Semiahmoo: Semi-Ghost Town within a Resort.

Semiahmoo spit lies just west of Blaine, in the northernmost tip of Washington state. The two are separated by only a few hundred meters of navigable water, yet this channel into Drayton Harbor has defined the towns as different entities since land was first broke around 1858. The spit is about 125 acres of land jutting between Drayton Harbor and Boundary Bay. The spit was historically used by local Salish tribes, first the Semiahmoo, then the Lummi, as a summer fishing stop. Midden mounds and burial sites lie to the west where a small seasonal village once stood.

Semiahmoo 1920
Semiahmoo spit and the Alaska Packers Association buildings circa 1920. Many of the original buildings still stand, in varying degrees of preservation. Blaine City file photo.
Semiahmoo today
The same location as seen today. http://tours.tourfactory.com/tours/media/scene/big2/00/26/67/72/26677265.jpg

Gold was discovered in the Fraser River just north of the 49th Parallel that now demarcates the border between Canada and the United States. Steamers from Seattle and San Francisco brought miners seeking their fortunes, often pulling into Drayton Harbor for shelter or to take on fuel. Semiahmoo was platted to compete with Blaine, hoping to act as the jumping off point for travelers moving north in the days before trains ran to Vancouver. Originally the entire region was platted as Semiahmoo settlement, however in 1884 it was split with the mainland section being renamed Blaine in honor of the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine (defeated by Grover Cleveland). The two townships competed for regional dominance, each side focused on different industries. Logging was the major industry in Blaine until 1893 when the Alaska Packers Association (APA) opened a salmon cannery on the spit to take advantage of the plentiful natural fish resources. Semiahmoo maintained a share of business when the Canadian gold boom dried up, shipping people and cargo to Alaska, however train tracks were built on the mainland side in the early 1900s, causing most business to move across the water to Blaine.

Eventually the APA closed the cannery and the spit sat empty. Even today the water between Blaine and Semiahmoo presents a major obstacle: with no ferry to bridge the gap one must travel 5-6 miles around the harbor just to reach a point a few hundred meters away. Semiahmoo spit is beautiful and well suited for recreation, prompting investors to build a resort out of refurbish APA buildings. Today several of the old warehouses and docks remain unpreserved right next to the 4-star resort. Well-preserved buildings from the APA offices are part of a county park about a mile west of the main facility. The town of Semiahmoo exists as a ghost town with a recreational community in the middle.

I’ve taken photos at Semiahmoo many times, however it seems most of them have disappeared from my hard drive. These are the few I’ve rescued from Facebook with a few cellphone snaps of varying quality. All photos are original, unless credited.

SV 2015
Semiahmoo lies just across the water from Blaine Pier.
SV 2014
The watertower is iconic and instantly recognizable across the bay in the mists of late summer.
SV 2014
The aging watertower is a stark contrast with newer condominiums next to the resort.
SV 2012
APA warehouse and docks at night. The lights of White Rock, BC lie in the distance.
SV 2012
At night the decrepit old boat transforms into a ghostly apparition still riding the waves.
SV 2012
Old and new come to life after dark.
SV 2012
The APA docks look even more sinister in the low light.
SV 2015
Daylight reveals the true age of the buildings.
SV 2015
Part of the dock has been refurbished for use as the Plover Ferry landing. The Plover runs during summer, carrying foot traffic across the bay.
SV 2015
The Plover dock is still being used, but the warehouse remains untouched.
SV 2012
The lines and colors of age.
SV 2015
Window no longer.
SV 2012
The old docks are too rotten to walk on, but they still look pretty in the fading light of dusk.
SV 2015
Large portions of the docks are rotted through.
SV 2012
Decrepit docks at sundown.
SV 2012
Seagulls and shore birds make use of the docks to smash open clams, resulting in a chaotic-yet-pretty tableau.
SV 2015
Like a phantom, the ghosts of the night fade in morning sun.
SV 2015
The boat is not a historic display, rather just a small fishing boat long forgotten.
SV 2015
Boat and warehouse.
SV 2012
Sailing is still popular in Boundary Bay.
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