Cattle Point, San Juan Island

     American Camp is managed as a National Historical Park commemorating the so-called "Pig War" and subsequent occupation by U.S. troops for 13 years. This 1,223 acre area offers exceptional marine views and contains several interesting natural ecosystems. The uplands are dominated by a large grassland prairie inhabited by numerous rabbits. Predatory foxes can often be seen stalking the odd unwary rabbit during late afternoons.

     This is also a good spot for the lucky listener to hear the incredibly lovely melody of the Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis). This is the only location in the contiguous United States where this species is known to breed. Unfortunately, due to the current abundance of red foxes, this little ground-nesting bird may soon disappear. Recent sightings are becoming rare.

An active sand dune system occurs just east of the road leading to South Beach. This is one of the region's best places to view the Yellow Sand-verbena (Abronia latifolia). A colonizer of dunes, look for its exquisitely fragrant yellow flowers and trailing stems bearing thick, succulent, and sticky leaves that are often covered with sand.

Along the Griffin Bay side of the park are three salt-marsh lagoons that attract various wading birds in their season. Two interesting plants are also associated with these areas. The first is Pickleweed or "Chicken-claws" (Salicornia virginica). This fleshy, segmented, salty-tasting edible plant forms extensive mats and is the dominate species of these salt-marshes. Intertwined here and there among the Pickleweed plants you might notice something which at first glance looks a bit like bright orange wire that has been tightly wrapped around some stems. This is Salt marsh dodder (Cuscuta salina), a parasite of Pickleweed.