Explore the Pacific Northwest

San Juan Islands Monument Keeper

Explore the Pacific Northwest

Nick Teague Takes Care of One of Our Greatest Natural Treasures

San Juan Islands National Monument's Nick Teague

Nick Teague is, officially, the outdoor recreation planner for San Juan Islands National Monument, Washington state’s newest (2013) element in the National Landscape Conservation System. Nick describes himself as a “jack of all trades,” helping oversee the monument’s environmental health, conducting outreach and education, and organizing a series of annual beach cleanups. In addition, he and his wife, Susie, operate Whispers of Nature herb farm, a wellness center on Lopez Island featuring an extensive labyrinth that’s open to the public. Nick is an enthusiastic advocate for the island environment he helps sustain.

What can you tell me about the monument?
We have 76 separate sites in the monument—headlands, beaches, skerries, islets, parks, lighthouses and more, scattered across all the islands. Land and water conservation are nothing new in the islands. There’s a long history of stewardship here, dating back to the original Coast Salish inhabitants. The monument is the realization of a dream for residents passionately dedicated to preserving such a gorgeous place.

What can visitors do?
There’s something for everyone to do: hiking, paddling, picnicking, sightseeing, wildlife watching and volunteer conservation work.

What kind of volunteer work is there?
Our annual beach cleanups are one of the very best ways we connect visitors and residents to the land and sea. We have cleanups three times a year, in April, June and September. Everyone’s welcome (call 360.468.3754). We can’t get all the trash off the beaches, but we do our best.

How much trash?
Last spring, we gathered 1,500 pounds of trash from beaches on Lopez Island alone, mostly plastic. Fortunately, we were able to send a third of it to recycling, rather than the landfill.

What are top spots to visit?
On my island, Lopez, Iceberg Point is a drop-dead gorgeous stroll through the woods to a headland looking west over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. The views are equally spectacular at Cattle Point, on San Juan Island. And on Orcas, Indian Island is a tiny islet you can only reach at low tide; walk out on the sandy spit and you can see seabirds, wildflowers and a great view of East Sound.

—Written by Eric Lucas  //  Photograph © Steve Horn​