Puget Sound region

Puget Sound, its basins, and major surrounding cities.

The Puget Sound region is a coastal area of the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. state of Washington, including Puget Sound, the Puget Sound lowlands, and the surrounding region roughly west of the Cascade Range and east of the Olympic Mountains. It is characterised by a complex array of saltwater bays, islands, and peninsulas carved out by prehistoric glaciers.

The Puget Sound region has been called "Ish River country", perhaps most famously by poet Robert Sund, owing to its numerous rivers with names ending in "ish", such as the Duwamish, Samish, Skokomish, Skykomish, Snohomish, and the Stillaguamish.[1] The ish ending is from Salish language meaning "people of".[2]


Evening on Puget Sound by Edward S. Curtis, 1913

The Puget Sound region was formed by the collision and attachment of many terranes ("microcontinents") to the North American Plate between about 50 to 10 million years ago.[3] About 15,000 years ago, the Puget Sound region was covered by a lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. This time period is known today as the Vashon Glaciation. The ice was about 3,000 feet (900 m) thick in the vicinity of Seattle.[4] By the time Captain George Vancouver found the Sound, early native people had already been there for over 5,000 years.

Logging started as early as 1853. In the 1880s logging railroads cut their way into Puget Sound. 1886 the St. Helens fire burned 300,000 acres (1,200 km2). Mount Rainier National Park started in 1899. The 1902 Yacolt fire burned 600,000 acres (2,400 km2). Olympic National Park was established in 1938.[5]

George Vancouver explored Puget sound in 1792. Vancouver claimed it for Great Britain on 4 June 1792, naming it for one of his officers, Lieutenant Peter Puget. It became part of the Oregon Country, and became U.S. territory when the 1846 Oregon Treaty was signed.

After arriving along the Oregon Trail, many settlers wandered north to what is now Washington and settled the Puget Sound area. The first non-indigenous settlement was New Market (now known as Tumwater) in 1846. In 1853 Washington Territory was formed from part of Oregon Territory. In 1888 the Northern Pacific railroad line reached Puget Sound, linking the region to eastern states.

For a long period Tacoma was noted for its large smelters where gold, silver, copper and lead ores were treated. Seattle was the primary port for trade with Alaska and the rest of the country and for a time possessed a large shipbuilding industry. The region around eastern Puget Sound developed heavy industry during the period including World War I and World War II, and the Boeing Company became an established icon in the area.

During World War II the Puget Sound area became a focus for the war industry, with Boeing producing many of the nation's heavy bombers and the ports of Seattle, Bremerton and Tacoma available for shipbuilding.

Since 1995, Puget Sound has been recognized as an American Viticultural Area by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.[6]

Political geography

The Seattle Metropolitan area is the areas light blue. The Combined Statistical Area consists of both the light blue and dark blue areas.

The urban region designated the Puget Sound Region is centered on Seattle and consists of nine counties, two urban center cities and four satellite cities making up what has been dubbed "Pugetopolis".[7] Both urban core cities have large industrial areas and seaports plus a high-rise central business district. The satellite cities are primarily suburban, featuring a small downtown core and a small industrial area or port. The suburbs consist mostly of residences, strip malls, and shopping centers. The region is also home to numerous ports. The two largest and busiest are the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma, which, if combined, comprise the third largest container port in North America after Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York/New Jersey.[8]

The United States Census Bureau defines the Puget Sound region as the Seattle–Tacoma–Olympia Combined Statistical Area. This includes the Seattle metropolitan area, made up of the following counties (see Fig. STB):

Based on commuting patterns, the adjacent metropolitan areas of Olympia, Bremerton, and Mount Vernon, along with a few smaller satellite urban areas, are grouped together in the CSA. The population of this wider region is 4,269,349—almost two-thirds of Washington's population—as of 2012.[9] The Seattle CSA is the 12th largest CSA, and the 13th largest primary census statistical area in the country. The additional metropolitan and micropolitan areas included are:

A state-run ferry system, Washington State Ferries, connects the larger islands to the Washington mainland, as well as both sides of the sound, allowing cars and people to move about the greater Puget Sound region.

View of Puget Sound from the Space Needle


Flora and fauna

Snowcapped peaks are a backdrop to many Puget Sound scenes. Here, Mount Rainier is seen from Gig Harbor.

North Pacific Oak Woodland is one of the principal plant associations of the Puget Trough, where many of the soils are well drained mesic. [17]

Further information: Puget Sound § Flora and fauna


Counties of the Puget Sound region:

In addition, the San Juan Islands (all of San Juan County plus a few islands belonging to Whatcom County) are often considered part of the greater Puget Sound area.

Prominent islands:

Puget Sound

Urban centers:

Satellite cities:

Other principal cities:

Military bases:

See also


  1. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the highest and lowest temperature readings during an entire month or year) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  2. Official records are restricted to SeaTac Airport from January 1945 onward.[10]
  3. Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the highest and lowest temperature readings during an entire month or year) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.


  1. Ingle, Schuyler (November 24, 1991). "The Time of Food : Pacific Northwest Bounty". Los Angeles Times.
  2. Denham, Kristen E.; Lobeck, Anne C. (2011). "Chapter 5". Linguistics for Everyone. Cengage. p. 145. ISBN 9781111344382.
  3. Kruckeberg, Arthur R. (1991). The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 10–13. ISBN 0-295-97477-X.
  4. Kruckeberg (1991), pp. 20–21.
  5. Kruckeberg, Arthur R. (1999). A Natural History of the Puget Sound Basin pp.52-68
  6. Code of Federal Regulations. "§ 9.151 Puget Sound." Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 — American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C — Approved American Viticultural Areas. Retrieved Jan. 30, 2008.
  7. For examples of the use of "Pugetopolis" see, for example, Pugetopolis, TIME Magazine; Puget Sound: Sea Between the Mountains, at Google Books, p. 46; Frommer's Washington State, at Google Books, p. 17; and Western Cordillera and Adjacent Area, at Google Books, p. 197.
  8. "2005 North American Container Traffic" (PDF). American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
  9. "Annual Estimates of the Population of Combined Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011" (CSV). 2011 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. April 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  10. "National Weather Service - NWS Seattle". NWS Seattle, WA. Retrieved 2015-10-25.
  11. "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  12. "Station Name: WA SEATTLE TACOMA INTL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  13. "WMO Climate Normals for Seattle/Seattle–Tacoma INTL A, WA 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  14. "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  15. "Station Name: WA OLYMPIA AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  16. "WMO Climate Normals for OLYMPIA, WA 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  17. C.Michael Hogan (2008) Quercus kelloggii, GlobalTwitcher, ed. Nicklas Stromberg

Further reading

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