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Skokomish to Tacoma

  • Distance: 60 miles
  • Routes: SR 106, SR 3, SR 16
  • Estimated Driving Time: 1.5 hours

The earliest thorough exploration of the waters adjacent to this route was made in 1841 by the expedition under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The heavy stands of timber attracted lumbermen, and several mill towns were soon flourishing along the water front—Seabeck, Sidney, Port Gamble, and Poulsbo; in the fifties and sixties, these settlements were far more important trading centers than Seattle and Tacoma on the eastern side of Puget Sound.

Logging, beginning along the waterways, rapidly advanced inland, and within a quarter of a century most of the virgin timber had been removed. Farmers came in increasing numbers and settled near towns and along the water front; soon they were moving into the cutover areas.

Fishing also increased in importance. Shrimp, clams, oysters, and crabs were found in abundance, and many a sheltered cove was converted into an outfitting point for seining and halibut boats.

Early on, communication with the east shore of Puget Sound was largely by water; a few rough roads and trails led from the water’s edge to farms and camps in the interior. Today, a network of roads connects all parts of the peninsula and joins it with Sound points.

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The tour passes through the Skokomish Indian Tribe Reservation. Despite being established by treaty in 1855, the nearly 5,000-acre reservation has witnessed non-tribal development, including power projects constructed by the City of Tacoma, which has created difficulties for the tribe. In response, the Skokomish, or “Big River People,” filed land claims through the court system and were awarded $374,000 in 1965, with the money used for the purchase of a...

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The tour crosses the Skokomish River delta, a thinly wooded and swamp tideland. The highway swings across the Skokomish River, and around the upper end of Hood Canal, which bends northeast at this point. Placid tides ebb and flow over the flats below the steeply pitched foothills; beyond, the snow-crests of the Olympic range may be glimpsed occasionally. The panoramas of water, sandy beaches, massed banks of pink rhododendrons, and...

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Mile: 1

Started in 1858 with the establishment of the Wilson and Anderson trading post. In the same year the former Rush House, a two-story building with a bar and six bedrooms, was built. Guests were required to furnish their own bedding, and a cow’s horn was used to summon them to eat. Anderson shortly sold his interest to F. C. Purdy, and a few years later John McReavy, a lumberman, assumed...

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Points of Interest
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Captain Warren Gove House

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John McReavy House

Mile: 5

The tour hugs the shoreline along which are summer homes, interspersed with occasional taverns and roadhouses. Moored at small wharves or plying the smooth waters are boats of sportsmen and pleasure seekers. An occasional shrimp boat, the arms of its drags extended, cruises off shore. Hood Canal is a salt water channel that extends southwest from the vicinity of Port Ludlow in Jefferson County between Kitsap and Mason counties to...

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Mile: 6

The wheel displays the ingenuity of early pioneers to the Hood Canal area. In 1917 by E.J. and Ethel Dalby purchased an eight-acre parcel of land which had a stream with sufficient water volume and current within its bounds. In 1922, Edwin Justus Dalby with the assistance of his father, William Owen Dalby, built a wooden cultivator wheel to provide electricity for his home. It was one of the first...

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Mile: 7

Situated on the shoreline of Hood Canal, the park features one of the warmest saltwater beaches in Washington state. This is because Hood Canal is one of the warmest saltwater bodies in Puget Sound. The name of the park derives from the Twana tribes, better known as the Skokomish, who made their home in the area. In 1922, the state leased 30 acres to be used as a state park,...

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Mile: 12

Tour clings to the graveled east shore of Hood Canal. Evergreen trees line the road; huckleberry bushes, salal, and Oregon grapes form a dense green undergrowth. On the sandy flats just above the tide line marsh grass grows in Lynch Cove, and here thousands of migratory fowl find food and shelter during winter months. The cove was named by Cmdr. Charles Wilkes in 1841 for Lieut. William Francis Lynch of...

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Mile: 19

Formerly called Clifton, it was a supply point for summer colonists and for fishing and hunting trips in season. It was also the center of dairy farms and poultry ranches. The highway strikes overland east of Belfair through stands of alder and second-growth timber. Here and there, a gnarled tree left by loggers rises over the tops of the second growth. The town was platted as Clifton in 1888. When...

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Mile: 26

Sidetrip: Port Gamble

This 68 mile side trip leads out past Dyer’s Inlet and Liberty Bay passing small port cities along the Puget Sound on the way to the National Historic Landmark Historic district of Port Gamble, ending at Kingston with ferry connection to Edmonds.

Take the Port Gamble side trip

Seat of Kitsap County and one of the oldest settlements on Kitsap Peninsula. In 1854 William Renton and Daniel Howard landed near the towering forests along the protected waters of the bay named Port Orchard by Captain George Vancouver, in honor of H. M. Orchard of the ship Discovery. Here they erected a sawmill. The success of this venture soon attracted shipbuilders, and the sound of hammers mingled with the...

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Points of Interest
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Masonic Hall

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Navy View Apartments

The tour continues southward through rolling, sparsely settled country, once covered by a heavy forest. Small gardens, poultry ranches, and dairy farms alternate with stands of second-growth timber and cutover land. Established in the 1890s by the Co-operative Brotherhood, it was named Circle City, with buildings laid out on the periphery of a circle. When the colony failed in 1908, the present name was adopted for a pioneer settler who...

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A scattering of buildings on the site of an old Native American camping ground. By the 1940s, the culture of Japanese oysters along the sand bars and in the shallows of the lagoon had been developed. General James M. Ashton filed a plat for the town of Purdy on March 1, 1885. A post office was established there on January 26, 1885. Ernest R. Purdy, a Tacoma grocer, furnished lumber...

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The lake-like haven of Gig Harbor is shut off by a narrow entrance from the open Sound; surrounding hills protect it from gales from any quarter, as the crew of the ship’s gig from the Wilkes expedition gratefully found when it took refuge here from a storm in 1841. By the 1940s, Gig Harbor was the home port for some 35 large purse seiners which followed the various fishing runs...

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Points of Interest
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Skansie Net Shed and House

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Crescent Creek Park

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Gig Harbor Netsheds

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Ross Netshed

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Puratich Netshed

The original 1940 mile-long suspension bridge, third longest suspension bridge in the world, collapsed in a windstorm four months after it was completed, earning it the name, “Galloping Gertie.” A replacement bridge was completed in 1950. Currently, a new bridge is being built parallel to the existing 1950 bridge to expand traffic capacity. The 1950 bridge will accommodate traffic traveling westbound while the new bridge will carry eastbound traffic.

Learn more about Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Lying along the protected waters of Puget Sound and Commencement Bay, into which the Puyallup River drains, is about midway between Seattle to the north and Olympia to the southwest. Commencement Bay, a fine natural harbor on the Sound, is recognized as one of the country’s leading ports. Few cities may boast a more beautiful setting. To the west is the sweep of Puget Sound with wooded bluffs rising from...

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