The Strait of Juan de Fuca (officially named Juan de Fuca Strait in Canada) is a large body of water about 95 miles (153 km) long that is the Salish Sea's outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait.
It was named in 1787 by the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley, captain of the Imperial Eagle, for Juan de Fuca, the Greek navigator who sailed in a Spanish expedition in 1592 to seek the fabled Strait of Anián. Barkley was the first non-indigenous person to find the strait, unless Juan de Fuca's story was true. The strait was explored in detail between 1789 and 1791 by Manuel Quimper, José María Narváez, Juan Carrasco, Gonzalo López de Haro, and Francisco de Eliza.
The USGS defines the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a channel. It extends east from the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to Haro Strait, San Juan Channel, Rosario Strait, and Puget Sound. The Pacific Ocean boundary is formed by a line between Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island, and Carmanah Point (Vancouver Island), British Columbia. Its northern boundary follows the shoreline of Vancouver Island from Carmanah Point to Gonzales Point, then follows a continuous line east to Seabird Point (Discovery Island), British Columbia, Cattle Point (San Juan Island), Washington, Iceberg Point (Lopez Island), Point Colville (Lopez Island), and then to Rosario Head (Fidalgo Island). The eastern boundary runs south from Rosario Head across Deception Pass to Whidbey Island, then along the western coast of Whidbey Island to Point Partridge, then across Admiralty Inlet to Point Wilson (Quimper Peninsula). The northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula forms the southern boundary of the strait. In the eastern entrance to the Strait, the Race Rocks Archipelago is located in the high current zone halfway between Port Angeles, Washington, and Victoria, BC.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca's coastline is along the following Washington counties:
It also borders these Regional Districts of British Columbia, Canada.
- Capital Regional District
- Cowichan Valley Regional District
Like the rest of the Salish Sea and surrounding regions, the climate of the Strait is disputed, with the Köppen system classifying it as Mediterranean, but most regional climatologists preferring oceanic. While the climate is mostly oceanic in nature, the dry summers result in the Mediterranean classification in the Köppen system. Rainfall ranges from over 100 inches (250 cm) (temperate rainforest) conditions at the west end to as little as 16 inches (41 cm) at the east end, near Sequim.
Because it is exposed to the generally westerly winds and waves of the Pacific, seas and weather in Juan de Fuca Strait are, on average, rougher than in the more protected waters inland, thereby resulting in a number of small-craft advisories.
An international vehicle ferry crosses the Strait from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia several times each day, as do passenger ferries of the Washington State Ferry system, a seasonal private ferry connecting Port Angeles with Victoria, and a private high-speed ferry between Seattle and Victoria.
- Some scenes from the film The Hunt for Red October were filmed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1989.
- The unpredictable weather conditions and coast characteristics have caused a significant number of shipwrecks in this area. It is part of an area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.
- On 4 April 1997, a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter was allegedly illuminated by a laser while observing the Russian merchant ship and suspected spy vessel Kapitan Man, which was in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in U.S. territorial waters near Port Angeles, Washington. The Canadian Air Force pilot and the U.S. Navy passenger, who was taking photographs of the ship, reportedly suffered eye pain and injuries consistent with laser exposure. However, subsequent investigations into the incident were unable to verify that any lasing had occurred.