Native peoples thrived for hundreds, more likely thousands of years, along the shores of what we now know as Deer Harbor.  Scientific evidence, early writings and native American stories confirm that four-season native encampments existed here. Edible plants, berries, fruits, shellfish, fish, wild game, and non-native plant cultivation were all part of the Northwest Coastal Indian lifestyle.  Core samples, bank excavation, and intense sediment probing confirm an historic estuary, significantly more productive than the one we see today.  It was deeper with a rocky bottom, a wider mouth and abundant freshwater infusion.  Tidal fish trapping was used in the narrow area where the bridge stands now.  

         Orcas Island's first European settlers paddled their way into the vibrant estuary around 1852, in search of game to feed the employees of the Hudson Bay Company on nearby Vancouver Island. This area, so abundant with deer, would eventually be named Deer Harbor. 

      One of the hunters, Louis Cayou, married a Salish Native American and established the first European homestead on Orcas island.  Remnants of the first homestead still stand near the head of the estuary.



         Since these early settlers had their "pick" of all the places, the fact that they chose Deer Harbor is an undeniable indicator of how valuable living and working in Deer Harbor truly is!