Patos Island is small, just a little over 200 acres, and beside it to the south is Little Patos Island. Both of these islands belong to the people of the United States, and are administered by the Bureau of Land Management as public land. The northern island is leased to the Washington State Parks and is administered by the San Juan Marine Parks. Only the northern island Patos is open to the public. The entrance is Active cove, a point of water between the two islands. At the head of the Cove is a rounded cobble beach that serves as a pull-up and take-out place. The original wharf at Patos was destroyed in a storm many years ago, and today there are two tie-up buoys in the cove. The island has a couple of miles of trail, 8 campgrounds, and 3 composting toilets. There is no fresh water, no electricity, no food service and no cell phone tower. The nearest towers are in British Columbia and on Orcas Island, WA. If you have a phone there, be aware that you may incur roaming charges. Patos is a “Leave No Trace” area, meaning you pack in and pack out everything you brought in. There are no garbage cans.
At the western point, called Alden Point from the name of an American cartographer, is Patos Island lighthouse. It is not quite a mile there from Active Cove. The light in the tower is automated, and runs on a solar battery supplied and administered by the US Coast Guard. Their equipment is housed in the south western room of the lighthouse. In 2008 the Bureau of Land Management restored this National Register of Historic Places building. Today it stands as the northern-most island in the San Juan Islands National Monument. The Bureau of Land Management continues to care for this building, and is assisted by members of the public who volunteer their services here and through-out the island, that’s us, the Keepers of the Patos Light. We prepared exhibits on the history and use of the island in the lighthouse, with the Bureau of Land Management’s approval, of course. While caretaking the island is our primary focus, we also developed a book on Patos Island and its history as a fund-raiser. Copies are for sale in the lighthouse.