Port Townsend: Past and Present

by Youth Ocean Advocate Clara L.

Waves crash against a sandy beach as heavy fog drifts off the water obscuring everything past the shoreline. Located on the northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend definitely has beautiful ocean scenery, but that’s not why it was built. The Port Townsend Bay creates a safe harbor, making it an ideal seaport. In fact, in the late 1800s Port Townsend was a thriving seaport and about half the ships that came into Puget Sound went into Port Townsend. At the time many predicted it would become one of the largest seaports on the West Coast. In the 1890s, Fort Warden was built in Port Townsend due to its strategic location in a Admiralty Inlet, a strait connecting the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. It was thought that Fort Warden in combination with two other forts in the inlet could prevent invaders from entering Puget Sound.

While Port Townsend never became a major seaport city (its success dwindled when the Northern Pacific Railroad failed to extend its line to Port Townsend), and the military abandoned Fort Warden in 1953, the ocean is still an important part of the town’s culture and economy. Many of the current residents of the town are marine tradesmen, and the town’s waterfront district is a tourist destination. Like many cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest, the ocean has been crucial to Port Townsend’s success since it was built, and before that it provided sustenance to the Chimakum, Hoh, Klallam, Quinault, and Twana tribes that lived in the region. As residents of Pacific Northwest it’s important to remember both how important the ocean is to our  culture and economy, but that its resources are not limitless.


Categories Science

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