Strait of Juan de Fuca

The Strait of Juan de Fuca (officially named Juan de Fuca Strait in Canada[1]) is a large body of water about 154 kilometres (96 mi) long[2] that is the Salish Sea's outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait.

It was named in 1787 by the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley, captain of the Imperial Eagle, for Juan de Fuca, the Greek navigator who sailed in a Spanish expedition in 1592 to seek the fabled Strait of Anián. Barkley was the first non-indigenous person to find the strait, unless Juan de Fuca's story was true.[3] The strait was explored in detail between 1789 and 1791 by Manuel Quimper, José María Narváez, Juan Carrasco, Gonzalo López de Haro, and Francisco de Eliza.

Strait of Juan de Fuca
Strait of Juan de Fuca is located in North America
Strait of Juan de Fuca
Strait of Juan de Fuca
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is the wide waterway stretching from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the San Juan Islands on the east, with Vancouver Island to the north and the Olympic Peninsula to the south. The Strait of Georgia lies north of the San Juans. Puget Sound is the narrower waters south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Coordinates48°12′00″N 123°34′22″W / 48.20000°N 123.57278°WCoordinates: 48°12′00″N 123°34′22″W / 48.20000°N 123.57278°W
Basin countriesCanada, United States
Max. length154 km (96 mi)
Max. width20 to 40 km (12 to 25 mi)


The USGS defines the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a channel. It extends east from the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to Haro Strait, San Juan Channel, Rosario Strait, and Puget Sound. The Pacific Ocean boundary is formed by a line between Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island, Washington, and Carmanah Point (Vancouver Island), British Columbia. Its northern boundary follows the shoreline of Vancouver Island from Carmanah Point to Gonzales Point, then follows a continuous line east to Seabird Point (Discovery Island), British Columbia, Cattle Point (San Juan Island), Washington, Iceberg Point (Lopez Island), Point Colville (Lopez Island), and then to Rosario Head (Fidalgo Island). The eastern boundary runs south from Rosario Head across Deception Pass to Whidbey Island, then along the western coast of Whidbey Island to Point Partridge, then across Admiralty Inlet to Point Wilson (Quimper Peninsula). The northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula forms the southern boundary of the strait.[2] In the eastern entrance to the Strait, the Race Rocks Archipelago is located in the high current zone halfway between Port Angeles, Washington, and Victoria, BC.


Strait of San Juan de Fuca sunset
Sunset over the strait

Like the rest of the Salish Sea and surrounding regions, the climate of the Strait is disputed, with the Köppen system classifying it as Mediterranean, but most regional climatologists preferring oceanic. While the climate is mostly oceanic in nature, the dry summers result in the Mediterranean classification in the Köppen system. Rainfall ranges from over 2,500 millimetres (98 in) (temperate rainforest) conditions at the west end to as little as 410 millimetres (16 in) at the east end, near Sequim.[4]

Because it is exposed to the generally westerly winds and waves of the Pacific, seas and weather in Juan de Fuca Strait are, on average, rougher than in the more protected waters inland, thereby resulting in a number of small-craft advisories.


An international vehicle ferry crosses the Strait from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia several times each day, as do passenger ferries of the Washington State Ferry system, a seasonal private ferry connecting Port Angeles with Victoria, and a private high-speed ferry between Victoria and Seattle.

Boundary dispute

The Olympian Range, from Esquimalt (HS85-10-11325)
The Olympic Mountains of Washington as seen from the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour, 1900, photo: John Wallace Jones

This strait remains the subject of a maritime boundary dispute between Canada and the United States. The dispute is only over the seaward boundary extending 320 kilometres (200 mi) west from the mouth of the strait. The maritime boundary within the strait is not in dispute. Both governments have proposed a boundary based on the principle of equidistance, but with different basepoint selections, resulting in small differences in the line. Resolution of the issue should be simple, but has been hindered because it might influence other unresolved maritime boundary issues between Canada and the United States.[5] In addition, the government of British Columbia has rejected both equidistant proposals, instead arguing that the Juan de Fuca submarine canyon is the appropriate "geomorphic and physiogeographic boundary".[6] The proposed equidistant boundary currently marks the northern boundary of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. British Columbia's position is based on the principle of natural prolongation which developed in international law. It poses a dilemma for the federal government of Canada. If Canada holds that the principle of natural prolongation applies to the Juan de Fuca Canyon on its Pacific Ocean coast, the assertion could undermine Canada's argument in the Gulf of Maine boundary dispute. In this Atlantic Ocean context, Canada favours an outcome based on the principle of equidistance.[7][8]

Salish Sea

In March 2008, the Chemainus First Nation proposed renaming the strait the "Salish Sea", an idea that reportedly met with approval by British Columbia's Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong, who pledged to put it before the B.C. cabinet for discussion. Making Salish Sea official required a formal application to the Geographical Names Board of Canada.[9] A parallel American movement promoting the name had a different definition, combining of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound as well as the Strait of Georgia and related waters under the more general name Salish Sea.[10] This latter definition was made official in 2009 by geographic boards of Canada and the United States.

In October 2009, the Washington State Board of Geographic Names approved the Salish Sea toponym, not to replace the names of the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, and Strait of Juan de Fuca, but instead as a collective term for all three.[11] The British Columbia Geographical Names Office passed a resolution only recommending that the name be adopted by the Geographical Names Board of Canada, should its US counterpart approve the name-change.[11][12][13] The United States Board on Geographic Names approved the name on November 12, 2009.[14]

Counties and regional districts

Counties along the Strait of Juan de Fuca:

Regional districts along the Strait of Juan de Fuca:


Certain groups of seabirds called common murre migrate north by swimming. Some Pacific Coast murres paddle north to the sheltered bays of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed on herring and other small fish.


Some scenes from the film The Hunt for Red October were filmed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1989.

See also


  1. ^ "Juan de Fuca Strait". BC Geographical Names.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Strait of Juan de Fuca
  3. ^ While U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Strait of Juan de Fuca says John Meares named the strait in 1788, most sources say it was Barkley in 1787, for example: "Juan de Fuca Strait". BC Geographical Names.; Existence of the Strait of Juan de Fuca confirmed by Captain Charles Barkley, Washington Secretary of State; Hayes, Derek (1999). Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest: Maps of exploration and Discovery. Sasquatch Books. p. 16. ISBN 1-57061-215-3. online at Google Books; and Pethick, Derek (1980). The Nootka Connection: Europe and the Northwest Coast 1790–1795. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. p. 24. ISBN 0-88894-279-6. It is well established that Meares tried to take credit for much of Barkley's work.
  5. ^ Charney, Jonathan I.; David A. Colson; Robert W. Smith (2005). International maritime boundaries. Martinus Nijhoff. p. 3403. ISBN 978-90-04-14461-3.
  6. ^ The Alaska Boundary Dispute: History and International Law Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine, by Tony Fogarassy, page 3; citing Office of the Premier, Province of British Columbia, Submission of the Province of British Columbia on West Coast Maritime Boundaries Between Canada and the United States (1977). A map of the Juan de Fuca Canyon is available at Map of Known Deep Corals in and around the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Ocean Explorer
  7. ^ McRae, Donald Malcolm; Gordon Ross Munro (1989). Canadian Oceans Policy: National Strategies and the New Law of the Sea. UBC Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-0-7748-0346-5.
  8. ^ Johnston, Douglas M.; Mark J. Valencia (1991). Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems: Status and Solutions. Martinus Nijhoff. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-7923-0862-1.
  9. ^ "Strait of Georgia could be renamed Salish Sea". Canadian Press. 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
  10. ^ Howard Macdonald Stewart, 2017. Views of the Salish Sea: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Change around the Strait of Georgia. Harbour Publishing Company Limited. pp. 13–15. ISBN 978-1-55017-804-3.
  11. ^ a b "STATE BOARD ON GEOGRAPHIC NAMES APPROVES 'SALISH SEA'". 2009-10-30. Archived from the original on 2013-10-30.
  12. ^ Washington state adopts “Salish Sea” name for body of water including Strait of Georgia, Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, October 30, 2009
  13. ^ Berger, Knute (October 20, 2009). "Smooth Sailing for the Salish Sea?". Crosscut. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  14. ^ Berger, Knute (November 12, 2009). "U.S. approves Salish Sea name". Crosscut. Archived from the original on February 27, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2011.

External links

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States. It is in Clallam County, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca joins the Pacific Ocean. It is also part of the Makah Reservation, and is the northern boundary of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Cape Flattery can be reached from a short hike, most of which is boardwalked. The westernmost point in the contiguous United States is at Cape Alava, south of Cape Flattery in Olympic National Park. However, the westernmost tip of Cape Flattery is almost exactly as far west as Cape Alava, the difference being approximately 5 seconds of longitude, about 360 feet (110 m), at high tide and somewhat more at low tide.The Cape Flattery Lighthouse is on Tatoosh Island, just off the cape. Makah Bay and Neah Bay are on either side of the cape. Neah Bay, Washington is the closest town to the cape.

Dionisio Alcalá Galiano

Dionisio Alcalá Galiano (8 October 1760 – 21 October 1805) was a Spanish naval officer, cartographer, and explorer. He mapped various coastlines in Europe and the Americas with unprecedented accuracy using new technology such as chronometers. He commanded an expedition that explored and mapped the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia, and made the first European circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. He reached the rank of brigadier and died during the Battle of Trafalgar.

He sometimes signed his full surname, Alcalá-Galiano, but often used just Galiano. The published journal of his 1792 voyage uses just the name Galiano, and this has become the name by which he is most known.

Elwha River

The Elwha River is a 45-mile (72 km) river on the Olympic Peninsula in the U.S. state of Washington. From its source at Elwha snowfinger in the Olympic Mountains, it flows generally north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Most of the river's course is within the Olympic National Park.

The Elwha is one several rivers in the Pacific Northwest that hosts all five species of native Pacific salmon (chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, and pink salmon), plus four anadromous trout species (steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, bull trout, and Dolly Varden char). From 1911 to 2014, dams blocked fish passage on the lower Elwha River. Before the dams, 400,000 adult salmon returned yearly to spawn in 70 miles (110 km) of river habitat. Prior to dam removal, fewer than 4,000 salmon returned each year in only 4.9 miles (7.9 km) of habitat below the lower dam. The National Park Service removed the two dams as part of the $325 million Elwha Ecosystem Restoration Project. Dam removal work began in September 2011 and was completed in August 2014. The river has already carried sediment to its mouth, creating 70 acres of estuary habitat at the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The first documented use of the name Elwha River dates to Henry Kellett's 1846 map.

Esquimalt Harbour

Esquimalt Harbour is a sheltered harbour in Greater Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Harbor is bounded by the small cities and towns of Colwood to the west, View Royal to the north, and Esquimalt to the east. The entrance to Esquimalt Harbor is from the south off the Strait of Juan de Fuca through a narrow channel known as Royal Roads. The entrance is marked by the historic Fisgard Lighthouse on the Harbour's west shore in Colwood.

Esquimalt Harbour is home to the Canadian Forces Maritime Forces Pacific, based at CFB Esquimalt. It was the home of the Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard from 1842 to 1905.

Just to the east of Esquimalt Harbour lies Victoria Harbour.

In the summer of 1790 Manuel Quimper, Gonzalo López de Haro, and Juan Carrasco aboard the Princesa Real explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca where they claimed Esquimalt Harbour for Spain, naming it Puerto de Córdova.

Haro Strait

Haro Strait, often referred to as the Haro Straits because it is really a series of straits, is one of the main channels connecting the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, separating Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada from the San Juan Islands of Washington state in the United States.

Haro Strait is a critical part of the route of the international boundary between Canada and the United States from the western terminus of the 49th parallel segment of that boundary, and was chosen by the arbitrator in the San Juan Islands dispute (Pig War) over the other main candidate, Rosario Strait, which lies on the east side of the San Juans.

Juan de Fuca

Ioannis Phokas (Greek: Ἰωάννης Φωκᾶς), better known by the Spanish translation of his name, Juan de Fuca (born 1536 on the Ionian island of Cefalonia; died there 1602), was a Greek maritime pilot in the service of the King of Spain, Philip II. He is best known for his claim to have explored the Strait of Anián, now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island (now part of British Columbia, Canada) and the Olympic Peninsula (northwestern Washington state, United States).

Juan de Fuca Channel

Juan de Fuca Channel is a submarine channel off the shore of Washington state, USA and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Kapitan Man

The Kapitan Man (Russian: Капитан Ман) was a Russian SA-15 Super class multi-purpose merchant ship (call sign UIFU). Part of a series of ships, she was designed to navigate the Arctic waters and was fitted with an ice-breaking bow. The ship was named after the Soviet polar explorer, captain Ivan Man (1903-1982). She was reportedly sold for scrap in May 2012.

On 4 April 1997, the ship was a part of the Strait of Juan de Fuca laser incident between the Russian crew and Canadian and United States military. The ship had long been suspected of conducting covert espionage operations either for hire or for the Russian military.

Kapitan Man was owned by the Far East Shipping Company (FESCO)—a cargo outfit based in Vladivostok, Russia with known ties to the Russian military. As further evidence of the espionage being conducted by FESCO, a joint U.S. Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) inspection of the Kapitan Man in April, 1993 found environmental data equipment—including sophisticated sonar equipment—used solely to conduct anti-submarine warfare. (ASW).


The District of Metchosin is a municipality and community in Greater Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is a coastal community adjacent to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Metchosin is part of the Western Communities and one of the 13 regional municipalities.

Protection Island (Washington)

Protection Island is an island located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca just north of Discovery Bay in northeastern Jefferson County, Washington, United States. The island has a land area of 1.534 km2 (379.11 acres). It is a federally protected National Wildlife Refuge; boats are not permitted within 200 yards (183 m) for the safety and health of wildlife on and near the shores. There is only one individual still living on the island not associated with the government, an inholder named Marty Bluewater who has lifetime use of his cabin on the island's southern bluffs. The island also houses a caretaker, a volunteer hired by the Fish and Wildlife department to watch over the island, and take care of its many inhabitants

Protection Island is known for its breeding colony of tufted puffin, rhinoceros auklets, and gulls, one of the few such locations south of British Columbia to serve as a home for so many birds. It is on the flyway for many migrating birds. Seals (harbor and elephant), sea lions, orcas, and other cetaceans are often seen nearby.

Boat trips from nearby Port Townsend, Washington provide ecotourism visits for viewing wildlife from the adjacent waters.

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to find the island. In 1790 it was given the name Isla de Carrasco, in honor of Juan Carrasco. It was given its present name by George Vancouver in 1792.

Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge

Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge is located near the mouth of Discovery Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Jefferson County, Washington. Approximately 70 percent of the nesting seabird population of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca nest on the island, which includes one of the largest nesting colonies of rhinoceros auklets in the world and the largest nesting colony of glaucous-winged gulls in Washington. The island contains one of the last two nesting colonies of tufted puffins in the Puget Sound area. About 1,000 harbor seals depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area.The refuge is closed to visitation to protect the fragile habitat. Visitors may view the island by boat; a 200-yard off-shore buffer is enforced to ensure adult birds are not flushed from their nests.The waters surrounding the North Olympic Peninsula support five additional refuges: Flattery Rocks, Quillayute Needles, Copalis, Dungeness, and San Juan Islands. Protection Island is managed as part of the Washington Maritime Complex.

Puget Sound

Puget Sound is a sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Salish Sea. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, with one major and two minor connections to the open Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca—Admiralty Inlet being the major connection and Deception Pass and Swinomish Channel being the minor.

Water flow through Deception Pass is approximately equal to 2% of the total tidal exchange between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Puget Sound extends approximately 100 miles (160 km) from Deception Pass in the north to Olympia, Washington in the south. Its average depth is 450 feet (140 m) and its maximum depth, off Jefferson Point between Indianola and Kingston, is 930 feet (280 m). The depth of the main basin, between the southern tip of Whidbey Island and Tacoma, Washington, is approximately 600 feet (180 m).In 2009, the term Salish Sea was established by the United States Board on Geographic Names as the collective waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. Sometimes the terms "Puget Sound" and "Puget Sound and adjacent waters" are used for not only Puget Sound proper but also for waters to the north, such as Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands region.The term "Puget Sound" is used not just for the body of water but also the Puget Sound region centered on the sound. Major cities on the sound include Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Everett, Washington. Puget Sound is also the third largest estuary in the United States, after Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, and San Francisco Bay in northern California.

Pysht River

The Pysht River ( PISHT) is a stream in the U.S. state of Washington. It originates near Ellis Mountain in the northern Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula and flows generally north, emptying into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Pysht and nearby Hoko River are the two largest streams flowing into the southwestern portion of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The watershed of the Pysht River drains a region of industrial forest lands; 98% of the watershed is zoned commercial forestry and the remainder rural. Nearly all of the forests have been logged at least once and most trees are less than thirty years old. The upper portions of the watershed, which feature steep gradients, are owned by the United States Forest Service. The lower reaches, with low gradients, are largely owned by two industrial forest owners.The name of the Pysht River comes from the Clallam (Salishan) pəšc't, perhaps meaning "against the wind or current".

Race Rocks Marine Protected Area

Race Rocks is an Ecological Reserve designated by the British Columbia Parks Ministry in the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, Canada. The reserve is also a designated Marine Protected Area and has been such since the first bid in 2000 was derailed by DFO in Ottawa. Started in 1978 as a marine science project by the students of Pearson College UWC under the supervision and guidance of their teachers, Garry Fletcher and Marks McAvity, in 1980 it became ecological reserve #97 under Provincial B.C. Parks protection. In 1998 it became a Canadian Marine Protected Area designate. It is managed by the staff and students at the college, and is available as a resource for research and education.

Located at a narrow part of the Strait, the area covers 3 km2 (1.2 sq mi) of ocean, rocks, and reefs, but does not include the small envelope of land with the foghorn and the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse itself. That area is leased by the Canadian Coast Guard. An extensive website has been created to provide access to the educational resources of the protected area.

Because of the location in a high tidal current area, there is an exceptional variety of marine life to be found, including marine mammals, sea birds, fish, marine invertebrates, and marine algae and sea grass. It is a haulout area for California and Northern sealions and a birthing rookery for Harbour seals and it is also the most northerly birthing colony on the Pacific Coast of North America for the elephant seal,Mirounga-angustirostris. A detailed taxonomy and species database is maintained on the site.

There are also live video feeds from Race Rock, with remotely operated cameras, an underwater camera, and a videocam archive available from the website.

In 2006 and 2007, the Integrated Energy system was installed at Race Rocks. After a six-year period for experimental research, the tidal energy generator was removed and since then more solar energy panels have been installed to provide most of the power for the island.

Salish Sea

The Salish Sea ( SAY-lish) is the intricate network of coastal waterways that includes the southwestern portion of the Canadian province of British Columbia and the northwestern portion of the U.S. state of Washington. Its major bodies of water are the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. It reaches from Desolation Sound at the north end of the Strait of Georgia to Oakland Bay at the head of Hammersley Inlet at the south end of Puget Sound. The inland waterways of the Salish Sea are partially separated from the open Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula, and are thus partially shielded from Pacific Ocean storms. Major port cities on the Salish Sea include Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Port Angeles and Victoria. Much of the coast is part of a megalopolis stretching from West Vancouver, British Columbia, to Olympia, Washington.

Strait of Georgia

The Strait of Georgia or the Georgia Strait is an arm of the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island and the extreme southwestern mainland coast of British Columbia, Canada and the extreme northwestern mainland coast of Washington, United States. It is approximately 240 kilometres (150 mi) long and varies in width from 20 to 58 kilometres (12 to 36 mi). Along with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, it is a constituent part of the Salish Sea. Archipelagos and narrow channels mark each end of the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands in the south, and the Discovery Islands in the north. The main channels to the south are Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and Rosario Strait, which connect the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the north, Discovery Passage is the main channel connecting the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait. The strait is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America, owing to the presence of the port of Vancouver, and also due to its role as the southern entrance to the infracoastal route known as the Inside Passage.

Strait of Juan de Fuca laser incident

On 4 April 1997, a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter was allegedly illuminated by a laser while observing the Russian merchant ship and suspected spy vessel Kapitan Man, which was in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in U.S. territorial waters near Port Angeles, Washington. The Canadian Air Force pilot and the U.S. Navy passenger, who was taking photographs of the ship, reportedly suffered eye pain and injuries consistent with laser exposure. However, subsequent investigations into the incident were unable to verify that any lasing had occurred.

Straits Steamship Company

The Straits Steamship Company was a shipping firm that operated steamships on Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Washington State Route 112

State Route 112 (SR 112, named the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway) is a state highway and scenic byway in the U.S. state of Washington. It runs east–west for 61 miles (98 km) along the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Clallam County, connecting the Makah Indian Reservation near Neah Bay to U.S. Route 101 (US 101) near Port Angeles.

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