Paddle on the Tacoma waterfront

Experience the Tacoma waterfront on the water! Many local businesses and clubs offer a way to exercise while enjoying the views and natural surroundings. Renting a kayak or joining a paddling club is also an inexpensive way to go boating. Consider some of these options:

Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard

Get your feet wet by trying out a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at one of the marinas. The Foss Harbor Marina and Dock Street Marina offer rentals on the Foss Waterway. Metro Parks Tacoma offers kayak rentals at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park.

Cost: Rates can vary and average about $25 for a two-hour, single kayak rental.

Join a paddling club

Enjoy working out with teammates with a South Sound paddling club, or cheer for the paddlers at a race in Tacoma!

Dragon boat. The Tacoma Dragon Boat Association (TDBA) paddles year-round for recreation and competition. Membership is $100 per year. To see if dragon boating is for you, join them for a practice! Your first three practices are free.

TDBA holds the popular Rainier Dragon Boat Festival, featuring competitive dragon boat clubs from around the Pacific Northwest and community teams in Tacoma.  This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, May 19 at Thea’s Park along the Foss Waterway. Here’s a look at the excitement from last year’s festival:

Outrigger Canoe. As a way to share Hawaiian culture, Kikaha o Ke Kai paddles outrigger canoes on the Foss Waterway, Puget Sound and beyond. Membership is $115 per year for an adult in your first year. Membership is less for youth ($50 for youth living in the Tacoma area).

Paddling can be peaceful and majestic! Watch as this outrigger canoe glides on the Foss Waterway at sunset:


Kikaha will hold the Tacoma Doublehull Challenge at Thea’s Park on August 4. Here are some photos of the 2017 Ruston Relay (from Kikaha’s Facebook page).

Puyallup Tribal Canoe Journey 2018

Photo of Canoe Journey at Seaport

The Canoe Journey is included in the “First on the Waterways: the Puyallup People” exhibit at the Foss Waterway Seaport.

The largest paddling event in Puget Sound will occur this summer when the Puyallup Tribe of Indians hosts the Puyallup Tribal Canoe Journey, July 28 – August 4. Approximately 15,000 people from tribes all over the northwest are expected to attend. The public is welcome to watch the paddlers arrive in Commencement Bay.

James Rideout, Puyallup Tribal Councilmember, discussed the Canoe Journey at a Tacoma Waterfront Association meeting in March. His talk is described in TWA’s blog post.


Other opportunities — classes and festivals

Last summer, the Foss Waterway Seaport and Tacoma Youth Marine Center teamed up to teach kayak and paddleboard classes. They may do so again this year.

Water and maritime community events are also a good place to learn more about paddling. Check out these free events along the Foss Waterway:

More Information

  • South Sound Magazine‘s May 18, 2018 article about the Rainier Dragon Boat Festival.
  • Sports Planning Guide‘s May 2018 article about dragon boat festivals, featuring Tacoma. Information about the history of dragon boat festivals and their economic impact. “Dragon Boat Festivals are Captivating the Country.”
  • Video of the Paddle to Nisqually boat launch from Owen Beach in July 2016. In anticipation of the Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey, this video gives you an idea of what a Tribal canoe journey looks like.

If you know of other paddling clubs in the Tacoma area, please let Liz know. I’d be happy to include them on this list and help get the word out! Thank you!

— Liz Satterthwaite, Engage Northwest.

** Disclaimer: Liz is a member of the Tacoma Dragon Boat Association. **

Get involved in Tacoma’s waterfront park projects

Photo of waterfront along Ruston Way

The waterfront along Ruston Way in Tacoma.

If you enjoy Tacoma’s waterfront parks, get more involved in the planning process! Metro Parks Tacoma provided information about planned improvements for some waterfront parks — Dickman Mill, Ruston Way, and Foss Waterway at a March 15 open house at the Foss Waterway Seaport. Many people attended and provided input on the plans. There are still opportunities to get involved! Here’s a quick overview of some of the key projects discussed at the open house:

Dickman Mill

Dickman Mill project explained at open house

Metro Parks described the Dickman Mill project.

Metro Parks will restore the huge head saw that worked in the old Dickman Mill and publicly display it in Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way. The expanded park would include a plaza area to view the head saw. This head saw is the last known to operate in Washington. Metro Parks gave an overview of the project, including the preferred location for the head saw.

Liz Satterthwaite with Engage Northwest represents the Tacoma Waterfront Association on the Dickman Mill Steering Committee. See Liz’s previous blog post about this project.

Envision Our Waterfront

The City of Tacoma and Metro Parks Tacoma are starting a project to envision the future of Ruston Way in the next 50-100 years. Public input is important! The City and Metro Parks are interested in knowing what people like about Ruston Way and what improvements would be needed. They are looking at infrastructure, art, activities and more. To learn more and be involved, visit the project webpage and sign up for Metro Parks’ email updates.

Envision our waterfront-display board

Foss Waterway projects

The Foss Waterway Development Authority and Metro Parks plan to build two new parks on the Foss Waterway: Central Park and Waterway Park.

Central Park would extend the public esplanade, create a new walkway to connect Dock Street to the waterfront, and include a play mound and a smokestack-looking tower inspired by the area’s industrial heritage. Waterway Park would turn the existing Berg Scaffolding building into a boathouse with restrooms and boat storage for outrigger canoes, dragon boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. See Metro Parks webpage for more information about these projects.

Other waterfront park projects

Waterfront parks are true gems in Tacoma! Thanks to voters saying yes to park bonds in 2014, Metro Parks Tacoma is improving many waterfront parks now, including Titlow and the most popular park in the South Sound — Point Defiance Park. I plan to provide more information about these park improvements in a future blog post.

For more information

  • Presentation slides and live video from Metro Parks Tacoma’s March 15 waterfront open house is available on their website.

— Liz Satterthwaite, Engage Northwest.

Grand Opening of “First on the Waterways: the Puyallup People”

Photo of Puyallup People dance

The Puyallup Canoe Family members drum and dance during the grand opening ceremony.

Photo of Foss Waterway Seaport and water

The Foss Waterway Seaport.

The Foss Waterway Seaport opened an exhibit about the Puyallup People — “The First on the Waterways: the Puyallup People” on Feb. 15. The grand opening featured a traditional Puyallup tribal blessing and song and dance.

Many Puyallup Tribal members spoke, saying that this exhibit is the first that tells the story of the Puyallup People on their terms, in their way. “Our story has not been told by our people in this manner,” says Connie McCloud, Puyallup Tribal Culture Director. “We’ve been here since the beginning of time.”

The exhibit tells the story of the Puyallup People and their connection to the waterways. Learn from artifacts, hands-on activities,  multi-media displays and more.

Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey

In summer 2018, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians will host the 2018 Canoe Journey — exciting! At the grand opening of the “Puyallup People” exhibit, Puyallup tribal members talked about hosting the Canoe Journey. Tribes from all over the Pacific Northwest will paddle along the shores of the Salish Sea to make their way to Puyallup. Thousands are expected to make this spiritual journey. The museum’s exhibit includes a section about Canoe Journeys. Tribal members also carved paddles during the grand opening ceremony. The Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey is planned to be open to the public.

Learn more about the Puyallup People and the Canoe Journey at the museum!


To experience some of the grand opening, please take a look at this short video of the Puyallup Tribe’s Canoe Family members drumming and dancing in the opening song:


These pictures show some of the people who worked on this important exhibit and spoke at the grand opening:

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If you couldn’t attend the grand opening, you can still see the “First on the Waterways: the Puyallup People” exhibit! It’s now part of the Seaport’s permanent displays.

For more information about the “Puyallup People”exhibit and Puyallup Canoe Journey

  • Foss Waterway Seaport’s website about the exhibit.
  • Puyallup Tribe of Indian’s website about the Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey.
  • Tacoma Weekly’s article “First on the Waterway” about the exhibit.
  • Video of Puyallup Culture Director Connie McCloud giving the blessing at the grand opening.
  • Attend the Tacoma Waterfront Association’s meeting on March 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the Tacoma Youth Marine Center. Puyallup Tribal Councilmember James Rideout will discuss the Puyallup 2018 Canoe Journey and related topics. Free!

— Liz Satterthwaite, Engage Northwest.

** Disclaimer: Engage Northwest provides communications support for the Tacoma Waterfront Association. **

Tacoma waterfront calendars

Do you enjoy the views of ships, bridges, wildlife, lighthouses, ports and mountains? Consider getting a 2018 Tacoma Waterfront calendar! Liz Satterthwaite of Engage Northwest took these pictures to showcase the beauty of our region. Coasters and other promotional items are available and can be customized for you.

If you’d like to find out more about the calendars or Liz’s photography and communications, please contact Liz at or 253.208.0586. Thank you for supporting this small business and happy holidays!

**Update** — You can find the Tacoma Waterfront calendars at Point Defiance Marina, Foss Harbor Marina and Foss Waterway Seaport. Point Defiance Marina also carries some of the coasters. Thank you to these wonderful partners!

Reaching boat riders through social media

Who would like to see beautiful Puget Sound by boat in the summer? Many people would enjoy it, but not everyone is available during the work week. Working with Destiny Harbor Tours and Riviera Cruises, Engage Northwest created Facebook ads to reach potential boat tour customers in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.

The ads target different audiences and consider their interests, location, age and if they are residents or travelers. I developed five different ads. Some ads include video with music and captions, and others consist of a set of still images. Ads were placed on Facebook and Instagram for both desktops and mobile devices. These previews show three image ads in mobile device view for Destiny Harbor Tours:

Most customers saw the ads on their mobile devices. For example, people traveling in Tacoma primarily saw the ads on mobile devices with about 1/4th placed on Instagram and 3/4ths on Facebook. The ads also reached a younger audience.

For Riviera, I created a slideshow using still images, music and captions. These previews show some of the content:

Photo of Liz Satterthwaite on Riviera

Taking pictures on the Riviera


The Facebook ads increased the businesses’ reach substantially, reaching over 70,000 targeted customers. People engaged with the ads with likes, comments and shares. For example, one person commented on Instagram, “I’m in. Can you text me the price.” Importantly, business is increasing due partly to the increased visibility on social media. The boat tours are a great experience!

About Destiny Harbor Tours

Destiny Harbor Tours offers guided boat tours and charters. During the summer, they run regular two-hour tours from Tacoma and Gig Harbor. Their sister company, Riviera Cruises, offers longer tours and charters, including a 4-hour Puget Sound tour and 3-hour sunset cruise. You’ll see wildlife, waterfronts, the mountain and more!

Note — Liz Satterthwaite took the pictures included in the ads shown in this blog.