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Puget Sound's Past  
 
  • 15,000 years
    Before Present (B.P.)

    Puget Sound lowland area is under glacial ice. 3,412 feet of ice covers Seattle.
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  • 11,000 B.P.
    The last glacier (Vashon) begins to retreat.
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  • 8,000 B.P.
    Earliest evidence of humans found above the mouth of the Fraser River and on the lower Columbia River.
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  • 5,000 B.P.
    Evidence of native people south of Tacoma near the Nisqually river delta.
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  • 3,000 B.P.
    Evidence of a 3,000 year old fishing village on the Hoko River: baskets, fishhooks, a gillnet, harpoons, and other items.
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    Nootka native. Photo courtesy Shadow Catchers, Olympia.
  • 2,000 B.P.
    Native people live along "the saltwater we know" or Whulj, the native name for Puget Sound. The shores and waters provide shellfish and salmon.
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  • 1774
    Juan Perez leads the first Spanish expedition to the Northwest Coast. Perez sees the Olympic Mountains.
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  • 1775-92
    Native populations devastated by smallpox, measles, and other European diseases.
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  • 1778
    British explorer James Cook finds Cape Flattery while searching for a Northwest Passage.
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  • 1787
    British Captain Charles Barkley sails into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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  • 1788
    First logs shipped out of Puget Sound by British Captain John Meares (ship spars headed for China.)
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  • 1792
    British explorer George Vancouver explores and names Puget Sound. Natural history is noted by surgeon-naturalist Archibald Menzies including madrone, bigleaf maple, western hemlock and other trees of the Puget Sound area.
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  • 1805-06
    Lewis and Clark stay at Fort Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia River.
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  • 1825
    David Douglas, Scottish botanical explorer, collects and describes Pacific Northwest plants. (The name Douglas fir was given to the mammoth conifer with deeply furrowed bark.)
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    Nootka native. Photo courtesy Shadow Catchers, Olympia.
  • 1833
    The British Hudson's Bay Company sets up Fort Nisqually on bluffs above the Nisqually River delta.
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  • 1834
    David Douglas returns and finds many trees cut down or burned around Fort Vancouver. Douglas laments that there is "too much civilization."
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  • 1841
    U.S. Naval commander Charles Wilkes leads an exploration of Puget Sound. Botanists Dr. Charles Pickering and Mr. W.D. Brackenridge collect samples at Port Discovery, Port Madison, and Fort Nisqually.
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  • 1850
    Native oysters are harvested; many are shipped to California.
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  • 1851
    First settlers arrive on the site of Seattle.
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  • 1853
    Washington territory is established.
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  • 1853
    First steam-driven mill on Puget Sound built by Henry Yesler.
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  • 1855
    On Camano Island, a mill is built to cut ship spars for the French and Spanish navies.
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  • 1870s
    San Francisco is a major market for Puget Sound timber and salmon.
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  • 1877
    Puget Sound's first fish cannery is built at Mukilteo.
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  • 1883
    William Renton notes that the "timber contiguous to the Sound is nearly exhausted."
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  • 1883
    Northern Pacific Railroad links Tacoma to the east.
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  • 1889
    Washington named 42nd state. White population: 3,695.
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  • 1897 - 99
    The Alaska Gold Rush creates boom for Puget Sound cities.
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  • 1890
    Callow Act is passed by Washington state legislature allowing sale of tidelands to private citizens.
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  • 1890
    Bush Act is passed by Washington state legislature governing oyster tidelands. Any person purchasing tidelands unfit for oyster cultivation could cancel the deed.
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  • 1895
    First salmon hatcheries established.
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  • 1900 - 1905
    The steam donkey, the band saw, and growing markets boost logging on Puget Sound. Clear-cut method in use.
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  • 1910
    Salmon fishing in Puget Sound peaks.
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  • 1914-19
    War creates demand for Puget Sound lumber, fish, and shipbuilding.
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  • 1917
    Roads built along Hood Canal.
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  • 1940s
    Seattle restaurant owner Ivar Haglund popularizes the song "Acres of Clams," about a pioneer who fails to find his fortune in the Alaska Gold Rush and moves to Puget Sound.
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  • 1940s
    War creates boom in shipbuilding.
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  • 1940s to present
    Logging of old growth and regrowth along Puget Sound occurs in lowland and mountain regions.
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  • 1950s
    First oil refinery built on Puget Sound.
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  • 1951
    According to a federal report, Puget Sound is the sixth most polluted area in the United States.
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  • 1955
    The State Pollution Control Act requires permits for discharging wastes into public waters.
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  • 1969
    Oil refinery built at Cherry Point.
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  • 1969
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is established by congress.
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  • 1970
    Washington State Department of Ecology is established.
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  • 1971
    Citizens of Washington state approve Shoreline Management Act (SMA).
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  • 1973
    Federal legislation created on rare and endangered species.
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  • 1976
    The Washington State Coastal Zone Management Program is the first state program approved under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. The goal: to manage shorelines and conserve a vital national resource.
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  • 1977
    Seattle is the second busiest container port in the United States and the sixth busiest in the world.
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  • 1988
    Puget Sound is designated an "Estuary of National Significance," by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and given priority for cleanup and protection.
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  • 1994
    Scientists from the United States and Canada identify nearshore habitat loss as a major concern of the shared waters of Washington and British Columbia.
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  • 1999
    Killer whales of the inland and coastal waters around Washington and British Columbia are "among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world," according to Dr. Peter Ross, research scientist.
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  • 1999
    Seven salmon species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing of Puget Sound's wild chinook is the first ESA listing in the United States to affect a major urban area.
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  • 1999
    Population of the Puget Sound region reaches approximately 3.8 million people.
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    Historical photos courtesy of Shadow Catchers, Olympia.

    Related Links

    Washington State Historical Society. Discover stories that connect us to our past at the Hall of Washington History.

    San Juan Historical Museum, Friday Harbor, Washington. Experience island life as it was at the turn of the century through exhibits and living history.

    Fort Steilacoom, Historic Fort Steilacoom Association. Historic information and visitors guide.

    Washington State Historical Society, Washington State Historical Museums and Exhibits. Museum locations, hours and information on exhibits.

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    Comments? E-mail: Shellyne Grisham