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Detailed map of Vashon Island, Washington

Vashon is a census-designated place (CDP) in King County, Washington, United States. It covers an island alternately called Vashon Island or Vashon-Maury Island, the largest island in Puget Sound south of Admiralty Inlet. The population was 10,123 at the 2000 census. At 37 square miles (96 km²), it is about 60 percent larger in area than Manhattan[1], with about 1/150 the population. The southern terminus of the Vashon Highway is the Tahlequah Ferry Terminal, connected to the Point Defiance neighborhood of Tacoma by a Washington State Ferries run. The northern terminus of the Vashon Highway is the Heights Dock at Point Vashon, which services the state ferry docks at Southworth, Fauntleroy in West Seattle, and Downtown Seattle. There are no bridges to connect the island with the mainland, a big factor contributing to the island's relative isolation and rural character.

The island was named on May 28, 1792, by the explorer George Vancouver after his friend James Vashon of the Royal Navy. At that time, Vashon Island was separate from the neighbouring Maury Island, but today the hamlet of Portage sits on an isthmus built by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers that connects the two.

Based on per capita income, Vashon ranks 32nd of 522 areas in the state of Washington to be ranked.



Location of Vashon Island, Washington

Vashon is located at 47°24′58″N 122°28′6″W / 47.41611°N 122.46833°W / 47.41611; -122.46833 (47.416198, -122.468211).[2]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 37.0 square miles (95.8 km²).

To the west Vashon Island is separated from the Kitsap Peninsula by Colvos Passage. The portion of Puget Sound south of the island is known as Dalco Passage.


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 10,123 people, 4,193 households, and 2,838 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 273.9 people per square mile (105.7/km²). There were 4,867 housing units at an average density of 131.7/sq mi (50.8/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 93.61% White, 0.45% Black or African American, 0.70% Native American, 1.56% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.87% from other races, and 2.75% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.56% of the population.

There were 4,193 households out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.2% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. 23.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 34.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 94.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $58,261, and the median income for a family was $67,010. Males had a median income of $50,201 versus $36,426 for females. The per capita income for the island was $31,983. About 4.6% of families and 6.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.2% of those under the age of 18 and 2.2% of those 65 and older.


The economy of Vashon Island is heavily based on residents commuting to Seattle and Tacoma. While orchards and strawberry farms formerly played a major role in the Vashon economy, the pressures of suburban residential development have all but eliminated any major commercial agriculture on the island. Many small farms operate on the island, providing locals with fresh organic produce, milk, and eggs. Despite the changes, the island continues to observe the tradition of holding a strawberry festival every July.

Vashon's economy took another hit in recent years when it lost two of its major industrial employers: K2 Sports moved its manufacturing to China, and the Seattle's Best Coffee roastery operation was closed shortly after SBC was bought by Starbucks. Currently, the largest manufacturer on Vashon is Pacific Research Laboratories, locally referred to as "The Bone Factory."


The story of Vashon-Maury Island is told not from the perspective of any one individual, but from the perspective of the land. It is the story of how humans have shaped the island’s environment, and how the island’s ecosystems have shaped the humans who live here.

Vashon-Maury Island exists as an “imagined community.” The concept of being an islander is a concept based on a collective existence and location that people have despite the fact that they will never all know each other. Vashon-Maury Islanders describe themselves as a people distinct from other people. This unites a heterogeneous, often contentious, collection of people around a vision of what they share as islanders. It is this drama of self-identification that creates our community. Perhaps the central story of Vashon-Maury Island is this journey from a collection of self-identified separate communities, linked only by water, into a unified community that is able to collectively organize to oppose a ferry monopoly, a bridge, and a massive strip mine. What aids this process of self-identification and gives it clearly defined boundaries is the island itself. The shoreline that separates us from the “sweep of the surrounding sea” both embraces and entraps us as islanders. (Anderson, Guterson, Harmon)

Vashon-Maury Island lay at the end of the upper Puget Sound, the last in a chain of glacially carved peaks that protrude above the waters of the Sound before it dips through the narrows at Tacoma and then spreads into the South Sound. Vashon and Maury sit like an inverted Y with Quartermaster Harbor splitting the two wings of Maury and southern Vashon, and the northern part of Vashon forming the upright. Vashon-Maury Island sits in the middle of Puget Sound between Seattle and Tacoma ringed by the snowcapped peaks of the Cascades and Mount Rainier to the east and the Olympics to the west. Roughly the size of Manhattan Island (but with less that one percent of the population) Vashon-Maury Island features numerous coves, sandy and rocky beaches, and towering cliffs, yet, no place on the Island is more than two miles from the shore. The Island is approximately 37 square miles, fourteen miles long and four miles wide. The surrounding shore line ranges from low sandy beaches, to steep cobble, to towering cliffs of vashon till (the remains of the Vashon Glacier), to broad alluvial mud banks where island streams empty into the Sound. The highland plateaus that dominate the island are thin soiled but pocketed with marshes, bogs and ponds and generally covered with forests. Scattered around the island are areas of fertile lowlands on the West Side, in the large central Paradise Valley, and at Monument at the head of Quartermaster Harbor; that provided the magnet for early farmers attracted to the Island.

Humans came in three distinct waves to Vashon-Maury Island. The first waves of nomadic hunters arrived approximately 11-12,500 BP (Before Present), shortly after the Vashon Glacier retreated exposing what today we call Vashon-Maury Island. This first wave probably did not settle on Vashon-Maury but some evidence of early tools and points indicate a possible presence. Whether this group declined because of over hunting (or what paleoecologists call “overkill”), which led to a subsequent population crash and the extinction of native North American megafauna, the mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths; or whether these extinctions were the result of complex environmental changes as the glaciers retreated is arguable. Whatever happened, this first wave of humans seemed to have peaked and subsided, gradually replaced by a second wave coastal culture beginning about 8,000 BP which developed into the Coastal Salish culture which was in full development by 3,500 BP, and which the first Europeans encountered 200 years ago. The third wave of humans was the Euro-Asian-American wave that swept into the Puget Sound in the mid-1800’s and onto Vashon and Maury in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Each of these waves of human migration had profound effects on the land and the environments as they established themselves on the island. These human immigrants helped to shape the island we know today, and the island helped to shape them. (Stein & Dedanaan, Kruckeberg)

The history of Vashon-Maury Islands has had few climatic moments and few heroes. This is not a history of individual accomplishments. Rather, it is a history of groups attempting to find their place in the world, to find a living, and in doing so profoundly and significantly changing the land and the resources which surround them. The daily activities that form the core of these ordinary lives, taken together over years, begin to fundamentally alter the landscape, shift the natural habitats, and change the balance of species within the biosphere. The Vashon-Maury Island we know at the beginning of the twentyfirst century is the result of millennia of Native American habitation, and, more recently, over the past one hundred and fifty years, of Euro-Asian-American impacts upon a landscape already profoundly altered by human interventions. (White)

Vashon-Maury Island, like other islands in Puget Sound, is peopled by groups who do not always fully understand the consequences of their impact upon the land. Indians lived on Vashon-Maury for millennia “living close to the land but profoundly alter(ing) it to serve their own ends.” Pioneer farmers dominated the early island but undermined “their own cherished success” by their farming practices. Loggers, brick makers, and shipbuilders brought successful industries to the Island but often destroyed themselves “with their own inadequate capital,” or by exhausting the resources upon which their success depended. And, in the last half of the twentieth century, urban tourists, suburban commuters, escapists, and retirees come to the Island seeking relief from urban sprawl and “access to a wild nature that conveniently conforms to their own artificial image of wilderness.” They arrive only to find they destroy the rural escape they seek with their own large numbers. All of these inconsistencies are the result of a phenomenon Patricia Limerick so aptly calls the "Daniel Boone Paradox." By opening trails into the trans-Appalachian west in order to escape what he saw as overcrowding, Daniel Boone ironically provided directions and routes for settlers who each time crowded him further and further west. Each of the groups occupying Vashon and Maury; Indians, farmers, loggers, brick makers, shipbuilders, tourists, commuters, and escapists, create their own Boone Paradox. (White, Limerick)

The history of Vashon-Maury Island reflects the important role of women, of men, of minorities, and of the land and its ecosystems. Vashon’s history is a multicultural, cosmopolitan history that reflects the presence of a diverse population of Indigenous Peoples, Asian Immigrants (Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Vietnamese), Northern European Immigrants (Norwegians, Swedes, Germans), Southern European Immigrants (Italians, Slovakians), and Americans (both North and South). It is a history of changes in the land. A history of how, as resources were used and often depleted, the land was changed by human beings and in return how humans were changed by the land they themselves had changed.

The history of Vashon-Maury Island is organized into five distinct eras. Each era is defined by a set of circumstances or series of events which seem to close one era and set the direction for another in the ongoing saga of island life. These are contingent points, points in time at which the island’s history could go in any number of possible directions. Because of the decisions made – often unconscious or unthinking decisions – the history of the island develops as it does. The island very well could have become something different, but because of what takes place at these contingent points the island becomes what we know today.

Native People on Vashon - to 1792. The first era lasts for millennia with the coming of Native Peoples approximately 10-12,000 years ago. This Indian cycle probably began as a riverine Marpole culture based on the Puyallup River, and gradually transformed into the wider spread Salish culture by 3-5,000 years ago. We do not know when the Sho-ma-mish first came to Vashon, but the archeological evidence suggests Native People have been on Vashon for well over 1,000 years.

Contact - 1792-1870. In 1792, the second era begins when the countless generations of Sho-ma-mish Coastal Salish life based on river and sea was disrupted by the arrival of Europeans in the form of Captain George Vancouver and his expedition. Fifty years later in 1841, the third era begins when Charles Wilkes and his American Exploring Expedition visited the Puget Sound to map and often rename what earlier explorers had named. This era begins the Americanization of Vashon-Maury Island and ends with the arrival of the first permanent settlers on the Island.

Euro-Asian-American Development - 1870-1940. Americans began to claim Vashon in the 1860’s and the first settlers arrived in the 1880’s. Vashon-Maury Island was transformed in the 1890’s by an explosion of settlers, by new industries, by a college, and by a growing demand from the emerging cities of Seattle and Tacoma for the island’s natural resources. This growth continued into the first decades of the 20th Century as Vashon was heavily logged, agriculture came to dominate the Island economy , and great plans for future development were formed. The First World War and the agricultural depression of the 1920’s significantly slowed Vashon’s growth, and the arrival of the Great Depression of the 1930’s continued to see the Island population and economic growth shrink. What is most significant during this era is the transformation of the island from a frontier to an integral part of a modern industrial society. This transformation laid the framework for the present Island.

An Island Community - 1940 - Present. Beginning in the 1940’s, consciousness of Vashon-Maury Island as a unified community replaced the separate identities of local communities scattered around the Island. This common "Island Identity", and the Island’s links with the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitian area were intensified as the Island’s traditional resource based economy collapsed and was replaced with a service/commuter based economy. During this era the Island formed its own ferry district, fought hard for a bridge across Puget Sound, was changed dramatically by the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, and increasingly during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, became a gentrified commuter haven, away from the rapid urban- and sub-urbanization of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area

The Future - In the future, the explosive growth and influx of new wealth and suburban sprawl, which have come to characterize the Pacific Northwest will continue to sweep the island. What will emerge during this next era, and how future historians will characterize it, is difficult to see from the vantagepoint of the present. Yet, like each transformation of the past, the changes will significantly alter the island, but the island will channel the changes into many of the enduring patterns that have characterized past changes. Just as the abundant rainfall of the Island is channeled into the familiar gullies and streams of the island, so the changes that lie ahead will be channeled into familiar patterns.


Anderson, Richard C. Portraits of Vashon Island. Siegel-Anderson. Port Blakely, WA. 1970

Guterson, David. The citizens of paradise. Harpers Magazine, July 1996.

Hampel, Wolfgang. Interview with Alison Bard, sister of Betty MacDonald, author of Onions in the Stew, about living on Vashon Island during the forties and fifties released on CD/DVD: Betty MacDonald Fan Club, 2009

Harmon, Alexandra. Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identiti es around Puget Sound. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998

Limerick, Patricia. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987

Kruckeberg, Arthur R. The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. A Wyerhaeuser Environmental Book. University of Washington Press. Seattle. 1991.

Stein, Julie K., Phillips, Laura S., eds. Vashon Island Archaeology : a view from Burton Acres Shell Midden. Seattle, Wash. : Burke Museum, 2003

White, Richard. Land Use, Environment, and Social Change. University of Washington Press. Seattle. 1980.

White, Richard. “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own.” University of Oklahoma Press. Norman. 1991.

White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, empires, and republics in the Great Lakes region, 1650-1815. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1991.

Broadcast radio stations

Maury Island is home to numerous AM transmitters. Built in 1941, KIRO 710 has two massive towers for its 50,000 watt transmitter. KIRO is 50,000 watts day/night. KTTH 770 which operates with 50,000 watts during the day and 5,000 watts at night. KTTH shares towers with KPTK. KIRO and KTTH are owned by Bonneville International.

There was a tower originally built in 1946 for KEVR 1090AM, which later became KING radio and is now KPTK. KPTK, 50,000 watts day/night, now operates 3 towers. CBS ownes KPTK. This site is shared with KTTH.

On Vashon Island, radio station KVI 570 has a single tower on a beach in Tramp Harbor, nicknamed "KVI Beach." KVI is owned by local owner Fisher Broadcasting and operates 24 hours a day at 5,000 watts. Fisher also owns KOMO 1000 which has a three tower setup on the northeast corner of Vashon Island. KOMO is 50,000 watts day/night.

KGNW 820 propagates its signal from three towers in the center of the island, KGNW operates 50,000 watts day and 5,000 night and is owned by Salem Communications. KJR 950 shares the towers at the KGNW site. KJR is owned by Clear Channel and operates 50,000 watts day/night

People of note

Vashon Island has been home to many notable individuals:

  • Gene Amondson, 2004 Prohibition Party presidential nominee
  • Jeweler and bellmaker Gordon R. Barnett [1]
  • Gene "Bean" Baxter of the Kevin and Bean morning show on KROQ, an alternative rock-format radio station in Los Angeles, California, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Steve Berlin, of the Grammy Award winning band Los Lobos, lived on the island
  • Alex Borstein, actress noted especially for her work on Fox's MAD TV and as the voice of Family Guy's Lois Griffin, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Berkeley Breathed, author of the political satire comic strip Bloom County, resided on Vashon for some time. He wrote a children's book based on a bicycle in a tree. The real-life tree, growing around a bicycle, can be seen on the island.[4]
  • Michael Chabon, writer and 2001 Pulitzer winner lived on Vashon Island.
  • Karen Cushman, author, who produces fiction for mid-grade and young adult readers. One of her best known titles is the 1996 Newbery Award winning novel, THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE.
  • Booth Gardner, former Washington state governor, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Rob Hotchkiss, founding member of Grammy-Award-winning rock band, Train, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Eyvind Kang, modern composer, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Betty MacDonald once lived on Vashon and used the island as the setting of her book Onions in the Stew.
  • Zach Mann, reality TV star from MTV's hit show The Real World
  • T. Martino, Author/artist and wildlife rehabilitator The Wolf the Woman the Wilderness, Horse Nation, Learning from Eagle Living with Coyote, My Name is Cap, Coyote Physics.
  • Victor Bravo Monchego, Jr., writer, poet, satirist and provocateur lives in a yurt on Maury (Vashon) Island. Author of “The Human Terrain” and the recently declassified, “A CIA Field Guide to Foreign Undergarments: Recognizing the Enemy and Going Native.”
  • Danny O'Keefe, singer song-writer, known for his song "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues", lives on Vashon Island.
  • Basil Poledouris, film composer, spent the last four years of his life on Vashon Island, prior to dying in Los Angeles due to complications from cancer.
  • Austin Post, aerial photographer and glaciologist, lives on Vashon Island.
  • Susan Powter,(formerly of Vashon) author, motivational speaker, and exercise professional.
  • John Ratzenberger, who played Clifford C. Clavin, Jr. on the television show Cheers, and also voiced a character in "Toy Story", once lived on and still owns land on connected Maury Island. He also helped to start a school on the island.
  • Daryl Redeker, guitarist and composer lives on Vashon Island.
  • Dan Savage, editor of The Stranger and the author of "Savage Love," a syndicated sex advice column, formerly lived on Vashon Island with his partner and adopted son. By his own account, he moved from Vashon because he was unsure that the local public schools would welcome the adopted son of gay partners.
  • Paul Seibert, author of books, white papers, and articles about strategic planning, growth, branching and architecture for financial institutions. Principle of EHS-Design, Partner in Momentum Construction Company and founding partner of CEO Advisory Group. Paul lives on Vashon.
  • Ned Sneed [2] Current sneedhaven caretaker and founder of Vashon-Maury Ministry of Cultural Integrity.
  • Tom Stewart, founder and chairman of Misty Isle Farms [3] and Food Services of America, once lived on the island and moved to Arizona in 2006. Stewart, a prominent regional Republican leader, rekindled the Quartermaster Harbor fireworks show in 1991 after it was discontinued as Vashon Island's traditional local Independence Day celebration in 1989. In 1998, Stewart pled guilty to misdemeanor federal and local election-finance money laundering charges. He had to pay a $5 million fine and serve two months under house arrest, with work release, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.
  • J. Tillman, a singer songwriter and drummer of the band Fleet Foxes.
  • Edith Derby Williams, historian, granddaughter of former US President *Theodore Roosevelt, lived on Vashon Island from 1949 until her death in 2008.

Places of note

  • One of the few Russian Orthodox Monasteries[5] in America[6] is located on Vashon Island. The monks gained notoriety years ago when they were threatened with a lawsuit by Starbucks for promoting a monastery coffee labeled, "Christmas Blend", which Starbucks claimed they owned rights to. The lawsuit was eventually dropped. Their story was included in a documentary exposing the evils of American corporations. [4]
  • The bike in the tree. A bicycle placed in the fork of a tree, gained fame when a kid chained a bike to the tree decades ago and never picked it up, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike. [5]
  • Wolftown-a non-profit organization, Federal and state wildlife rehabilitation and education facility, 'Finding the Balance of Animals and Wilderness,' also teaches predator friendly and sustainable farming. [6]


  1. ^ New York—Place and County Subdivision, United States Census Bureau, accessed 2007-12-11.
  2. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  4. ^ Reames, Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet, 2005 p.50 ISBN 0-9647280-8-7
  5. ^ List of Russian Orthodox Monasteries
  6. ^ [List of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in the United States]

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Vashon Island is an Island near Seattle,WA.

Get in

Vashon Island is accessible by ferry and plane. Ferry terminals are located on the northern and southern ends of the island. There is also a small municipal airport.

The heights dock at Point Vashon on the nothern end of the island has ferry service to Southworth, Fauntleroy, and downtown Seattle.

The Tahlequah Ferry Terminal on the southern end of the island has ferry service to Point Defiance in Tacoma.

  • Vashon Pharmacy, 17617 Vashon Hwy SW · Vashon, WA 98070 (Town Center), (206) 463-9118. M-F 9AM-7PM Sat 9AM-6PM Sun 11AM-1PM. It's not just a pharmacy. Vashon Pharmacy is more like a huge gift shop.  edit
  • Gusto Girls Restaurant, 17629 Vashon Hwy SW · Vashon, WA 98070 (Downtown Vashon), (206) 463-6626, [1]. 5PM -11PM. Fresh local food.  edit
  • The Hardware Store Restaurant, 17601 SW Vashon Hwy · Vashon Island, WA 98070-0369 (SW corner of Bank Rd. and the Highway), (206) 463-1800, [2]. A nice restaurant in the oldest commercial building on Vashon  edit
  • The Red Bicycle, 17618 Vashon Hwy SW, Vashon, WA 98070 (In the middle of town, in the blue and red building), 206-463-5959, [3]. Formerly known as Bishop's, The Red Bicycle is a local hangout with decent beer and live music on the weekends  edit
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