The UW ERIS observatory is intended to monitor the near-shore marine environment in Portage Bay. The first ERIS station will be located immediately off the UW Oceanography Dock.

            Portage Bay in 2013

Detail of UW Oceanography Facilities – Proposed ERIS Site

1909 map showing Lake Union and Lake Washington before the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Source: The Coast magazine, Sept. 1909, Volume XVIII, Number 3, p. 140

Portage Bay, part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, is a unique and historically interesting body of water. Prior to the  construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Lake Union and Lake Washington were separate, unconnected bodies of water. Carved by glaciers during the last ice age, the two lakes were natural features that played a significant role in the colonization of the early Seattle area.  As the timber industry around Lake Washington grew in the late 1800’s, a method was needed to transport logs from Lake Washington to Puget Sound.  Logging interest, as well as interest from the Navy in securing a fresh water anchorage site for their ships, and failure to connect Lake Washington to the Sound by other routes led to the official Washington State Legislature approval of a proposed canal in 1900. Construction of the canal, which would connect Lake Washington to Lake Union and subsequently Puget Sound, began in 1911 and was completed in 1917 with the opening of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

Portage Bay, given its name for the areas’ portage trails once used to carry watercraft over land, was originally a feature of Lake Union before the substantial modifications to the lake-ocean system. Though not a man-made body of water, such as the Montlake Cut, Portage Bay has been changed dramatically by the surface connection of Lake Washington and Puget Sound, as well as the urbanization of the Seattle area. Today, the shores of Portage Bay are almost entirely lined with residential houseboats, commercials and private dockspace, and the University of Washington facilities.

Current view of University of Washington across Portage Bay

Bathymetric surveys of the proposed ERIS site are currently being performed by students and will be available shortly.






Crowley, W. “Lake Washington Ship Canal.” HistoryLink. 1 July 1999. Web. 21 April 2013. < http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=1444>

Becker, P. “Seattle Neighborhoods: Portage Bay-Roanoke-North Capitol Hill.” HistoryLink. 25 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 April 2013. < http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=10180>




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