Port of call 18 miles south of the Canadian Border, industrial and educational center, and distribution point for northwestern Washington. The city borders the broad curve of Bellingham Bay, sweeps back over the level valleys of Whatcom, Squalicum, and Padden creeks, and climbs the slopes of Sehome Hill, which rises practically in the middle of the city. Industrial life was concentrated along the waterfront, where squarely massed warehouses, coal bunkers, and piers were punctuated with the black smokestacks of mills and factories, harsh against the green hills. From the bayside, streets radiated into the business and residential areas, which mingled casually as a result of the merging of four separate boom towns in the formation of Bellingham. Subsequent development has cleared much of the former industrial development along the waterfront as part of converting the lands to new uses.
To the west are the San Juan Islands; more distant are the white-tipped Olympics, remote and austere, and the dark bulk of Vancouver Island, visible only on clear days. Stretching eastward from the city for 40 miles are broad fertile valleys, once unbroken evergreen forest but now largely logged off and converted into dairy farms, truck gardens, pastures, berry fields, and poultry ranches. Higher areas between the lowlands are covered with second-growth timber, interspersed with charred or bleaching stumps and fallen logs. Gradually the foothills become more rugged as they ascend toward the serrated line of the Cascades, from which rise the snow-capped peaks of Mount Baker and the Three Sisters.