Early exploration of the San Juan Islands took place in 1792 by the Spanish and the 1840s by both the American and British. The first White settlers arrived in 1852. Many of whom had traveled through the area on their way to the gold rush in Fraser River Valley near Vancouver British Columbia.
A group of four Hudson Bay Company hunters, Louis Cayou, Jim Bradshaw, William Moore and Ed Guard, arrived in Deer Harbor one autumn to hunt deer for the winter meat supply. They camped on the Deer Harbor spit where the bridge now crosses the slough. Between 60 to 70 deer were killed during each hunt. The meat was taken back to the post in Victoria in large canoes. They remained on Orcas Island, establishing a small encampment on the inner bay in Deer Harbor where there was plenty of fresh water and grass for grazing animals.
During the last ice age, 12,000 years ago, glaciers heading south gouged out many of today’s north south running bays in the San Juan Islands, including Deer Harbor. As the ice sheet retreated it left behind boulders, debris and this beautiful harbor on Orcas Island facing the Wasp Island group with the backdrop of the snow capped Olympic Mountains. With the departure of the glaciers came the first inhabitants from Asia over the land bridge and down through Alaska and Canada.