Working waterfront walking tours begin once again

2019 was the last time the tours were offered to the public.

A successful but short-lived series of walking tours of the Westport Marine district that was unceremoniously ended by the pandemic resumed on Thursday, Sept. 22.

The tours highlighted Westport’s working waterfront, a hub for bringing seafood ashore, and Washington’s only deepwater port directly on the Pacific.

“Westport specifically has an incredible working waterfront. It’s certainly not a yacht club,” said the marina’s general manager Molly Bold in a phone interview. “Westport is the biggest seafood landing port in Washington state. We’re usually in the top 10 or 15 in the country in terms of seafood landing.”

Charter fishing, commercial fishing and seafood processing all revolve around the waterfront, Bold said. The tours, which began in 2019, but were suspended during the pandemic, introduced tour-takers to fishermen, marina workers, and other personnel out on the floats. Sign-ups were available online at the Port of Grays Harbor website.

“We always are giving tours to potential customers or out-of-town groups that are coming to learn about Grays Harbor,” Bold said. “It’s new to offer them to the general public.”

Westport began to coalesce in its current form in the 1920s with the construction of the jetty, the lighthouse and installation of a Coast Guard station, said the executive director of the Westport Maritime Museum John Shaw.

“Those are the (three) core things that created the town. Those are the two first things that happened,” said Shaw in a phone interview. “As the lighthouse and the jetties took hold and the lifesaving service was here, the fishing industry here bloomed.”

The jetties anchored the area, which up until construction, had been a drifting sand point unsuitable for building any serious structures on, Shaw said. With the addition of the lighthouse and Coast Guard presence, the fishing industry, which until then had largely tied up in Hoquiam, flourished, Shaw said.

“That’s what allowed the fishing industry and other industries to grow out of it,” Shaw said. “In the day, where Westport is was just a shifting sand point.”

That unique relationship, those close ties to the vast ocean, all make the tour a worthwhile walk, to understand Westport’s singular place in Grays Harbor.

“We want people who want to learn about the working waterfront, to understand (what) they have in their own community,” Bold said. “Westport is unique. It’s not something you have in every harbor.”