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home | Locations | FACTS & FIGURES FOR WHIDBEY ISLAND, . . .

Ivan Gillis
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Whidbey Island, Washington


Whidbey Island (historical spelling Whidby) is one of nine islands located in Island County, Washington State, in the United States Whidbey is located about 30 miles (50 km) north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington. The island forms the northern boundary of Puget Sound.


Whidbey Island is home to 58,211 residents (according to the 2000 census), also known as Whidbey Islanders. An estimated 29,000 of Whidbey Islanders live in rural locations.


Whidbey Island is between 36 miles (58 km) and 62 miles (100 km) long (from the extreme north to extreme south, depending on the source of the measurement), and 1.5 to 12 miles (2 to 18 km) wide, with 168.67 mi² (436.85 km²), making it the 39th largest island in the United States. It is ranked as the fifth longest and fifth largest island in the contiguous United States, behind Padre Island, Texas (the world's longest barrier island); Long Island; and Isle Royale, Michigan.


In 1850, Colonel Isaac N. Ebey became the first permanent settler on Whidbey Island, claiming a square mile (2.6 km²) of prairie with a southern shoreline on Admiralty Inlet. Even though he was farming potatoes and wheat on his land, he was also the postmaster for Port Townsend, Washington and rowed a boat daily across the inlet in order to work at the post office there. On August 11, 1857, Colonel Ebey was murdered and beheaded by Haida Indians who travelled from the Queen Charlotte Islands. Ebey was 39 years old. Ebey was slain in retaliation for the killing of a Haida chief at Port Gamble. Fort Ebey was established in 1942 on the west side of the central part of the island, just northwest of Coupeville. The fort was named Ebey's Landing, in honor of Colonel Ebey. The house that Ebey lived in with his family still stands, near the beachfront.


Admiralty Head Lighthouse is located in this area, on the grounds of Fort Casey State Park. The area around Coupeville is the federally protected Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, named in honor of Isaac Ebey.


Whidbey Island, along with Camano Island, Ben Ure Island and six uninhabited islands, comprises Island County, Washington. The county seat is located in the town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island.


Population centers of Whidbey Island include the City of Oak Harbor, the Town of Coupeville, the City of Langley, the Village of Freeland, the Community of Greenbank, the Village of Clinton and the Community of Bayview. Only Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley are incorporated.


Whidbey Island is divided economically into two different regions: the northern end of the island (encompassing Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station), and the remainder of the island (encompassing Coupeville, Langley, Freeland, Greenbank, Clinton and the smaller communities in-between).


The economy of the northern end of Whidbey Island is strongly influenced by the presence of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station near Oak Harbor (N.A.S. Whidbey). N.A.S. Whidbey is Oak Harbor's largest employer; thus, Oak Harbor has a predominately service based economy and several national chain stores have been attracted to the Oak Harbor area.


The economy of Whidbey Island south of Oak Harbor relies heavily on tourism related commerce and, to some degree, on small-scale agriculture. Tourism is especially important for the towns of Coupeville and Langley while Penn Cove Mussel Farm exports large quantities of its highly renowned Penn Cove Mussels. This aquaculture facility, along with a number of small farms, reflects the rural agricultural nature of most of central Whidbey Island.


The southern end of Whidbey Island serves as a minor bedroom community for the nearby cities of Everett, where the Paine Field Boeing plant is located, and Seattle. Commuters to and from those areas use the Washington State Ferries system's run between Clinton and Mukilteo.


Washington State Parks located on the island include Deception Pass State Park (the most visited state park in Washington), Joseph Whidbey State Park, Fort Ebey State Park, Fort Casey State Park, and South Whidbey State Park.


Whidbey Island hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year.


Whidbey Island Kite Festival, in September

Choochokam is the annual street fair and arts festival, held in downtown Langley during the second weekend of July, detailed schedules and other information is generally available on href="">the festival website


Tour de Whidbey, in September, is a bike race spanning the length of Whidbey Island.


Whidbey Island lies partially in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountain Range to the west, and has a variety of climate zones. This can be observed by rainfall amounts - wettest in the south with average rainfall of 30 inches (760 mm), driest in the central district of Coupeville with average rainfall of 18 to 20 inches (460 to 510 mm), and turning moister again farther north with average rainfall of 26 inches (660 mm). Microclimates abound, determined by proximity to water, elevation and prevailing winds. Additional variation comes from soil type. The sandy clay and gravely soils of the southern end of the island give way to soils composed of mostly rock at the northern end of the island.



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