Cornforth Images

Puget Sound

Puget Sound is an arm of the Pacific Ocean, connected to the rest of the Pacific by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in the Pacific Northwest. In 1792, George Vancouver gave the name “Puget’s Sound” to the waters south of the Tacoma Narrows, in honor of Peter Puget, then a lieutenant accompanying him. Puget Sound is a very large salt water estuary fed by highly seasonal freshwater from theOlympic and Cascade Mountain watersheds.

The San Juan Islands are a part of the San Juan Archipelago in the northwest corner of the Washington state. There are over 450 islands in the entire archipelago at high tide, but fewer than one-sixth are permanently inhabited. Fifteen islands are accessible by public ferry, including San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, and Lopez Island. The San Juan Islands are an important tourist destination, with sea kayaking and orca-watching two of the primary attractions. Part of the charm that attracts tourists and residents to the San Juan Islands is that each island seems to have a character of its own, both in terms of geography and of the lifestyle of the people who live there. Most of the smaller uninhabited islands, including Sucia Island, Clark Island, and Matia Island, make up the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Located just south of the San Juan Islands on the shores of Puget Sound is Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve on Whidbey Island. It is a unit of the National Park Service near Coupeville, Washington. Ebey’s Landing provides a historical record of Pacific Northwest history, including the first exploration of Puget Sound by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 and early settlement by Colonel Isaac Ebey. Historic farms, still under cultivation in the prairies of Whidbey Island, reveal land use patterns unchanged since settlers claimed the land in the 1850s.

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the Nisqually River Delta along the shores of southern Puget Sound between Olympia and Tacoma. The refuge was created in 1974 to provide habitat and nesting areas for migratory waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and wading birds. It includes a protected estuary, saltmarshes and open mudflats, freshwater marshes, open grassland, and riparian woodland and brush.

Nature photography in the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound is possible year round. During the spring and fall, low lying marine clouds often lead to dramatic landscape images. Many of the isolated islands in the San Juan Islands can only be reached by private boat or sea kayak, but are worth the effort. They offer many photographic opportunities along their rugged wind and wave sculpted shorelines.