Celebrating Earth Day on the Kitsap Peninsula

In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, where lush forests meet sparkling waters, lies a place we proudly call home. Here, on the Kitsap Peninsula, we are surrounded by natural wonders that inspire awe and reverence. From the majestic peaks of the Olympic Mountains to the serene shores of Puget Sound, our corner of the world is a treasure trove of beauty and biodiversity. This Earth Day, as we celebrate the place we live, it’s important to recognize that this brief glimpse barely scratches the surface of the vastness and splendor that defines our beloved region. Join us on a journey to discover just a fraction of the wonders that make the Kitsap Peninsula a place we hold dear.

The Salish Sea

View of the Olympic Mountain range and Hood Canal (a sub-feature of the entire complex of the Salish Sea) – Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck, WA

The Salish Sea is a breathtaking marine ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, encompassing a network of intricate waterways, including the iconic Puget Sound. Stretching along the northwest coast of Washington State, it boasts an extensive coastline of 1,332 miles and covers an area of approximately 1,020 square miles. Shaped by ancient “glaciers over 15,000 years ago,” its majestic waters provide a haven for a diverse array of marine life. From the majestic killer whales and playful seals to the graceful bald eagles soaring above, the Salish Sea teems with vitality. Its rich biodiversity includes over “3,000 species of marine invertebrates, 100 species of birds, 29 species of marine mammals, and 7 species of salmon” (Harbor WildWatch). This vibrant ecosystem not only serves as a sanctuary for wildlife but also nurtures the region’s cultural heritage and sustains local communities.

Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park

Photo Credit: Don Willott

Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park stands as a testament to the region’s natural beauty and biodiversity. Spanning 3,400 acres, it protects one of the “largest lowland forests remaining in west Puget Sound.” This vast expanse of forested landscape serves as a vital habitat for a diverse array of wildlife, including bears, salmon, and numerous bird species. Moreover, the park safeguards the pristine waters of Port Gamble Bay, ensuring their protection for future generations. Thanks to the visionary conservation efforts of the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project, this cherished land has been preserved for all time, providing year-round outdoor recreation opportunities for locals and visitors alike. As Great Peninsula Conservancy remains active in stewardship efforts within the park, enhancing trails and creating viewing areas, Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park continues to serve as a beacon of conservation and environmental stewardship in the Pacific Northwest.

Westside Prairies

Prairie flowers in bloom

Westside prairies offer a variety of colorful blooms – Photo by Rod Gilbert

Prairies are a rare and precious ecosystem in Washington, especially in the South Puget Sound region, where they once flourished but now occupy just “3% of their original area” (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). These open grasslands have minimal tree cover and are vital habitats for many threatened and endangered species. Historically, prairies covered vast expanses of Western Washington, but agricultural and developmental activities have led to their drastic decline. Today, prairies support a diverse array of plants and animals, with two main types found in the state: dry, upland prairies and wet prairies. These ecosystems, adapted to seasonal variations in moisture, play a crucial role in supporting Washington’s wildlife and are a key conservation focus for agencies like the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Despite the challenges they face, preserving and restoring these unique habitats is essential for safeguarding the rich biodiversity of the region for future generations.


Photograph of female Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle Warbler) provided by Janine Schutt

Photograph of female Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle Warbler) provided by Janine Schutt

Kitsap County boasts a rich avian diversity that’s a delight for birdwatchers of all levels. With over 236 miles of saltwater shoreline, the county is a haven for more than 200 species of birds, with 115 of them calling this place home. Whether you’re strolling along the pebble beaches of Silverdale Waterfront Park or venturing into the wooded trails of Buck Lake County Park, keep your binoculars ready for a glimpse of Hooded Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes, and the occasional warbler during migration season. For those seeking an iconic birding spot, Point-No-Point County Park in Hansville is a must-visit. Recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, this park offers prime viewing opportunities for migrating songbirds, bustling marine activity, and even occasional visits from Common Terns, Red-necked Phalaropes, and majestic Bald Eagles.


A chum salmon jumps over the log weir at the Chico Creek Estuary in Bremerton. Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun

A chum salmon jumps over the log weir at the Chico Creek Estuary in Bremerton. Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun

Salmon hold a special place in our region’s heart, deeply ingrained in Native American traditions and pivotal in shaping the history of Washington Territory. These magnificent creatures symbolize not only the identity of our area but also the vitality of our ecosystems. Witnessing salmon in their natural habitat is a truly remarkable experience, and Kitsap Salmon tours offer an exclusive glimpse into their lifecycle and significance in our world. East Kitsap’s streams are frequented by chum, coho, and pink salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout. While many chinook salmon in these waters originate from the Suquamish Tribe hatchery program or other regional hatcheries such as Minter Creek Hatchery and White River Hatchery, during abundant salmon runs in Puget Sound, wild chinook often venture into these streams. The Suquamish Tribe meticulously marks all hatchery chinook to monitor their migration patterns, conducting vital research in estuarine and nearshore beach environments. The role of East Kitsap’s shorelines cannot be overstated, encompassing nearly half of the nearshore habitat in south and central Puget Sound. These areas serve as crucial sanctuaries for threatened chinook and bull trout populations from various watersheds in the region, offering essential refuge, resting areas, and feeding grounds for both juvenile salmon embarking on their ocean journey and returning adults preparing to spawn.


Orca sighting near Admiralty Head Lighthouse in Coupeville, WA

The Southern resident orcas are like a big family, with each pod having its own special habits and ways of talking. They stick together and take care of each other, led by wise elder orcas called matriarchs. There’s also another group, called transients, who hunt different food and have their own style. These orcas are super smart and communicate with each other using special calls. From late spring to late summer, the Southern resident pods spend a lot of time in the Salish Sea in the Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and the Georgia Strait- a beautiful area with lots of “salmon, primarily chinook salmon, which provide about 80% of their diet” (Orca Network). Their future depends on having enough fish to eat, especially salmon. By protecting their homes and keeping their food sources healthy, we can make sure these amazing creatures continue to thrive in our oceans for a long time.

From pristine forests to tranquil bays, the beauty and diversity of our surroundings never fail to captivate. To delve deeper into the wonders of our beloved peninsula, we invite you to visit visitkitsap.com/eoc-nature. There, you’ll find a wealth of information to inspire further exploration and appreciation of the natural treasures that make the Kitsap Peninsula a truly special place to call home.

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