Seattle Waters

The northwest corner of the United States is a bevy of islands and waterways, and inside it all is Seattle, Washington. Here is a look at a few of the waterways in the Seattle area.

Flying into Seattle, air passengers get a glimpse of the water that surrounds the city. Not only is the Puget Sound bounding the west, but you see islands, channels, canals, and lakes in every direction.

By consulting the maps below, you can see the unique layout of the land and water in the Seattle area.

Puget Sound is a large saltwater estuary system fed by the Olympic and Cascade Mountain watersheds. More info: Puget Sound Wikipedia

The city’s Discovery Park (below) overlooks the Sound, as do many other smaller parks.

This photo demonstrates the operating shipyards in Seattle.

The ferris wheel is a popular Seattle waterfront attraction.

There are 21 state-operated ferries on Puget Sound and many additional public tourist vessels, as well as hundreds of private boats. Some residents commute by ferry.

Many of Seattle’s surrounding islands are havens for tourists and residents looking for a quieter way of life. Vashon Island, pictured below, is a 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle.

In addition to the Puget Sound’s dominating influence, there are many other waterways too.

Situated on an isthmus between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, the city is bisected in the middle by a series of canals and locks called the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

This canal system connects the Sound to the Lake.

A person can traverse across the city entirely on boat.

Several busy urban neighborhoods have canals flowing through them. Often there is a park alongside the canal, where you can watch boats quietly cruise by. Here you can see there is an office building and a parking lot directly adjacent to this canal.

Bays, creeks and the Duwamish River also occupy significant Seattle real estate. According to Wikipedia, water comprises approximately 41% of the total area of the city.

With all of these waterways come bridges.

There are approximately 150 bridges within Seattle’s city limits. Floating bridges, drawbridges, double-deckers…old, new, and a few historical.

List of Bridges in Seattle, Wikipedia

The Fremont Bridge, in the two photos below, is the most frequently opened drawbridge in the U.S. It is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, built in 1917. The second photo shows it opened.

There are also some major lakes in Seattle. Last week I presented a post on Green Lake, but there are two other major lakes here, too.

Washington Lake, stretching the city’s eastern side, is the second largest natural lake in the state of Washington (second to Lake Chelan). It is 22 miles long (35 km), enormous, and is classified as a ribbon lake for its glacially formed long, narrow and finger-like shape.

Lake Union, part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal system, is a large and popular lake. Houseboats, seaplanes, rowing teams and many other kinds of boats line this lake.

In 2014 I had the thrill of boarding a seaplane at Lake Union and flying over the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands to Victoria, Canada. It was a commercial operation flying small Cessnas via Kenmore Air Harbor.

Walk for ten minutes in Seattle and you will see a seaplane up above.

The Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, located on South Lake Union, outlines the city’s maritime history.

This vessel below, the Virginia V, is docked there. The steamer, launched in 1922, primarily transported passengers between Tacoma and Seattle.

Glass artist Dale Chihuly, who was born in Washington State, has brought a plethora of art and artistry to Seattle, often highlighting the sea life that is so deeply rooted here.

Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass is an indoor/outdoor museum exclusively featuring his art. A few of his maritime pieces are pictured below.

This glass sea star (below) is a sprightly detail of the bigger sculpture entitled Sea Life (below).

Many of his glorious glass works celebrate the sea, including this elegant octopus.

This community of waterways is one of the best parts of Seattle. The sea air, winds and waters are a great reminder of the wild and wonderful side of this seaport city.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Puget Sound. Courtesy Wikipedia

Northwest corner of Washington State. Courtesy Wikipedia


69 thoughts on “Seattle Waters

  1. I’m such a fan of Chihuly, and really enjoyed seeing his sea pieces. I didn’t realize he had roots in Washington state; I’ve often wondered what he would do with our jellies and such. Now I have an idea.

    • The presence of Chihuly in Seattle is really a pleasure, Linda. In addition to the museum, which is super, his art appears in wonderful places. We visited our friend’s mother, for example, in her senior living home, and there was a gorgeous Chihuly flower light fixture hanging in the lobby. He also set up a glass blowing studio in Seattle, and provided opportunities to other glass blowers. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing his sea pieces here today. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Don’t show all that water to those in the southwest, they might get jealous ha! Wonderful glass art pieces. Not familiar with that artist, but will definitely put him on the list to investigate more. Thanks for sharing more sights/info of Seattle..

    • You’re right about the water everywhere, Brian, it’s a completely different environment than the SW, as you say, and also us folks in No. Calif. Wonderful to share Seattle with you today, thanks for checking in.

    • I enjoyed hearing you are a fellow Chihuly glass admirer, Walt. I also enjoyed your words: “…he really brings the water of Seattle to magnificent heights.” He sure does. Thank you, Walt, always a pleasure.

    • There’s so much water around Seattle, ACI, and I, too, find it interesting that they have this elaborate canal system, with locks and everything. I think your kayaking skills would do well on these fascinating waterways. Probably no nesting sandhill cranes though, like you have. ;D

  3. On the fourth of July they have fireworks show at Lake Union – it’s really something to see. So many boats crowd into the lake that you could walk from one side to the other without getting wet!

    • Oh wow, Jan, I loved hearing your description of the Lake Union fireworks show. I can imagine that is spectacular. Thanks for your visit and contribution today.

  4. Interesting. And I appreciated the maps at the end to put it all in perspective. It’s no wonder it is cloudy and rainy so much with all that water around!

    • I liked the maps too, Nan, because they show the extent of the water so well. I fondly remember our visit to Seattle and our ferry ride all those years ago. Thanks so much for your lovely visit today.

    • Yes, some of the photos do have sun in them. But these photos were spread out over many years. Our recent trip over Memorial Day weekend yielded about two hours of sun in five days. It’s not the sunniest, as you know. Thanks Bill, a joy to have you stop by.

    • I’m really happy you enjoyed the Seattle photos and Chihuly sculptures, Sherry. Perhaps I saved you a trip across the country. lol. Always a joy to see you, Sherry, thank you.

  5. At this rate of interest and beauty, Seattle, can only be another great place to visit.
    After all, you have, and everything you have said about it is absolutely inviting!
    Enjoy your day Jet! Hugs, Eddie

    • I hope someday you can make it to see Chihuly’s Seattle museum, Craig. That location is also at the base of the Seattle Needle, which is cool to see so close. Sending thanks your way, my friend.

  6. For what it’s worth, I think that airport is actually Boeing field. SeaTac is further south, between Seattle and Tacoma. Boeing is HQ’d in Seattle, although some of their mfg is going elsewhere these days. I didn’t know about all the bridges and canals, usually I’m on the freeway passing through.

  7. I was born in Tacoma but my family left the area when I was six months old so I have no recollection of having lived there. Not till I was in my 30s did I finally go there again to see what the place looks like.

  8. Most interesting – I had not registered that Seattle is on such an extensive waterway. Thanks for the maps. Times have changed, so in this day and age I can’t help feeling anxious about flooding of areas adjacent to waterways …

    • I agree, Carol, times have changed and flooding is a growing concern. Just last week Yellowstone Park, in Wyoming, suffered severe floods; and of course I do not forget the terrible floods that recently came through your area of So. Africa. My thanks and best wishes to you….

      • Yes severe flooding is devastating so many regions in the world even now. We heard about the awful floods in Yellowstone Park. Re our floods mostly at the coast, there was a second flooding about 4 weeks after the first. Terrible for the people living there.

  9. Thank you for this lovely vicarious visit to the amazing Seattle… not sure how I’ve managed it, but it seems I’ve been through Seattle any number of times, but never actually stopped to visit. Your post is therefor particularly appreciated. A great introduction to the city’s watery features without plunging into the urban atmosphere. Unfortunately, I’m becoming quite allergic to the traffic and hustle and bustle of cities… ever more so as the years continue to accumulate. 😉🙏💞

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Gunta, thank you for your visit. I know what you mean about the hustle and bustle of cities, so I’m really glad I could bring the beauty to you without any city stir. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  10. Thanks for taking me on a trip to the Puget Sound! My stepdaughter lives in Seattle as does a nephew. My brother- and sister-in-law live on Whidbey Island. I haven’t visited since the pandemic but it is one of my favorite trips to take. The island especially moves to its own rhythm. I loved the photos (thanks Athena) as they remind me of a special place in my heart. That was a nice virtual vacation. Thainks!

    • I am really glad I could bring you a virtual vacation, LuAnne. The Pacific Northwest is such a beautiful area. I have heard much about Whidbey Island, it sounds unique and wonderful. Thanks very much for your visits today.

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