Strait of Georgia

About the Strait

The Strait of Georgia, our amazing inland sea, is 220 km (135 miles) long and at its narrowest point, about 25 km (15 miles) wide.

Mariners often call it the "Gulf of Georgia", as that was the name Captain George Vancouver mistakenly gave it in 1792, and how it appeared on early maps and charts. This is why the hundreds of islands located here are called the Gulf Islands.

Georgia Strait and Puget SoundThe Strait adjoins Puget Sound in Washington State, and together these two bodies of water form a huge estuary system – a place where hundreds of rivers flow into the sea. From tiny creeks, all the way to the huge Fraser River, these fresh water sources help to shape the unique characteristics of the region and make the Strait of Georgia biologically rich.

BIOLOGY

The Strait supports an estimated 3000 species of marine life and has a wide variety of marine habitats.

From a biological point of view, the most productive habitats in the region are estuaries -- the places where rivers meet the sea, and fresh water gradually mixes with salt. As well as being vital for fish and wildlife, salt marshes and other wetland vegetation serve as the "kidneys" of the ecosystem, trapping and holding water and air-borne contaminants such as the sulfur in acid rain.

The Fraser River carries rich silt and fresh water far across the Strait. This 850-mile long river drains over 20 million hectares -- one quarter of BC. The Fraser has the largest salmon runs in North America and its estuary is a vital stopover for migrating birds from three continents.

A 1970 study by Canada's federal parks branch called Georgia Strait "one of the world's most spectacularly beautiful and ecologically rich areas" close to a population concentration. Today, Parks Canada says that southern Georgia Strait "the most at-risk natural environment in Canada".

GEOLOGY

150 million years ago, colliding continental plates created the Georgia Depression. Within the Depression are the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, together known as the Georgia Basin.

14,000 years ago, a slow moving river of ice flowed through the Fraser Valley and formed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the body of water that separates Vancouver Island from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

The enormous glaciers carved hills and valleys and their slow meltdown and retreat made room for the temperate climate which characterizes the Georgia Basin today. The Coast Salish people have lived here since the glaciers retreated. They called the region "Sqla-lot-sis" [phonetic pronunciation], which means "homeland".

ECONOMY

Georgia Strait is a magnet for tourists from all around the world, and it is essential to residents of the region for income, transportation, recreation and qualify of life.

These waters have been, and continue to be important for commercial, sports and aboriginal fishing. The shellfish industry is also economically important, with many shellfish growers located in communities around the Strait. Many others work on these waters in transport, towing and other forms of marine commerce.

Tourism is the fastest-growing industry and now probably the most important one in the region.

Learn more:

More maps & details on the Strait

Status of the Strait of Georgia - August 2008

Strait Spots: A Photographic Tour

Images of Georgia Strait - slides (Flash File)

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