Find Posts By Topic

The Pioneer Square Habitat Beach is now open, bringing waterfront views and improvements to marine habitat

The Waterfront Seattle logo and a photo taken on the shore of Habitat Beach. Graphic Credit: Waterfront Seattle Program

Blog stats: 925 words | 5-minute read

Editor’s Note: This is a blog post from the Waterfront Seattle Program.

The Waterfront Seattle Program is a collaboration between the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects and other Seattle departments including the Mayor’s Office, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Planning and Community Development, and Parks and Recreation.

With all the excitement surrounding MLB All Star Week, you may have missed another exciting update along the waterfront! The City’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects opened the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach, located between Colman Dock and Pier 48, on July 1.

Easy walking distance from Pioneer Square and the stadiums, the beach was primarily developed to support marine habitat along the waterfront while providing passersby with a perfect place to sit and watch the ferries and other boat traffic sail by.

Two people sit on a large rock on the habitat beach looking out at the horizon on a sunny day
Visitors are welcome to step out onto the beach and take in the view of Elliott Bay. Photo: Joseph Dolejsi

Construction of the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach was completed in 2020 but remained closed to the public to give the new plants time to get established. Coastal plantings are a key component of the nearshore ecosystem, mimicking natural shorelines in the area and providing benefits to marine life.

“We know people have been watching how the habitat beach vegetation has grown and established itself over time and have been wondering when they would be able to explore this new community amenity. We are excited to invite people down to enjoy the new beach.”

Angela Brady, Acting Director of the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects
Views of Elliott Bay from the beach. Photo: Marty Johnson

The beach is a part of the new 20-acre Waterfront Park that will be opening in phases between now and 2025. Once completed, Waterfront Park will extend along the waterfront from the stadiums and Pioneer Square up to Belltown with extensions to the east that connect the waterfront to culturally rich downtown neighborhoods and the downtown core.

A graphic map showing the area of the Waterfront Seattle project from Bell St to CenturyLink Field. The location of the habitat beach within that area is marked by a star that says "you are here"
The beach is located between the Colman Dock ferry terminal and Pier 48. Graphic credit: Waterfront Seattle

Marine habitat improvements support safe passage for juvenile salmon

The Pioneer Square Habitat Beach is part of a series of marine habitat improvements implemented along with the first phase of the Elliott Bay Seawall Replacement Project. It was designed with a special focus on encouraging juvenile salmon migration. These marine improvements were developed on state-owned property thanks to an agreement between Washington State Ferries and the City of Seattle.

When the existing waterfront was first developed, many of the native intertidal elements were lost — including sloping beaches, crevices, and vegetated hiding places for fish. Restoring the function of a natural shoreline and improving ecosystem productivity is an important goal of the Waterfront Seattle program and the new Waterfront Park.

Aerial view of the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach along the waterfront, south of the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal. Photo: Tim Rice 

To build this man-made intertidal shoreline, Waterfront Seattle used over 45,000 tons — roughly the weight of 22.5 commercial airplanes — of sand, gravel, shells, soil and rocks in varying sizes. The shells were kindly donated by the Suquamish tribe. The beach also includes over 1,400 native plants, including shore pines, Oregon grapes, Nootka roses, Douglas asters, sea plantains and other native plants.

Check out this coloring page for more information about the layers that make up the beach.

Enjoying the Space

View of the beach from the Colman Dock ferry terminal.  Photo: Bob Derry. 

If you have not been already, we hope you are able to explore the beach soon! It will be open every day from 7 AM to 10 PM.

Because the beach is a key component to Seattle’s nearshore marine habitat, there are some rules to keep in mind before heading down, including no swimming, no entering and exiting the water by personal watercraft, and always packing out what you pack in. Additional rules and regulations will be posted on-site. We kindly ask that you leave nothing behind to keep the beach as pristine as possible for future visitors.

Seattle Center began its new role as the City’s lead department for operations of Waterfront Park on July 1, with a dedicated groundskeeping and security team that will be on hand at the site to help maintain Waterfront Park spaces and to help keep them safe. This is part of our partnership with Friends of Waterfront Seattle, the non-profit organization responsible for fundraising, activating, and stewarding the park.

What’s next?

The Pioneer Square Habitat Beach will need to be temporarily closed this fall to accommodate installation of indigenous artwork, part of honoring nearby Ballast Island. The artwork and historical information will be installed by the Washington State Department of Transportation as part of their coordination with local tribes.

The Washington Street Boat Landing was restored and will have a concessionaire activating the space. Photo: Bob Derry

Additionally, the historic Washington Street Boat Landing restored by Waterfront Seattle and located on Alaskan Way above the Pioneer Square Habitat Beach (pictured above) will open to the public next year. Friends of Waterfront Seattle is working with the concessionaire to begin operations by spring 2024. 

To stay up to date on the beach and everything waterfront, we encourage you to visit the website or follow Waterfront Seattle on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Learn more: