferry dock at Blind Bay. This terminal has a native Orca petroglyph carving sign unlike the other San Juans with the generic island name signs
The first Shaw school located on Reef Net Point adjacent Shaw Island County Park
The trademark road signs
Historic "little red schoolhouse"

Shaw Island is the smallest of the four San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries. The island has a land area of 19.952 square kilometres (7.704 square miles) and a small year-round population of 240 (2010 census). During the summer time, weekends swell with other residents and the occasional tourist. The Wilkes Expedition, in 1841, named the island after John Shaw, a United States Naval Officer.

Amenities, roads and public facilities[edit]

Shaw Island has a County park, a historic general store, and a post office at the ferry landing. A library and museum are located near the middle of the island.[1][2]

The University of Washington also owns property throughout the island, notably the Cedar Rock Reserve on the south side of the island. The stated vision for these properties are "to maintain and restore native biodiversity and ecosystem function and to facilitate education and research that is consistent with these goals" and "to maintain important parts of the cultural landscape."[3]

Shoreline access is best at the Shaw County Park, due to its vast beachline. There are 11.5 miles (18.5 km) of asphalt and 2.37 miles (3.81 km) of gravel public roads on Shaw. The primary roads are three loops in the interior of the island, with branches to the ferry dock, Shaw Island County Park, Neck Point, and Broken Point.[citation needed]


There are three Catholic religious institutes of nuns on Shaw Island. Benedictine nuns established a monastery on 150 acres (61 hectares) in the 1970s; while the Sisters of Mercy have owned an unofficial retreat on the island since the 1980s.[4] Nuns of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist ran the island's only store and the ferry terminal for almost 3 decades, until 2004, relocating elsewhere .[1]

Historical structures[edit]

Shaw Island has an operational historic one-room school (although a second room was later added), with classes for elementary and middle school students. Known as the Little Red Schoolhouse, it has been in continuous use since it was built in 1890 and is the longest- running school in the state of Washington.[5] The building is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[6]

Shaw Island also has a small library and historical museum.[2][6]

Popular culture[edit]

Shaw Island was featured during the fifth-season episode "Access" of the political drama The West Wing as the site of a standoff between terrorist suspects and the US government, similar to the Waco, Texas Branch Davidian standoff.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Oldham, Kit (12 October 2005). "Franciscan nuns depart Shaw Island after running the island ferry terminal and store for 27 years on June 2, 2004". Seattle, Washington: HistoryLink. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "San Juan Islands Travel Region - Shaw Island". 30 November 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "University of Washington San Juan Archipelago Biological Preserves". University of Washington. 21 November 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Turner, Wallace (12 August 1987). "Sisters' Island Neighbors Uneasy". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Shaw Island School - History". Shaw Island School District. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Pitcher, Don (2012). San Juan Islands. Avalon Travel. p. 242. 

External links[edit]