OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, Dec. 14, after months of citizen suggestions and public input, the Washington State Transportation Commission voted 7-0 to select “Wishkah” as the name for the state’s next new 144-car hybrid-electric ferry, which will be under construction in 2022.
The name honors the river flowing south from the Olympic foothills into Grays Harbor, forming a saltwater estuary for shellfish, and serving as a vital link from forest to sea for the Lower Chehalis people and the communities it flows through. Before roads were built, the region was served by the steamer, “Wishkah Chief,” which carried passengers and cargo upriver to outfit the farms and logging camps.
Additionally, Wishkah Street is a segment of US 101 in Aberdeen. The name also has a link to the legendary grunge-rock band Nirvana which made an album titled, “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.”
“It is a multi-faceted name that represents a geographic area in the state that does not have a ferry named for it.” said Commissioner Debbie Young, of San Juan County.
Other finalist names were:
- Stillaguamish, for the tribe that historically canoed the Stillaguamish River and Puget Sound near Camano Island, establishing a nautical culture.
- Muckleshoot, for the Native people who inhabited the Duwamish and upper Puyallup river watersheds. Elliott Bay is one of the tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing areas.
- Enie Marie, great-granddaughter of Chief Sealth, and also known as Mary Ann Talisa Seattle, who moved in both the Native and Euro-American social worlds.
- Snoqualmie, for the tribe and valley in east King County, watered by Cascade mountain snowmelt, where historically people lived in longhouses along the Snoqualmie River and tributaries.
- Stehekin, a Salish word meaning “the way through,” and a community on the north shore of Lake Chelan, accessible only by ferry or boat.
Wishkah was the most popular name in a Ferry Riders Opinion Group survey that resulted in more than 5,800 responses online, while Enie Marie ranked first among 1,784 emailed submissions to the commission. All 21 current ferries have names derived from Native American words or places.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov