Maury Island Aquatic Reserve

Maury Island Aquatic Reserve provides foraging grounds, spawning grounds, and resting grounds for multitudes of fish, marine invertebrates and mammals, and migrating and nesting birds. Surrounded by a mix of moderately developed and natural shorelines, this Reserve faces the unique challenge of preserving the productive and diverse habitats while still supporting the use of the area for traditional recreation.

About the Reserve

The Maury Island Aquatic Reserve is a highly diverse, productive, and unique ecosystem that encompasses all of Vashon Island’s Quartermaster Harbor in King County. It encompasses approximately 5,530 acres of state-owned land and is adjacent to several miles of shoreline. The Reserve’s boundary includes all of Quartermaster Harbor and stretches outside of the harbor from Neill Point to the shores between Point Robinson and Luana Beach. The Reserve boundary extends out to a depth of 70 feet or one-half mile – whichever is farther.

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Jensen Point

Located within inner Quartermaster Harbor, this park provides four acres of shoreline access and boat access to Aquatic Reserve.

For directions and more information click here.


Raab’s Lagoon

Located at the entrance to inner Quartermaster Harbor, this small public beach provides shoreline access to the Aquatic Reserve.

For directions and more information click here.


Dockton Park

Located on the west side of Maury Island in outer Quartermaster Harbor, this county park provides shoreline and boat access to the Aquatic Reserve.

For directions and more information see this brochure.


Maury Island Natural Area

Located on the east side of Maury Island, this county park provides sweeping views of the Aquatic Reserve. Access to the shoreline is possible; however trails are not maintained.

For directions and more information see this brochure.


Maury Island Marine Park

Located on the east side of Maury Island, this county park provides sweeping views and over a mile of shoreline access to the Aquatic Reserve.

For directions and more information see this brochure.


Point Robinson

Located on the easternmost tip of Maury Island, this park provides shoreline access to the Reserve and sweeping views of the South Sound.

For directions and more information click here.


There are 78 species of birds that nest and forage in and around the Reserve. The Reserve also provides high-quality wintering grounds for Western Grebes.

Marine Mammals

River otters, harbor seals, Orca whales, harbor porpoises, and California sea lions visit the Reserve. These predators use the Reserve and surrounding waters to hunt for food, find resting grounds, and rear their young.


Juvenile and adult Chinook, Coho, and Chum salmon use the sheltered bay’s shallows as a place to mature away from predators before swimming to the open ocean. The eastern shoreline of Maury Island is an important migratory corridor for these species as they move through central Puget Sound.

Forage Fish

Three species of forage fish (sand lance, Pacific herring, and surf smelt) spawn in the Reserve. Forage fish are a critically important food source for marine birds, salmon, and other large marine predators.

Marine Invertebrates

Invertebrates such as marine worms, snails, clams, crabs, shrimp, and countless others, call the Reserve home. These critters provide vital links in the Reserve’s food chain by becoming food for the local bird, fish, and mammal populations.

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

Eelgrass and macro algae, like bull kelp, provide various habitat functions for many species. These functions include rearing habitat for juvenile salmon, crab and other fish, spawning areas for Pacific herring, shelter for an abundance of prey species, and shade in the summer, cooling the water during low tides and hot days.

Quartermaster Harbor

Quartermaster Harbor is entirely included in the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve. The harbor is the location of one of the 18 known and distinct herring spawning grounds and is designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area.

In this same habitat, the majority of shorelines are developed, several marinas operate, and there is significant recreational vessel traffic. The harbor’s shallow and protected habitats that support a vast array of ecological features coupled with the heavy influence from human development make this an important ecosystem to protect.

Commercial Geoduck Harvest Areas

The Aquatic Reserve contains four commercial geoduck harvest tracks. The largest impact of the commercial geoduck fishery is the disappearance of these large unmoving animals from the ecosystem. Natural recovery is thought to take an average of about 40 years. Other impacts include noise from commercial boat operations, and disturbances to the substrate and water column in and around the harvest site.

Historical and Cultural Significance

This Reserve is included in the Puyallup Tribe’s exclusive usual and accustomed fishing rights. The Puyallup tribe co-manages the natural resources in coordination with state agencies to ensure lasting use of these resources.

Point Robinson Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was originally constructed as a fog signal in 1885, but was rebuilt to current conditions in 1915.

Adjacent to the Reserve is the location of a historical portage, an area used to carry water craft or cargo between bodies of water. During the period when the portage was still submerged at high tide, the area was a favorite fishing and hunting ground of the Nisqually people. Nets in this area were used to capture abundant waterfowl.


Nitrogen from fertilizers and livestock, pet, and human waste enters the Reserve through streams, outfalls and polluted stormwater runoff. The excess of nitrogen causes an ecological phenomenon that eventually depletes the amount of dissolved oxygen to a level where oxygen-dependent creatures cannot survive.

Marine debris, both floating in the water and washed up on shore also threaten all types of life in the Reserve. Oil spills are another threat to this productive marine ecosystem. The presence of vessels, both recreational and industrial, increases the risk of litter and chemical pollution in the Reserve.

Bulkheads and Docks

Construction of bulkheads, other types of hard shoreline armoring, groins, and docks reduce the amount of suitable habitat for rearing juvenile salmon, forage fish spawning, nesting for birds, and starves the beach of new sediment, critical to maintain a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Click here to learn how to protect property while promoting healthy shorelines.

Loss of Native Vegetation

Loss of native vegetation both along the shoreline and upland can greatly impact the health of the aquatic ecosystem. Along the shore, vegetation provides critical shading of the nearshore habitat during the summer’s hottest days, a home for the insects that make up the majority of juvenile salmon’s diets, and a natural erosion buffer that maintains the gradual feeding of sediment onto the beach. Bulkheads and invasive species both threaten the presence of native vegetation along the shoreline.

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