Tongue Point, Semiahmoo Spit

Tongue Point, Semiahmoo Spit

by | Jan 19, 2021

Tongue Point is at the end of Semiahmoo Spit, a 125-acre (51 ha) sandbar about 1 mile (1.6 km) long that partially encloses Drayton Harbor, about 21 miles (34 km) northwest of Bellingham and 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Blaine, Washington. The name of the spit is from the Semiahmoo band of Native Americans and means “half-moon” or “water all around”. A trading post was opened on the spit in 1858 and its owner platted the town of Semiahmoo City, however, the land was developed to support the fishing industry and canning salmon.

Culturally and linguistically the Semiahmoo are Coast Salish but distinguished from many other tribes because they fished with reef nets. The territory of the Semiahmoo extended from the area around Semiahmoo Spit to Birch Bay, Semiahmoo Bay, and the shores of Mud Bay and Boundary Bay. Semiahmoo villages were located at Birch Bay, Drayton Harbor, and at the entry to Semiahmoo Spit which was the principal village before the arrival of Europeans. The village had 3 rows of houses with one row facing east to Drayton Harbor, and two rows facing west to Semiahmoo Bay. The Semiahmoo lived in rectangular wooden longhouses, up to 50 feet (15 m) wide and anywhere from 50 to 200 feet (15-60 m) long, which were typically built parallel to the water.

In 1881, the first salmon cannery in Whatcom County was built on Tongue Point and in 1894 the Alaska Packers Association purchased the Semiahmoo cannery and operated the facility for 75 years. From 1892 to 1934, commercial fishing by Euro-Americans using fish traps supplied the cannery. After 1934, a rapid decline in salmon resulted in fish traps being outlawed and many canneries were closed as mobile fishing fleets and tenders expanded the fishery into Alaska. In 1944, the ferry boat Plover was built to ferry cannery workers back and forth across the channel between the cannery and the city of Blaine. Plover has recently been restored and is operational. The cannery was sold to the Trillium Corporation in 1982 as a real estate investment. Today, Tongue Point is the site of the Inn at Semiahmoo. Read more here and here. Explore more of Tongue Point here:

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