The Port of Port Angeles is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Clallam County in northwest Washington State. The Port of Port Angeles is about 43 nautical miles (74 kilometers or 46 miles) southwest across the Strait from the Port of Anacortes. The Port of Port Angeles is about 70 nautical miles (98 kilometers or 61 miles) northwest of the Port of Seattle. The Port of Port Angeles is linked to Victoria, British Columbia, by ferry. The 2010 US Census reported a population of over 19 thousand people living in The Port of Port Angeles.
Port Angeles is the headquarters location for Olympic National Park. The sheltered harbor in the Port of Port Angeles supports the fishing industry. There are also dairy farms in the surrounding area, and the lumber, food processing, and paper industries are also part of the Port of Port Angeles economy. Port Angeles is home to the oldest US Coast Guard station in the country.
Before Europeans arrived in the future Port Angeles area, the Nux Sklai Yem (Strong People), or S'Klallam, lived in a region that stretches from the central British Columbia Coast to northwest Oregon. Enjoying abundant natural resources, these Salish-speaking people had inhabited the area since 1400 AD. They lived in permanent villages, but families moved around during warmer seasons to fish, hunt, and gather.
At the end of the 1700s, English and Spanish explorers came to what would become the Port Angeles area as they sought the rumored Northwest Passage. In 1791, Don Francisco de Eliza found the deep-water harbor that would become The Port of Port Angeles. There was a S'Klallam fishing village on what is called Hollywood beach in The Port of Port Angeles that is now the location of the city pier and waterfront trail.
In 1792, Captain John Kendrick visited the Port Angeles area and named the Strait Juan de Fuca. Fur traders, missionaries, gold prospectors, and then settlers followed them. The S'Klallam population was decimated by the diseases white settlers brought with them. By the time the Washington Territory was created, only about 400 S'Klallam survived in the future Port Angeles area.
The S'Klallam called the white settlers in the Puget Sound region "Bostons." As their numbers increased, the S'Klallam fought back. The territorial Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Isaac Stevens, placed a high priority on acquiring Indian lands. In 1855, he negotiated a treaty with several tribes that ceded over 438 thousand acres of S'Klallam lands. Even though the treaty preserved the people's rights to fish in their traditional lands, the S'Klallam were assigned to the Skokomish Reservation some 90 kilometers (56 miles) to the southeast. It was the 1970s before the S'Klallam's treaty rights were recognized to US Courts.
In 1934, under the Indian Reorganization Act, the US government acquired Point Julia in Port Gamble about 70 kilometers (44 miles) southeast of The Port of Port Angeles where it created a reservation for the S'Klallam. Today, they pursue traditional fishing and hunting and practice tribal customs on the 542-hectare reservation.
Since its beginnings The Port of Port Angeles has been a busy seaport. An official Customs House was established at the site in 1861. The town site was created in 1862 by executive order of Abraham Lincoln. In 1890, the US Board of Trade called The Port of Port Angeles the "Second National City," revealing its importance to the country. The City of Port Angeles was officially incorporated in 1890. Until 1894, most of the land in Port Angeles was a military reserve. White settlers, however, began to move onto the reserve and, in 1984, the US Congress agreed to sell lots to the pioneers.
Throughout its history, the boom and bust economy of Port Angeles was driven by the fishing and forest industries. Much of the cities of Seattle and San Francisco got their building materials from The Port of Port Angeles. The regenerative forest around Port Angeles provided huge trees exported through The Port of Port Angeles. Salmon was abundant in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and commercial and sports fishers and charter boats have long plied the waters off Port Angeles. Concerns for bird and salmon habitat have slowed the forestry and fishing industries in modern times, with the creation of protected areas and regulations.
In 1897, Olympic Forest Reserve was created. The Mount Olympus National Monument was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt established Olympic National Park. Seattle residents vacationed in the Port Angeles, and thousands of tourists came to the park each year, arriving in The Port of Port Angeles or Port Crescent aboard the "Mosquito Fleet" to travel through the forest by wagon and, later, by automobile.