Anacortes is located on Fidalgo Island, situated halfway between Seattle and Vancouver BC. It is the gateway to the San Juan Islands and the perfect location to launch from to explore the Salish Sea.
The Salish Sea encompasses the north end of the Strait of Georgia and Desolation Sound in Canada to the south end of Puget Sound in the U.S. and west to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The name for the Salish Sea was proposed by a marine biologist by the name of Dr. Bert Webber in 1988. He saw the need to recognize this incredible inland sea as an entire ecosystem that knows no boundaries and relies on the health of the whole.
It is home to hundreds of islands, 200+ different species of fish, 100+ different species of bird, 20+ different species of marine mammals, and over 3,000 different species of invertebrates.
A Fresh & Salty Basin
All of this diverse life thrives because of it's incredible estuarine ecosystem that provides important interactions between fresh water discharges from rivers flowing into the inland sea and the salt water entering from the Pacific Ocean.
When the fresh water rivers flow into salt marshes, wetlands, and bays, they bring important nutrients collected from the fertile valleys they flow through on their way down.
This is why estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world.
Unfortunately, a lot of the summer freshwater flows are decreasing in the Salish Sea due to less rain, depleted snow pack, and warmer temperatures. This low summer flow can affect wildlife including important salmon runs and residential, agruicultural, and industrial water supplies.
This animation from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) shows the incredible interaction as the fresh water form the rivers (blue) and the salt water from the ocean (red) mix, creating a circulation of water, imperative for the estuarine ecosystem.
Did you know?
The biggest freshwater discharge in the Salish Sea is from the Fraser River in Canada, with an annual fresh water discharge at its mouth of 125,000 cu ft/s and 20 million tons of sediment.
The Land of Falling Waters
"We live here in a great bowl of green waters. From the crestlines of mountain ranges on either side, many rivers flow down to an inland sea. Living in the lowlands, you can see the place as a whole--glint of light off open waters, feel "The Wall" rising in back of you all around. Mountains frame the place--you can reach out to touch the crest of the Cascades to the east, the B.C. Coast Range to the north, the Vancouver Island Ranges to the northwest, and the Olympics to the west...
Mountains-Rivers-Islands-Sea & Sky is the song this place sings. (It) is one of the freshest and most diverse places on earth, a pulsing field or matrix of richly packed dynamic ecosystems."
-David McCloskey, The Ish River Map Story
Map: David McCloskey, Cascadia Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Land of Watersheds
'Watershed' generally means the entire area draining to a given point (typically the mouth of a river or stream). This includes the land area that channels rainfall and snowmelt to bodies of water that outflow to the sea.
It is important to remember that everything upstream ends up downstream and into the Salish Sea. All of the stormwater runoff within a watershed drains to other bodies of water, impacting the water quality and all the life within.
Map: Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA). The Washington State Legislature defines Puget Sound as WRIA 1-19. These areas were first developed in 1970 and updated most recently in 2000. Map: Kris Symer. Data source: WAECY.
What's in a Name?
The Salish Sea pays tribute to the Coast Salish people, a group of ethnically and linguistically related indigenous peoples on the Northwest Pacific coast made up of many tribes with distinct cultures and languages (Coast Salish or Salishan).
The first stewards of the area have a long history of knowledge from hundreds of generations of ancestors about how to best use the resources of this land.
The name The Salish Sea was officially adopted by the governments of British Columbia and Washington in 2009.