Puget Sound photo identifier

Saving Puget Sound

Saving the Sound

Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States. Only Chesapeake Bay is larger. The Puget Sound estuary is an arm of the Pacific Ocean that extends inland where it meets 19 different river basins. The Sound experiences tidal flows and there is a changing mixture of fresh and salt waters.

The Puget Sound region includes all the water that falls on the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and flows to meet the Sound’s marine waters. It covers the land and waters in the northwest corner of Washington State – from the Canadian border to the north to the Pacific Ocean on the west, including Hood Canal and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Unlike Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound includes vast stretches of deep, open waters, shallow bays and inlets, and muddy to sandy to rocky sediments underneath.

Remove the water and the bottom of the Sound looks like an underwater mountain range, made up of a series of valleys and ridges called basins and sills. These underwater formations help keep the waters in the Sound, similar to a giant bathtub with a slow moving drain: Most of what goes into the Sound stays there and circulates within the estuary.

map showing Puget Sound counties


  • Home to 4.4 million people — about 67% of Washington State’s entire population.
  • 118 incorporated cities and towns.
  • 15 American Indian tribes.
  • 12 bordering counties — Clallam, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston & Whatcom.
  • More than 3.6 million — about 80% of Puget Sound residents — live in King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties alone.

Geographic features

  • 2,800 miles of inland marine waters.
  • 2,500 miles of shoreline.
  • 2 mountain ranges — the Olympics and the Cascades.
  • 19 river drainage basins.
  • Average depth: 450 feet.
  • Deepest point: 930 feet.

Public lands

  • 68 state parks.
  • 16 regional parks.
  • 8 national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands.
  • 21 million acres of state-owned submerged saltwater lands.

Fish and wildlife

  • 211 different fish species.
  • 100 sea bird species.
  • 13 types of marine mammals. In 2003, 87 resident orca whales provide views for 80 whale watching boats.