The land that would become Moran State Park began its public life as a donation of acreage to the State of Washington in 1921, made by retired shipbuilder Robert Moran, for whom the park is named. Robert Moran founded the Moran Brothers Company in the late 1880s in Seattle, which became very successful as marine traffic increased through the Puget Sound area. His successful business dealings, and tenure as governor of the city of Seattle, granted him the resources to acquire land on Orcas Island and construct the Moran Mansion. The donated area of land was part of this original estate.
In the 1920s Moran State Park was still largely wilderness. This changed dramatically in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a road up to the summit of Mount Constitution. They also built several stone bridges, most of the picnic shelters, and log buildings, and the iconic stone observation tower that still sits on the summit, providing tourists with views of San Juan County for over eighty years. A fire, the scars of which can still be seen on some old growth trees today, and several massive windstorms cleared large sections of territory, opening the way for the development and expansion of public use areas and campgrounds.
The information age came slowly to Moran State Park, and the San Juan Islands in general. Today most hiking trails are still dirt paths with wood plank bridges. Directions are provided by wooden sign posts and billboards and the original stone bridges built by the CCC are still in use on Olga Rd. and Mount Constitution Rd. In the early 2000s cell phone service became available in most of the campgrounds and glamping sites were introduced in select locations around Cascade Lake.
Yet the rustic charm of Moran is one of its primary attractions. Islanders flock to the park regularly to hike the trails, walk their dogs, and go boating or fishing on Cascade Lake or Mountain Lake. Thanks to the efforts of local non-profits and the Park Service, nature’s effects on the Park have been graceful. Trails that existed for decades are still in place, and many of the original park buildings are still in use, some after renovations.
Today Moran State Park is still one of the San Juan Islands’ most popular attractions and a favorite among locals. Its trails are in use throughout the year, and Mount Constitution is a popular vista for viewing sunrises and sunsets. Camp Moran, and the various campgrounds around Cascade Lake, are routinely used for summer retreats by community groups, and are often completely booked during the summer months. There is a lot to experience on Orcas Island, and Moran is one of the seminal attractions with something for every level of nature lover and outdoor sportsman to enjoy.