Community Profile: Whidbey Island

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Deception Pass Bridge, a National Historic Monument since 1982, is actually two spans that link Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island (Anacortes) over Canoe Pass and Deception Pass. The bridge is one of the scenic wonders and destinations of the Pacific Northwest.

With a population of nearly 72,000 people, Whidbey Island is the largest island in Washington State, sitting between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula. Whidbey is home to the cities and towns of Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Langley, Freeland, Greenbank, Clinton, and Bayview; all of which fit snugly into Island County.

Oak Harbor is Whidbey Island’s largest incorporated city and home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Named for the Garry Oak trees which grace its skyline, the city’s growth coincided with two major events: the building of Deception Pass Bridge on July 31, 1935, and the completion of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on September 21, 1942.

Whidbey Island’s popularity stems from the amazing views of Puget Sound and the plethora of tourist activities available. Explore the waters of Puget Sound on a scuba diving adventure, glide across the sea in silence on a kayak trip to visit the orca and gray whales, sea lions and seals, starfish and crab, and eagles and the porpoises!

For thousands of years, the only people who occupied Whidbey Island were the four Pacific Northwest Indian Tribes. In the spring of 1792, Captain George Vancouver explored the area and named every mountain, island, and waterway he could find. Whidbey Island was named on June 10, 1792 after Joseph Whidbey who proved it was an island when he discovered Deception Pass.

Aside from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, the island has a strong military history. In 1890, the construction of Fort Casey began. The three-fort defense system was built by the US Army to protect the entrance to Puget Sound. Along with this fort, Fort Flagler and Fort Worden, which are located on the Olympic Peninsula, make up the “Triangle of Fire.” Twenty years after Fort Casey was built, it became the fourth largest military post and was no doubt the most beautiful. Fort Casey is open to the public, allowing visitors to climb on the ladders to inspect the guns, walk along bluff-side bunkers, and through the dark tunnels of the past.

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