Water Transport Pivotal Throughout Island History

Water is a pivotal factor in the history and identity of Vashon - Maury Island. Indian camps dotted points along the beach inside Quartermaster Harbor. These permanent
villages and seasonal encampments were inhabited by natives while engaging in their hunting and gathering subsistence lifestyle. Dugout canoes were a means of transportation.


In 1792 British explorers were the first non-natives to see Vashon.  An expedition in 1841 by Lt. Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition further expanded the knowledge of the area including more detail about Vashon-Maury Island.


Steamers out of Tacoma and Seattle provided transport for settlers, bringing their supplies to the island. Steamer stops became landings, from which waterfront communities sprung up. Logging, lumber and in the 1880’s shipbuilding grew to be significant industries.


Ferries eventually eclipsed steamers as the primary mode of transportation. Water has remained as the common denominator in travel for hundreds of years, being the most efficient way to get back and forth from where people work and live. 

Siwash canoe
Early Vashon Island ferry.
Ellisport ferry dock.
Coast Salish canoe, circa 1895. (MSCUA–University of Washington photo)
Steamer Vashon built at Dockton circa 1900
Visitors to first Strawberry Festival at Ellisport circa 1910
Vahon Island history: Water