Image by Eric Muhr

ABOUT THE LAKE

Lake Samish is located 6.5 miles southeast of Bellingham. It is comprised of two basins which are connected by a narrow strait. The west arm is a small deep bay approximately 140' deep, and the east arm is a larger shallower bay approximately 65'deep. There are several small inlets that flow into the lake, including Lake Creek, Barnes Creek and Wefer Creek. Lake Samish drains via Friday Creek to the Samish River.


Size - 810 Acres

Maximum Depth -140 Feet

Mean Depth -51 Feet

Lake Volume - 30,310 Acre-Feet

Drainage Area - 12.90 Square Miles

Altitude - 273 Feet

Shoreline Length - 8.1 Miles

LAKE SAMISH HISTORY PROJECT

The Lake Samish Association has sponsored a “History of Lake Samish” project. After recruiting people interested in this endeavor, we began by interviewing long-time residents to get their stories and recollections of our community. In the Fall of 2016, we published our book Lake Samish Reflections: Historical Views and Memories. The book starts with the Native American community on the lake, discusses the settlement and development of the Lake Samish community--logging, mining, recreation--and then finishes with many family interviews.
This book has been a resounding success, to say the least! The initial printing of 750 books was entirely gone by the beginning of the summer of 2017 and we recently received our second printing of 500 books. Each book is only $30, a very respectable price for this beautiful hardbound book, full of family stories, community history and interesting pictures.
Consider giving a copy of Lake Samish Reflections, Historical Views and Memories to your family and friends for the holidays. They will enjoy reading the many family stories and how Lake Samish became the inviting community it is today. Surely they will also be interested in the history of the Native Americans who inhabited the lake shores prior to early western settlers. An especially entertaining chapter in the book tells about the “destination” resorts that once brought many folks to the lake for recreation.  This book has something of interest for anyone on your gift-giving list.
In addition to the book, a complementary Lake Samish History Facebook page is being maintained. During our research for the book, we compiled much information that was ultimately not included in the book. Started in December (2016), the Lake Samish History Facebook page shares this “new” information with you—one new story per day. So far, more than 200 new “stories” and related pictures have been posted. Each week more people are making comments relating to the posted stories and submitting new information/pictures.  Check it out!

Book Cover b and w.jpg
Logging crew and donkey engine, English
Track crew and railroad ties on flatbed
Logging crew and donkey engine, English

Discovering Lake Samish

William H. Harris, Whatcom County Probate Judge from 1883 – 1889, along with Charley Barnes has been credited with "discovering" Lake Samish.

Harris divided his time between law, official duties and ranching in Whatcom [Bellingham]. As a probate judge he handled homestead and pre-emption filings and often went with the applicants to locate their claims. Thus he became knowledgeable of the county timber, soil, streams, lakes, animal and bird life.

In March, 1885, Charley Barnes, a Montana friend, came to Whatcom to find a homestead. Harris made several trips with Barnes walking all over the county. In the last week in March 1885, Barnes and Harris decided to explore the Lake Samish area. They took no food or camping outfit expecting to find lodging and meals with settlers. They went past “Dirty” Dan Harris’ ranch in Fairhaven, by John Connelly’s homestead in Happy Valley to a cabin at Lake Padden.

Two weeks later they returned to Lake Samish with food, equipment and a compass. They remained several days – "running lines, locating section corner and quarter stakes." They selected two claims of 160 acres each fronting the lake on opposite sides. Barnes took the side nearest Whatcom [Bellingham]. In order to cross the lake they "made a rude craft, propelled with clumsy paddles, fashioned with an axe from poles." Then they returned to Whatcom and filed their claims with James F. Cass, Court Clerk.

Harris and Barnes made frequent trips to Lake Samish, carrying on the backs provisions, tools and camp equipment. They began to build Barnes’ cabin. On the opposite shore of Lake Samish where a creek came down from the hills, in a group of cedars, Harris built his home. During 1885, Harris continued at intervals the improvement of his claim. Barnes assisted him. By April 1886, he had an acre cleared, leaving the finest trees by the lake.

Wendell Wright moved to Lake Samish with his family in 1896. His father, Rev. J.C. Wright was a preacher, his mother [no name given], his brothers Edgar, York, Stanley, Newell and a sister – Harriet.

In 1902, Lake Samish was called “Bluff.” It had a post office, flag station on the Great Northern Railway. There were three shingle mills, a coal deposit, and telephone connection. A schoolhouse was built near the Humphries home and political meeting were held there.

Other early homesteaders were: Fred & Alta Wefer, Ed & Lois Weir, Ralph Squires and Jack Bullock. Other people living around the lake were: A. Ager, J.E. & J.M Ager, Wm. Ager, George Allen, Gus Antson, Willard Burnside, Wm. Eglinton, J.W. Flynn, A. Greiner, Charles Hager, Charles Halderman, N.B. Hatch, M. Hilton, L. Jenkins, J.C. Leslie, Wm. Loveland, Wm. McGinnett, Edward McMaster, George Mays, A.L. Medhurst, A.C. Milne, E.J. Milne, Charles Nihert, Chris Nulle, Ruchard Nulle, W.D. Nulle, W.L parks, Wm. Patterson, Wm. Redwine, J. Reid, Robert Sanderson, A.M. Smith, W.R. Taylor, Oscar Waite, and Ewart Wright.

​Other notable happenings on Lake Samish were:

  • Manley and Sons Shingle Mill [originally built and owned by Hamilton], was the first mill on the lake and was located on east side of Lake Samish. Hamilton sold to the owners of a grocery store on the North Side. They later sold to Manley in 1896. Manley Mill was later sold to Sash and Door Company.

  • Samish Lake Coal Company (1890)

  • Samish Lake Milling & Lumber Company (1889). Started and organized by Jim Wardner (major stockholder) and J. H. Bloedel. John Donovan was the manager.

  • Old Walla Walla – first tugboat on Lake Samish.

  • Lake Samish School (1916?) Alta Wefer was teacher from 1916 – 1922.

  • Samish Fish Hatchery

  • Fairhaven & Southern Railroad Company – in 1889, John Donovan built a line south from Fairhaven by way of Lake Samish down Friday Creek to just below the Samish Fish Hatchery, then easterly along the north side of Jarman Prairie and on into Sedro Woolley, It was the first permanent, conventional passenger and freight railroad in the county. Ownership soon passed to the Great Northern Line.

Contributions and excerpts taken from:

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