San Juan Islands Flight Adventure   3 comments


During several years of flying experience, I had  the opportunity to explore a number of private airstrips in the Northwest. One of these was located on a privately owned island only a few miles from my home airstrip on Southern Vancouver Island, just across the border in Washington State.

To go there required a preliminary landing at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to clear U.S. Customs first. Then, with the invitation of a local Victoria pilot, it was on to ‘Spieden Island’, a three mile long 550 acre ridge-backed island, reportedly once owned by John Wayne.  It’s just North of much larger San Juan Island.  At the time, a short and a-la-naturale central airstrip greeted us.

It may not have required exceptional piloting skill to land there, but it wasn’t exactly a ‘piece of cake’ either. Up-hill and rocky, with an approach through the trees, it was nevertheless very worthwhile.

The first time I went there I was solo in my plane, having followed the aforementioned guide in his airplane, and he introduced me to the caretakers, a Mormon couple, who were very friendly. This was in the ‘70’s so I have no idea what has transpired since that time, although I heard the business idea wasn’t a success.  (more details can be found here:

At the time however, they were employed by investors that had envisioned the entire Island as an elite African hunting game reserve for celebrity clients! In fact they had actually imported African game animals, including gazelle’s, giraffes, and even a tiger!

I was given a courteous tour of the island, in an African safari style zebra-stripped open jeep mind you.  I did not see any giraffe or tigers, (evidently poachers stole some of them), but there were many gazelle sized deer who seemed to thrive there, not least because of the man-made shelters provided for them. There was also a recently constructed massive African style hunting lodge built from timbers logged on the Island, with a huge floor to ceiling stone fireplace at one end and private rooms off the main lodge room.

Later, back on the Saanich Peninsula near Victoria, I was told by some local residents on the higher hills that they had seen giraffe and other animals on Spieden Island with and without binoculars. This was just one example of many enjoyable flying experiences out of the Butler-Howroyd airstrip on the Saanich peninsula on Vancouver Island.

Posted February 24, 2012 by New2view in earth, Environment, historical, lifeEdit

Tagged with unique life experience; exploration; animals; enterprise; Northwest environment;;


3 responses to “San Juan Islands Flight Adventure

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  1. Very interesting information!Perfect just what I was searching for!

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