Deception Pass

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Deception Pass is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island, in the northwest part of the U.S. state of Washington. It connects Skagit Bay, part of Puget Sound, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Contents

History

The first Europeans to see Deception Pass were members of the 1790 expedition of Manuel Quimper on the Princesa Real. The Spanish gave it the name Boca de Flon.[1] A group of sailors led by Joseph Whidbey, part of the Vancouver Expedition, found and mapped Deception Pass on June 1, 1792. George Vancouver gave it the name "Deception" because it had appeared to be a narrow bay instead of a strait.[2]

In the waters of Deception Pass, just east of the present-day Deception Pass Bridge is a small island known as Ben Ure Island. The island became infamous for its activity of smuggling illegal Chinese immigrants for local labor. Ure and his partner Lawrence "Pirate" Kelly were quite profitable at their smuggling business and played hide-and-seek with the United States Customs Department for years. Ure's own operation at Deception Pass in the late 1880's consisted of Ure and his Native-American wife. Local tradition has it that his wife would camp on the nearby Strawberry Island (which was visible from the open sea) and signal him with a fire on the island's summit to alert him to whether or not it was safe to bring his illegal cargo ashore. For transport, Ure would tie the illegal immigrants up in burlap bags so that if customs agents were to approach then he could easily toss the bags overboard. The tidal currents would carry the discarded immigrant's bodies to San Juan Island to the north and west of the pass and many ended up in what became known as Dead Man's Bay.

Between the years 1910 and 1914, a prison rock quarry[3] was operated on the Fidalgo Island side of the pass. Nearby barracks housed some 40 prisoners, members of an honors program out of Walla Walla State Penitentiary and the prison population was made up of several types of prisoners, including those convicted of murder. Guards stood watch at the quarry as the prisoners cut the rock into gravel and loaded it onto barges located at the base of the cliff atop the pass' waters. The quarried rock was then taken by barge to the Seattle waterfront. The camp was dismantled in 1924 and although abandoned as a quarry, the remains of the camp can still be found. The location, however, is hazardous and over the years there have been several fatal accidents when visitors have ventured onto the steep cliffs.

Upon completion in July 1935, the 976-foot (297 m) span Deception Pass Bridge connected Whidbey Island to the tiny Pass Island, and Pass Island to Fidalgo Island. Prior to the bridge, travellers and businessmen would use an inter-island ferry to commute between Fidalgo and Whidbey islands.

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