The Port of Brownsville is located in Kitsap County, Washington, on Puget Sound. The Port of Brownsville is about 15 nautical miles around Bainbridge Island (19 kilometers or 12 miles direct) west-northwest of the Port of Seattle. The Port of Brownsville is an unincorporated community on the north side of Burke Bay on the Kitsap Peninsula. Mainly a small residential community, the Port of Brownsville has a relatively remote harbor and marina.
The Suquamish are a branch of the Puget Salish speaking people that lived on the Kitsap Peninsula across Puget Sound from modern Seattle for ten thousand years. Chief Seattle was an ancestral leader of the Suquamish Tribe. When Captain George Vancouver first anchored in the waters off Bainbridge Island in 1792, Chief Seattle was a six-year-old boy.
"Suquamish" means "people of the clear salt water," and their main winter village was on the Agate Passage shoreline. They fished for salmon, cod, clams, and other bottom fish and shellfish. They also depended on gathering berries and roots and on hunting waterfowl, deer, and other game. The Suquamish people traveled in dugout cedar canoes away from their winter villages to temporary camps in the spring, summer, and fall. Their canoes were formed from a single cedar log.
After first contact with Captain George Vancouver in 1792, Suquamish lives began to change. The first white settlers were fur traders and missionaries, and they were followed by settlers arriving over the Oregon Trail. White settlements began to grow rapidly in the 1850s when the US Congress opened Indian lands to non-natives. Soon, sawmills appeared in the area, and the Suquamish harvested logs for the mills to support themselves.
The pioneers who settled Seattle were helped by the Suquamish in their early years, but there was hunger for timber and a route for the transcontinental railroad. In 1855, Chief Seattle led Puget Salish tribes in signing the Treaty of Point Elliott, ceding tribal lands to the United States. In 1890, a group of Seattle pioneers recognized the legacy of Chief Seattle and the Suquamish people by placing a marble headstone on the Chief's grave.
Terms of the Point Elliott treaty included the establishment of Port Madison Indian Reservation just north of today's Indianola about 13 kilometers (eight miles) northeast of the Port of Brownsville. Today, about half of the 950 enrolled members of the Suquamish Tribe live on the reservation. The people are undergoing a cultural rebirth. Still exercising their rights to fish and gather shellfish, the tribe practices self-governance and has about 240 employees.
When Scandinavian Europeans came to live in the Port of Brownsville area, the first-growth forests were almost gone. For a time, farming was the major activity in the Port of Brownsville; however, it soon became a center for rural homes and recreation.
In 1888, an unofficial post office was opened in the future Port of Brownsville. Voters of Kitsap County approved the establishment of the Port of Brownsville and elected its first commissioners in 1920. Since its inception, the Port of Brownsville has provided recreational opportunities for the public.
By the 1960s, vessel traffic congested the Port of Brownsville. A new comprehensive plan for the Port of Brownsville was laid out in 1967. By the late 1990s, the Port of Brownsville had completed a new breakwater system that protected moored boats. In 2000, a new over-water pavilion was added in the Port of Brownsville which quickly became a popular spot for events. In 2006, a large commercial barbecue facility was added to the pavilion, increasing its popularity.
In 2001, the Port of Brownsville joined the Washington Water Trails and became part of the Cascadia Marine Trail. To support these activities, the Port of Brownsville built campsites for beachable human- and wind-powered boats.
In 2002-2003, the Port of Brownsville added a new main gate and boat ramp facility for 9.1-meter (30-foot) boats, added a children's life-vest pool, and opened environmentally-friendly power and sailboat grids to reduce pressure on marina hotspots. The Port of Brownsville also added a floating pump-out and restroom facility.
Starting in 2005, the Port of Brownsville celebrates its annual Brownsville Appreciation Day with food, live music, dinghy rides in the marina, and kids' games. Proceeds from the sale of hotdogs, hamburgers, and drinks are donated to the Port of Brownsville's four elementary schools.
The Port of Brownsville acquired a self-propelled floating work platform in 2005 to use as a floating fire fighting station. It has also been used to step and unstep sailboat masts, remove and replace vessel engines and transmissions, and perform port-related maintenance and repair jobs like putting a new roof on the north breakwater gate.
In 2006, the Port of Brownsville added ten 12.2-meter (40-foot) finger piers inside the east breakwater to increase capacity for guest boaters. The Port of Brownsville also enlarged the marina by adding five 15.2-meter (50-foot) slips at the E-dock and upgrading electric services there. In 2007, the Port of Brownsville bought a closed fire station that was adjacent to the port. The Port of Brownsville is refurbishing building, including adding a sewer line to the county sewer lift station, bringing the first sewer dump station for recreational vessels to Kitsap County. A new pump-out boat was acquired in 2008, quickly becoming very popular with both permanent and guest boaters.