Anacortes ferry terminal is located at Ship Harbor, an embayment on the northwestern shore of Fidalgo Island and the southern shore of Guemes Channel, about 85 miles (137 km) north of Seattle and 3.7 miles (6 km) west of the community of Anacortes, Washington. In 1879, a post office was established and adapted the name ‘Anacortes’ from the name ‘Anne Curtis Bowman‘, the wife of a land development promoter. In 1951, the State of Washington began operating an automobile and passenger ferry service from Ship Harbor to the San Juan Islands. The ferry terminal site and much of the north coast of Fidalgo Island is a glacial outwash comprising sand, gravel, silt, and clay deposited by meltwater flowing from the Puget lobe of the massive ice sheet that covered this area during the Vashon advance of the Fraser glaciation. The deposit thickness ranges from 3 to 198 feet (1-60 m) and averages 33 to 66 feet (10-20 m).
The Samish are a Central Coast Salish people with villages on Samish, Guemes, and Fidalgo Islands. In 1847, the Samish had more than 2,000 members, but by 1855, diseases and attacks from Haida and Tsimshian tribes from the north reduced the population to about 150 members. The Samish joined with other tribes to sign the Point Elliott Treaty; however, the Lummi chief Chowitsoot signed for them on January 22, 1855. After the treaty was ratified, the Samish were sent to reservations dominated by other tribes such as the Lummi, Swinomish, and the Tulalip Tribes. In 1859, a border dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom prompted the arrival of the USS Massachusetts to protect American interests and negotiate treaties with local Indian tribes. The vessel was anchored in a protected embayment that became known as Ship Harbor. In 1876, a railroad surveyor named Amos Bowman moved his family to the northern tip of Fidalgo Island and began promoting the area as a terminus for the Northern Pacific Railway. In 1894, the first salmon cannery was built at Ship Harbor by the Fidalgo Island Packing Company. Anacortes developed a rich fishing and shipbuilding history and is well known regionally for the Washington State ferry terminal at Ship Harbor that serves the San Juan Islands and Sidney, British Columbia on Vancouver Island.
In 1997, the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve was established adjacent to the Washington State ferry terminal. The preserve includes 25 acres (10 ha) of freshwater wetlands, 5 acres (2 ha) of upland habitat, and 2,000 feet (610 m) of sandy beach and subtidal eelgrass beds. The preserve contains the old foundations and docks of the Fidalgo cannery and the historical railroad grade. The marsh is primarily fed by rainwater and has no other major source of surface fluvial input. The barrier beach extends the entire width of the marsh with no tidal channels, separating the marsh from the ocean. The railroad grade along the northwest edge of the marsh likely separated the marsh from any tidal influence causing a potential shift in the dominant vegetation. Wooden pilings were placed throughout the marsh to support cannery structures and today, the pilings are about 1 to 2 feet (0.5 m) high. There is a well-defined trail system that protects sensitive vegetation and also provides environmental education about the role and significance of the beach and wetlands. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Anacortes Ferry Terminal and Guemes Channel here: