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Thea Foss Waterway facts for kids

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Thea Foss Waterway
City Waterway
Thea Foss Waterway is located in Washington (state)
Thea Foss Waterway
Thea Foss Waterway
Location in Washington (state)
Location Tacoma, Washington
Coordinates 47°15′44″N 122°26′14″W / 47.2623214°N 122.4373462°W / 47.2623214; -122.4373462
Type Inlet
Etymology Thea Foss
Part of Commencement Bay

The Thea Foss Waterway, formerly the City Waterway, is a north–south inlet of Commencement Bay separating downtown Tacoma, Washington, from the Port of Tacoma.


Tacoma was the site of an early sawmill in 1853. The deepwater port began to boom in the 1870s, sailing ships and steam tugs called in. The Northern Pacific Railroad arrived, by way of the Columbia River in 1874,and the port began to boom (the line via Montana was finished in 1883, but access from California and Nevada did not come till 1891). Tea, wheat, lumber, coal, and apples were moved. Trade with Asia exploded. A through railway line was built across the Cascade mountains at Stampede Pass in 1890s and Tacoma began its longtime rivalry with its upstart neighbor 25 miles to the north.

Thea Foss, the waterway's namesake, founded the Foss Maritime Company on the inlet in 1889. She expanded with rowboats, naptha launches and steam tugs. Foss Tug became the pre-eminent towing company in Puget Sound. Today Foss is the largest tug concern on the Pacific Coast.

Initially, the railroads owned the foreshore, as they continue to do till this day. But the City Fathers of Tacoma saw the need to wrest control of the land and build the port. In 1919, the Port of Tacoma was established to capture Panama Canal Traffic, and the sprawling port was expanded into the river delta. Another major railroad arrived--the Milwaukee Road, and it brought further trade.

Sawmills, cedar shingle mills, boat yards, wharves, granaries and warehouses proliferated in the area. Railroad yards extended on the flat foreshore. Fishworks, and processing plants were set up on the shore.

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