Puget Sound remains a place of stunning natural beauty,
but problems lurk beneath the surface.


MtBakerBoats. Photo Andy Gregory.

In the 150 years since Europeans settled what would become Washington State, we have cut down 90% of Puget Sound’s forests, diked and dammed many of the region’s rivers, poured tons of wastes into the bays and rivers, and fished several species to the point of extinction. Yet Puget Sound, with over 2500 miles of shoreline, remains one of the most beautiful and unique ecosystems in the United States.

Puget Sound is a complex system of estuaries where nutrient-rich salt water meets and mixes with fresh water flowing from 10,000 rivers and streams that travel from the surrounding Cascade and Olympic mountains. Nineteen major watersheds, each with unique geographic characteristics, feed into the Sound’s deep, cold, tidal waters and warmer, shallow basins, which are home to an abundance of marine, plant and animal life. Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Over 200 species of fish, 100 species of seabirds, and 13 types of marine mammals rely on the Puget Sound ecosystem for food and habitat.

The more than 16,000 miles of land and water from the rocky shores of the San Juan Islands to the mudflats of the South Sound inlets is also habitat for over 4 million humans. While much of the Sound is healthy, recent growth and development are stressing the system. Polluted water, closed shellfish beaches, toxic sediments, loss of habitat and sharp declines of fish, marine mammals and birds are signs that that Sounds needs help.

You can learn more about Puget Sound species and habitats at the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.