Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

The Salish Sea

 An Orca cruising Rosario Strait near Lopez Island.


Puget Sound!  Back in the mid 1990’s, I watched a Nature special on Puget Sound (Spirit of the Sound: Nature, ,PBS) and its nature (I still show this video to my Marine Biology and Environmental Studies classes!) narrated by George Page, and I knew that I not only wanted to travel to this region and see it for myself, I wanted to live there! 

After living in the greater Salish Sea area (which encompasses Puget Sound) for over a decade now, I have only just scratched the surface of what it means to explore the Puget Sound country.  Being based in Port Angeles, I have spent the majority of our exploratory time hitting the Olympic Peninsula, but at least once a month or so we head over to Puget Sound country.

Most of our trips in to the Sound have been somewhat thematic.  Generally they are daytrips in to city which revolve around grubbing on the killer Asian food in the International District of Seattle – things like pho, dim sum, etc.  And then some sort of grocery shopping at Viet Wa and then off to Uwajimaya to get some sashimi at cut-rate prices!  And if we have time, we often head over to Pike Street Market, hang out and work our way to the Seattle Aquarium to see “Nemo” and other friends of Cokie.

While those are great days, the days I have always loved the most are those that involve going to some of the “nature” sites in the region.  Every year we usually spend a few winter days in the Skagit Flats, near Mount Vernon, searching for the flocks of tens of thousands of snow geese, eagles, swans and other birds.  One year we once even saw a Mute Swan who lost its way from Europe

Another fun activity we have spent more than a few day-trips doing is what Som calls "Lighthousing".  Puget Sound is filled with lighthouses, and finding them can be an adventure in itself.  We have had great times getting lost in the neighborhoods in the city trying to get glimpses of hard-to-see lighthouses.  Some of the lighthouses can only be seen from boat, so there are a couple that we have yet to see.  So far I think we have nailed at least 95% of what the region has to see!

Mount Baker and Mount Rainier, although they are part of the greater Cascades bioregion, I am lumping in this conversation with Puget Sound, since they are visible from Sound I suppose (I know it’s a stretch, but who cares…it’s my site, so there!).  I have yet to what I consider thoroughly explore either of these amazing locations, but I have given them enough time to know what they have to offer to some degree.  Spectacular old growth forest systems with a wonderful assemblage of species, most of which I have yet to adequately capture on film!

Without a doubt, the most emblematic part of the Sound is the marine environments in and around the San Juan Islands, in the northwest portion of the Sound.  Here we have cruised (day trips from Port Townsend) the inlets and waterways of the island chain, searching for such species as Orca, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros Auklets, and California Sea Lions as well as anything else out there.  These are wonderful days.


Please take a look at our North America Image Galleries!

Puget Sound Image Gallery


I have assembled a small selection of images below that present some of the highlights of the region – enjoy. 



Mount Baker seen from the Skagit Flats with snow geese in the foreground.  An amazing nature spectacle in its own right.  Snow geese by the tens of thousands find their way every year to the area, many coming from as far away as Siberia!


Snow Geese coming in for a landing in the Skagit Flats on Fir Island where they are seen annually during the winter months.



Mount Rainier seen from Paradise on a sunny June afternoon.  We definitely need to get here more often!



Mount Baker seen from a flight coming from back east.  When I saw this, I thought about what the region must have looked like during the peak of the glacial period when it was covered by the Cordilleran ice sheet.



Mount Baker as seen from one of the many lakes in the Cascade Range.



Mount Baker as seen from Rosario Strait during a fantastic June day in 2008!



"Ruffles" and one of his J-Pod harem members crusing the Rosario Strait near the San Juan Islands.



One of the J-Pod breaching on a glorious morning!



A typical Seattle view as seen from our Bainbridge ferry.  No matter how many times I have taken those ferries, I never tire of the views.


The mature mixed conifer forests of Lopez Island along Rosario Strait in the San Juans.


Poppies growing in a vacant field near Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.  These flowers could be native as the San Juans are still part of the rain shadow caused by the Olympic Mountains to the south and are still home to many species of plants that are remnants of a much warmer and drier period in the history of the region.





The Tulip Festival with tulips in full bloom!  Every spring near Mount Vernon thousands of acres of these flowers can be seen full of color.



Point Wilson Lighthouse near Port Townsend's Fort Worden.  One of the many lighthouses in the region, Point Wilson is one of the more beautiful and easy to see!



Mount Rainier as seen from the deck of the Bainbridge Ferry cruising Elliott Bay.  Seattle is without a doubt one of the more beautiful cities (as far as its setting) in the world.



Snow Geese taking flight on Fir Island.