Turtleneck Preserve

Orcas Island

Year Protected: 2012

Land Protected: 111 acres

Public Benefits: Scenic views, rocky balds, forest, connectivity to other protected lands

Turtleback’s story began in the 1950s, when former chairman of Weyerhaueser Norton Clapp began assembling the property on the mountain. On his death, the

The iconic turtle-shaped profile of Turtleback Mountain is recognizable from throughout the San Juan archipelago.  It is widely presumed to have been completely preserved in 2006 when  –thanks to an outpouring of public support – 1,578 acres of the mountain were saved from development.

The 30-acre “head” of the turtle, which had previously been donated to the Preservation Trust in 1990, is separated from Turtleback Mountain Preserve by a privately-held 111-acre property.  The owners had begun to prepare this larger property for residential development when they learned of the Preservation Trust’s interest.  After many months of negotiation, the parties agreed upon a purchase price of $1 million.

The San Juan Preservation Trust quickly identified $600,000 towards the purchase price, including $500,000 from its own investment funds and $100,000 from four lead donors.    With this acquisition, the Turtleback Mountain Preserve will expand to include both the 111-acre property and the 30-acre turtle’s head, which has stunning 360-degree views of surrounding islands.  This addition ensures that the entire Turtleback Mountain ridgeline will remain undeveloped.

After a sustained trail-building effort in 2013, conducted by the San Juan Preservation Trust, the San Juan County Land Bank, the Washington Trails Association, the Washington Conservation Corps, and legions of local volunteers, a new 1+ mile trail provides a connector between the existing trail system on Turtleback Mountain and SJPT’s Turtlehead Preserve.  The purchase of Turtleneck allowed for this critical corridor trail to be constructed.

The Preservation Trust plans to work with the San Juan County Land Bank to merge these three properties into one single preserve, with the same shared ownership arrangement that has already been established on the Turtleback Mountain Preserve.

Turtleback Mountain Preserve is open to the public. Click here for visitor information and trail map.