A public pier, owned by the city of Tacoma, is 0.6 mile SE of the S marker of the measured mile course on the SW side of Commencement Bay; small craft moor here temporarily. There are numerous other small-craft facilities on Hylebos, Blair, and Thea Foss Waterways, and on the NE and SW shores of Commencement Bay.
Click the “Map View” button above to see a chart of this harbor.
Commencement Bay entrance lies 18 miles S of Alki Point and 56 miles S of Point Wilson. The bay is about 2.5 miles in length, easy of access, and free of dangers.
Tacoma, the second city in size and importance on the sound, occupies the S and SW shores of Commencement Bay. The Port of Tacoma is a rapidly expanding major port, second only to Seattle in maritime importance on Puget Sound.
On entering Commencement Bay, either from the N via East Passage or Colvos Passage or from the S via The Narrows and Dalco Passage, Dash Point, Browns Point, and Point Defiance are prominent. Browns Point Light (47°18’21″N., 122°26’39″W.), 38 feet above the water, is shown from a 35-foot white concrete house on Browns Point. Once inside the bay, numerous stacks, tanks, and towers are visible.
From the SE corner of Commencement Bay, the city waterfront extends NW to the SE corner of Point Defiance Park. Along here are numerous industrial plants with wharves to accommodate vessels drawing 30 feet or more.
Thea Foss Waterwayis the westernmost of the channels at the head of the bay; a light is on the E side of the entrance. In 2007, an 11-foot obstruction was midchannel (47°14’57″N., 122°25’58″W.). Two deep-draft wharves and many oil storage tanks are on the E side.
There are two bridges over the waterway. The South 11th Street vertical lift bridge, 0.5 mile from the entrance to the waterway, has a clearance of 64 feet down and 139 feet up. A fixed highway bridge near the head of the waterway has a clearance of 28 feet (36 feet at the center).
Middle Waterway, NE of Thea Foss Waterway, and St. Paul Waterway, NE of Middle Waterway, are not Federal projects. The inner parts of both waterways have shoaled and are not navigable; there is no deep-draft traffic. St. Paul Waterway is used for log storage by the large papermill which occupies the land on the NE side.
Puyallup Waterway, NE of St. Paul Waterway, discharges the water of Puyallup River. The waterway has shoaled to such an extent that it cannot be used commercially. A lighted buoy marks a shoal area extending about 500 yards NW of the entrance. A fixed bridge, with a clearance of 29 feet, crosses the waterway about 0.7 mile above the mouth. An overhead cable, just SE of the bridge, has a clearance of 46 feet.
Sitcum Waterway, NE of Puyallup Waterway, is maintained at more than the project depth of 40 feet. The Port of Tacoma’s Pier 7 is on the E side. A private light is just off the NW end of Pier 7; it marks the NE side of the entrance to Sitcum Waterway.
The next two channels to the NE of Sitcum Waterway, Blair Waterway and Hylebos Waterway, are maintained as Federal projects. A lighted buoy is off a shoal on the N side of the entrance and a private light is on the S side at the NW end of Pier 25; these aids mark the entrance to Hylebos Waterway. The entrance to Blair Waterway is marked by a private lighted buoy on the SW side. Project depths in Hylebos Waterway are 30 feet in the waterway and basins. The project depth in Blair Waterway is 51 feet in the waterway and basin.
The 11th Street bascule bridge over Hylebos Waterway has a clearance of 21 feet. The bridgetender monitors VHF-FM channel 16 and works on channel 13. Call signs: KZN-574, Hylebos Bridge. A power cable at the bridge has a clearance of 173 feet.
A city ordinance prohibits speeds in excess of 5 knots on any of the waterways and within 200 yards of any shore or pier in the harbor.