Summer Road Trip: Maritime Matters in Bremerton and Seattle

It’s 75 miles from Port Angeles to the City of Bremerton, Washington, the next stop on our NARA summer road trip. Our drive takes us past Discovery Bay and over the Hood Canal Bridge. We can see the Olympic Mountains in the West, prompting us to remember yesterday’s visit to Olympic National Park. As we drive through Bremerton, we notice a naval base and shipyard, which are part of the U.S. Navy’s large Naval Base Kitsap.

The Navy has a long history in Bremerton. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has been in use since 1891, established first as a Naval Station and then as a Navy Yard. The Navy has been building, repairing, and storing ships there since 1901. Navy sailors stationed in Bremerton may come from anywhere in the country. The following clip from the Navy’s Welcome Aboard orientation video series provides an overview of what sailors could expect to find in Bremerton in 1997.

We drive down toward the ferry terminal and visit the Puget Sound Navy Museum and the USS Turner Joy (DD-951), a naval destroyer turned floating museum. Then we drive our car onto one of the Washington State Ferries for a one-hour ferry ride across Puget Sound to the City of Seattle.

Keeping with our maritime theme, our first stop is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The Locks allow vessels ranging in size from kayaks to ferry boats to travel between saltwater Puget Sound and the freshwater Lake Union and Lake Washington. Built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Locks look much the same as they did when they were built in 1916. The following photos—dated 1916, 1925, and 1937—depict distinctive structures that we see on our visit.

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In the early 1930s Harry J. Christoffers, an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, rode a boat through the Chittenden Locks and filmed the trip using an early color film stock. It’s fascinating how similar his experience was to that of boaters in the present, all the way down to the gathered groups of onlookers.

After a leisurely time spent exploring the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden and watching boats pass through the Locks, we learn from a local resident that we are in town during Seattle’s Seafair. This annual summer festival has events spread through all the neighborhoods of the city. (Watch out for the Pirates!) Some of the biggest attractions are the Torchlight Parade, Fleet Week and the Maritime Celebration, and the hydroplane boat races on Lake Washington. Because of Seafair’s maritime theme, the U.S. Navy always plays a part in the festivities and has documented its involvement in photographs.

One of the most popular Seafair events is the airshow, featuring the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels. We decide to stake out a spot along Lake Washington to watch.

After enjoying the festivities of Seafair, we decide to move on and continue our road trip. We head out on I-90, travelling East through the Cascade Mountains on our way to the Continental Divide and the Badlands.

Mountains to Sound Greenway - I-105 - Scenic White Flowers Above I-90. The Mountains to Sound Greenway curves around a forested mountainside in Snoqualmie Pass. White flowers fill a field in the foreground below a brilliant blue sky. (NAID: 7720483)
Mountains to Sound Greenway–Scenic White Flowers Above I-90. The Mountains to Sound Greenway curves around a forested mountainside in Snoqualmie Pass. White flowers fill a field in the foreground below a brilliant blue sky. (NAID: 7720483)

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