Hood Canal is a natural fjord separating the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. It stretches 68 miles from the northern tip of the Kitsap peninsula to Lynch Cove, forming an L shape that remains narrow, ranging from one-and-a-half to two miles across. Major rivers entering Hood Canal from the Olympics, on the west side, include the Skokomish, Dosewallips, and Big Quilcene. Precipitation is variable – Port Townsend receives only 19 inches per year, while 90 inches fall annually at Skokomish.
The average depth of Hood Canal is 177 feet, but the Canal reaches a maximum depth of 600 feet, and circulation is poor, especially in the southern portion. Water from the Strait of Juan de Fuca mixes poorly due to an underwater sill south of the Hood Canal Bridge, and freshwater entering the canal often forms a layer at the surface. Algal blooms reduce dissolved oxygen, providing a poor habitat for marine species. However, fisheries and aquaculture are economically important to the region, and the Canal is famous for its oysters and other shellfish species. Many salmon populations, including an evolutionarily significant unit of summer chum, spawn in the streams of Hood Canal and migrate through on their way to other waters.
The Hood Canal region is less developed than other Puget Sound basins, and around 90 percent of the drainage area is forested. The shoreline is the most utilized, with an estimated 33 percent modified by human activity.
- Counties: Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason
- National Estuary Programs: Puget Sound
- Other Watersheds Upstream: Skokomish, Puget Sound
- Other Watersheds Downstream: Puget Sound
Gustafson R.G., W.H. Lenarz, B.B. McCain, C.C. Schmitt, W.S. Grant, T.L. Builder, and R.D. Methot. 2000. Status review of Pacific Hake, Pacific Cod, and Walleye Pollock from Puget Sound,Washington. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC- 44, 275 p. (http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/publications/techmemos/tm44/environment.htm)
Hypoxia, defined as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations less than 2 mg / L, has become widespread throughout estuaries and semi-enclosed seas throughout the world (Diaz 2001).
An independent review conducted by the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) is featured in findings by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology that there is currently “no compelling evidence” that humans are the cause for recent trends in declines in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.
The Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation covers 1,340 acres. Over half of the nearly 2,000 enrolled tribal members live on the reservation. Port Gamble Bay, the tribe’s ancestral home, has proven to be more resilient than other nearby water bodies, but it still carries a load of toxins from the Pope & Talbot sawmill, which operated on the bank for over 150 years.
Port Gamble S'Klallam Area of Concern: