Patos Island was discovered by a Spanish explorer in 1791. We trailed local author June Burn when she visited the island for an article for her 100 Days in the San Juans series for the Seattle P-I in 1946. Let’s return with well-known historian/journalist Lucile McDonald when she stopped to visit the resident Coast Guard crew manning the station in the summer of 1959.
“The island was named Patos, meaning “ducks,” in 1791 by a rain-drenched Spanish explorer trying to pilot his schooner through the tidal currents in the southern reaches of Georgia Strait.
Patos, northernmost of the San Juan Islands, is known to most boaters as the site of the lighthouse, the most important one in the archipelago. Though its lantern is of the fourth order (40,000 candlepower) and only 38′ above the ground, it is a beam visible to southbound mariners for a long distance.
Since the entire island on which the beacon stands is a lighthouse reserve, there are no other occupants of its 206 acres. A lone cabin is said to have stood in the woods near the east end years ago, a relic of an elderly squatter. No trace of his house remains.
Patos Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1893 and rebuilt in 1908. A radio beacon was installed by the Coast Guard in 1937 and the station’s fog signal was modernized in 1958.