Geography

We use geography to locate, organize, and describe places on the earth. This site focuses on the Puget Sound and broader Salish Sea regions of Washington state and British Columbia, which may be spatially mapped and subdivided using a variety of physical, political, or human factors.  The information on this site is generally limited to the Salish Sea waters and the surrounding land basin draining into those waters.

Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA). Map: Kris Symer. Data source: WAECY.

OVERVIEW

Geographic boundaries of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea

The boundaries of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea are not always consistently defined by scientists and government agencies. This article clarifies the distinctions between oceanographic and watershed-based definitions of these geographic areas. 

RELATED ARTICLES

Eelgrass Data Viewer
6/20/2017

Puget Sound Eelgrass Monitoring Data Viewer

An interactive map created by the Washington Department of Natural Resources provides access to eelgrass monitoring data collected between 2000 and 2015 at selected sites in Puget Sound. 
Map image of Puget Sound and surroundings. Courtesy of USGS.
2/6/2017

Puget Sound's physical environment

The Puget Sound ecosystem is shaped by its physical environment. This article looks at Puget Sound's geologic history as well as dynamic factors such as the flow of its rivers and currents.

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book report cover
10/2/2015

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book

The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Puget Sound portion of a 1798 chart showing "part of the coast of N.W. America : with the tracks of His Majesty's sloop Discovery and armed tender Chatham / commanded by George Vancouver, Esqr. and prepared under his immediate inspection by Lieut. Joseph Baker." Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
9/18/2015

Puget Sound: a uniquely diverse and productive estuary

Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States. Today, we understand that estuaries—where freshwater and saltwater merge—are among the most productive places for life to exist.

Book cover for The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest
4/20/2015

New book focuses on the natural history of the Salish Sea

The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest brings together more than 230 extraordinary images of the Salish Sea. But don't call it a coffee table book. Its lush photos are backed by a serious scientific perspective on this complex and fragile ecosystem.

Blue dye is used to illustrate currents in the Puget Sound Model at the UW School of Oceanography. Video screenshot: copyright Richard Strickland and Encyclopedia of Puget Sound
4/29/2014

Videos: The Puget Sound Model

The Puget Sound Model was designed and built by the University of Washington School of Oceanography in the early 1950s to simulate the tides and currents of Puget Sound. A series of videos produced by the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound describes its construction and operation.

Cover page for A Marine and Estuarine Habitat Classification System for Washington State
3/19/2014

Defining and describing Puget Sound shore types

Species and their habitats are a foundation of the ecosystem framework, but there is currently no generally agreed upon habitat classification system for Puget Sound. The closest thing for its marine and nearshore environments may be Dr. Megan Dethier’s 1990 resource A Marine and Estuarine Habitat Classification System for Washington State. Much of the work for that document was done in the general vicinity of Puget Sound, and it has been an influential resource for major habitat mapping efforts in the region, such as Shorezone.
The Puget Sound Model at the UW School of Oceanography
3/19/2014

The Puget Sound Model summary

The Puget Sound Model was designed and built in the early 1950s at the University of Washington School of Oceanography as a research and teaching tool for understanding Puget Sound circulation patterns. The following text was written by Puget Sound Model co-creator John H. Lincoln (1915-2001) and is provided courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography. 

Puget Sound drainage area. Image courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology.
2/3/2014

Puget Sound Watershed Characterization Project

This project is a coarse-scale, systematic characterization of different areas within the Puget Sound watershed, aimed at providing a framework for land use discussions.

Salish Sea map my Norm Maher. Courtesy of the SeaDoc Society.
4/2/2013

The Salish Sea

The Salish Sea extends across the U.S.-Canada border, and includes the combined waters of the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound Basin and the San Juan Islands (see map).

The name Salish Sea was proposed by Bert Webber in 1989 to reflect the entire cross-border ecosystem. Both Washington State and British Columbia voted to officially recognize the name in late 2009. The name honors the Coast Salish people, who were the first to live in the region.

11/26/2012

Puget Sound watershed hydrologic units

There are many ways of defining the boundaries of the Puget Sound watershed. Hydrologic unit codes (HUCs) are nationally standardized divisions that are often used by conservation agencies and national organizations.

Floristic Atlas of the San Juan Islands, Washington screesnhot
11/8/2012

The watershed: floristic atlas of the San Juan Islands

The Floristic Atlas of the San Juan Islands was created by the University of Washington Herbarium and provides a tool for mapping and comparing the distributions of vascular plant species within the San Juan Islands of Washington. 

 

Protection Island. Image courtesy of NOAA.
9/21/2012

Protection Island

Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, provides important habitat for seabirds and marine mammals.

Aerial view of the Vashon Island shoreline.
6/18/2012

The Puget Lowland ecoregion

Ecoregions provide a useful framework and background for the discussion of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environs of the county. The discussion of ecoregions is based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ecoregion conventions, which result in units similar to European biogeographical regions because they denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems.

King County map, showing incorporated land and major water bodies. Copyright King County.
6/18/2012

The North Cascades ecoregion

Ecoregions provide a useful framework and background for the discussion of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environs of the county. The discussion of ecoregions is based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ecoregion conventions, which result in units similar to European biogeographical regions because they denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Whatcom County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Whatcom County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Thurston County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Thurston County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Snohomish County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Snohomish County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Skagit County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Skagit County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for San Juan County, WA

Learn more about demographics in San Juan County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Pierce County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Pierce County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Mason County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Mason County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Lewis County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Lewis County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Kitsap County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Kitsap County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for King County, WA

Learn more about demographics in King County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Jefferson County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Jefferson County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/22/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Island County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Island County, Washington.  The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

5/21/2012

2010 Census Quick Facts for Clallam County, WA

Learn more about demographics in Clallam County, Washington. The U.S. Census Bureau published the following quick facts.

WRIA boundaries in Puget Sound area
5/11/2012

Water Resource Inventory Areas in Puget Sound

The Washington State Department of Ecology and other state natural resources agencies have divided the Washington into 62 "Water Resource Inventory Areas" or "WRIAs" to delineate the state's major watersheds.

Camas flower in full bloom
4/25/2012

Relic gardens: camas in the San Juan Islands

A botanist believes Coast Salish tribes once favored small islands in the San Juan archipelago for growing camas, an important food staple. Her studies may also show the vulnerability of these relic gardens to climate change as sea levels rise.