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Strait of Georgia at sunset
The Strait of Georgia or the Georgia Strait[57839] (also known as the Gulf of Georgia), is a strait between Vancouver Islandmarker (as well as its nearby Gulf Islandsmarker) and the mainland Pacificmarker coast of British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker. It is approximately long and varies in width from 18.5 to 55 km (11.5 to 34 mi). Archipelagos and narrow channels mark each end of the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islandsmarker in the south, and the Discovery Islands in the north. The main channels to the south are Haro Straitmarker and Rosario Straitmarker, which connect the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker. In the north, Discovery Passagemarker is the main channel connecting the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Straitmarker.

The USGS defines the southern boundary of the Strait of Georgia as a line running from East Point on Saturna Islandmarker to Patos Islandmarker, Sucia Islandmarker, and Matia Islandmarker, then to Point Migley on Lummi Islandmarker. This line touches the northern edges of Rosario Straitmarker, which leads south to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Boundary Passmarker, which leads south to Haro Straitmarker and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The mean depth of the Strait of Georgia is , with a maximum depth of . Its surface area is approximately . The Fraser River accounts for roughly 80% of the freshwater entering the strait. Water circulates in the strait in a general counter-clockwise direction.

The term "Gulf of Georgia" includes other waters than the Georgia Strait proper such as the interinsular straits and channels of the Gulf Islandsmarker, and as a region name may refer to communities on the littoral (shore) of southern Vancouver Island. As defined by George Vancouver in 1792, the Gulf of Georgia included all the inland waters beyond the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, including Puget Soundmarker, Bellingham Baymarker, the waters around the San Juan Islandsmarker, and the Strait of Georgia.


Several major islands are in the strait, the largest being Texada Islandmarker and Lasqueti Islandmarker. The strait is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America, owing to the presence of the port of Vancouver. The two busiest routes of the British Columbia Ferries system cross the strait, between Tsawwassenmarker (south of Vancouver) and Swartz Baymarker (near Victoriamarker) and between Horseshoe Baymarker (north of Vancouver) and Nanaimomarker.


First Nations communities have surrounded the Strait of Georgia for thousands of years. The first European exploration, however, was undertaken by Captain Jose Maria Narvaez and Pilot Juan Carrasco of Spainmarker, in 1791. At this time Francisco de Eliza gave the strait the name of "Gran Canal de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera." In 1792, however, it was renamed for King George III as the "Gulf of Georgia" by George Vancouver of Great Britainmarker, during his extensive expedition along the west coast of North America. Vancouver designated the mainland in this region as New Georgia, and farther north as New Hanover and New Bremen.

The June 23, 1946 Vancouver Island earthquakemarker shocked the Strait of Georgia region, causing the bottom of Deep Baymarker to sink between and .


Towns and cities on the strait include Courtenaymarker, Comoxmarker, Qualicum Beachmarker, Parksvillemarker, Lantzvillemarker and Nanaimomarker on the western shore, as well as Powell Rivermarker, Sechelt, Gibsonsmarker, and Greater Vancouver on the east. Across the border in the United Statesmarker, Bellingham, Washingtonmarker and other communities also lie on the eastern shore. Other settlements on Vancouver Island (such as Duncanmarker) and the mainland are separated from Georgia Strait itself by islands.

The Strait of Georgia is also widely known as a premier scuba diving and whale watching location.

In 1967, Georgia Strait inspired the name of Vancouver's alternative newspaper, The Georgia Straight, which has published continuously since.

Georgia Strait bridge proposal

Georgia Strait in the morning
A controversial idea has existed since 1872 of replacing the ferry service on the South Coast with a bridge across the Strait of Georgia. The first idea was to cross Seymour Narrows at Menzies Bay, British Columbiamarker with a rail bridge for the nascent Canadian Pacific Railway to link Victoria, via Bute Inlet and the Yellowhead Pass, with the rest of Canada.

The proposed modern road bridge connecting the GVRDmarker, now called Metro Vancouver, to Vancouver Islandmarker in the manner of the Cheasapeake Bay bridge/tunnel, has been discussed for decades, ever since the commencement of service with BC Ferries. Some crossing design suggestions include a part floating/part submerged tunnel to allow ship traffic to move freely. The hurricane-force windstorms of Typhoon Freda and of December 2006 also detract from the safety of such a project.

Support for the construction of the bridge includes arguments that a reliable link to Vancouver Island from mainland Canada will increase tourism and growth on Vancouver Island.

The opposition argues that construction of a bridge will result in further urbanization of the island and that the area's environment will be negatively affected by construction and the increase in tourism. Other potential problems are the width and depth of the strait and the soft consistency of the strait floor, as well as high seismic activity in the Vancouver Island region, and the fact that the strait is heavily used as a navigation channel. Also the depth of the strait is far in excess of any other bridged body of water worldwide.

Former BC cabinet minister Dr. Patrick McGeer, a research neuroscientist and a science advocate, has repeatedly advanced the proposal over recent decades. In a recent statement on the subject, during a CKNW news item broadcast in August 2008, McGeer said he thinks the idea just needs "a visionary politician" to support the idea. The idea has formal opposition in the form of an Islands Trust policy banning the building of any bridges or tunnels connecting the Gulf Islands, either to the Mainland or to Vancouver Island. McGeer still has the model of the bridge idea that was displayed at Expo 86.

Proposed renaming

In March 2008, the Chemainus First Nation proposed renaming the strait the "Salish Seamarker," an idea that reportedly met with approval by B.C.'s Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong, who pledged to put it before the B.C. cabinet for discussion, although it is not supported by other First Nations. Renaming would require a formal application to the Geographical Names Board of Canada. A parallel American movement promoting the name has a different definition, inclusive of the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker and Puget Soundmarker as well as the Strait of Georgia and related waters. The term has come into regular use in various United States-based publications and organizations, but not with the same meaning as that claimed by the Chemainus First Nation.

As of August 2009, the Washington state Board of Geographic Names had approved the creation of the Salish Sea toponym, though not replacing the names of the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca but instead as a collective term for them all. The British Columbia Geographical Names Office passed a resolution only recommending that the name be adopted by the Geographic Names Board of Canada, should its US counterpart approve the name-change, which remains unofficial until approved by the United States Board of Geographic Names.

See also


  1. Environmental History and Features of Puget Sound, NOAA-NWFSC
  2. Washington state adopts “Salish Sea” name for body of water including Strait of Georgia, Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight, October 30, 2009
  3. Smooth Sailing for the Salish Sea?, Knute Berger, Crosscut Blog, Oct 20, 2009

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