Research at Ebey's Landing

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve was established in 1978 to preserve and protect a rural community on Whidbey Island. The historical landscape of the reserve today looks much like it did a century ago -- a mosaic of farms, forests, and century old buildings and homes. The site encompasses 25 square miles (17,400 acres) and includes federal, state, county, and private property. A Volunteer Trust Board administers the area to protect the cultural landscape and historic essence of the site. Ebey’s Landing provides an unbroken historical record from nineteenth century exploration and settlement in Puget Sound to the present time, and commemorates the first thorough exploration of Puget Sound by Captain Vancouver in 1792; settlement of the area by Col. Isaac Ebey; early active settlement during the years of the Donation Land Law (1850-1855); and the growth since 1883 of the historic town of Coupeville.

To achieve the above purposes, congress required local government cooperators to formulate a comprehensive plan for the protection, preservation, and interpretation of the reserve. “The plan shall identify those areas or zones within thereserve which would most appropriately be devoted to: (A) public use and development, (B) historic and natural preservation, and (C) private use subject to appropriate local zoning ordinances designed to protect the historical rural setting.”

The Comprehensive Plan (1980) provides guidelines for the above. Because of the unique status of the Reserve within the NPS, management objectives combine natural and cultural resources. Primary objectives are to: (1) identify and protect natural and cultural resources with a competent, professional management team; (2) provide public access in a manner that preserves and protects resources; (3) enhance public awareness of the significance of the resources; (4) establish and nurture strong resource management partnerships within the community and agencies; (5) establish sound and scholarly bases for decision making.

The Reserve is located on central Whidbey Island, approximately 45 miles north of Seattle, at the extreme northern end of Puget Sound. To the east are the North Cascades; north and south are miles of islands, coves, and bays; southwest lie the Olympic Mountains. Whidbey Island varies from 1 to 10 miles in width and offers a rare combination of forests, prairies, and seascapes. A major force in the creation of this landscape was the Pleistocene glacial retreat about 13,000 years ago. The retreating ice left glacial moraines, gravel, sand, and clay. Natural forces continue to erode the beach bluffs and transport sand along the shores.

Outstanding natural features include miles of marine shoreline, 4,000 acre Penn Cove, three large native prairies, multiple glacial kettles, the island’s best farmland, high seaside bluffs, low rolling hills, shallow brackish lakes, and a long, narrow, rugged beach along Admiralty Inlet.

General Setting and Resources:


The Reserve is located in the western hemlock forest zone of western Washington. The unique climate, rainshadow effect of the Olympic mountains (18.6” of rain annually), productive agricultural soils, maritime influence, and geologic features result in an unusual diversity of plant and animal species, communities, and habitats, including several small populations of the federally listed (threatened) Castilleja levisecta (Golden Indian Paintbrush). Native flora are very diverse, ranging from small, scattered stands of old-growth Douglas-fir forest, flat-leafed cactus, and miles of hedgerows to dense rhododendron thickets, significant salt marsh communities and a recently discovered intact acre of original, pristine prairie. Numerous populations of invasive exotic flora exist within the Reserve.

The rich marine resources attract over 140 species of migratory and resident birds. Marine mammals are commonly observed in the waters mentioned above. Little is known of reptile, amphibian, mammal, or invertebrate populations within the Reserve.