Sea shantiesSalmon Beach, Tacoma, WA

Salmon Beach sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Salmon Beach might just be the best-kept secret on Puget Sound. I’d been dying to do a sketch there, and I finally got my chance a few weeks ago. The entire area is private property, and only residents and their guests are allowed. But my friend Ethan lives there, so I asked if he’d be willing to give me a tour. I had no idea that I was in for one of the best adventures I’ve had since I moved to Washington.

Salmon Beach sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Salmon Beach is a neighborhood of 80-odd homes arranged in single file along the shoreline of the Tacoma Narrows. There are only two ways to get there: by boat or by descending (on foot) several hundred wooden steps leading down from the parking lot at the top of the cliff.

Salmon Beach sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The way down is dizzying, and the return trip is a heckuva workout. I’d imagine that if I lived here, I’d learn quickly not to forget my keys in the car.

Salmon Beach sketch by Chandler O'Leary

At the bottom is what feels like a time warp, or some sort of alternate dimension. The residents of Salmon Beach live in their own world, secluded but also open and extremely welcoming. Friendly household pets of every stripe wander around the boardwalk (they don’t run away, because where would they go?), and people greeted me with stories and tips on the best drawing spots.

I was so excited to share their world for an afternoon. Big thanks to Ethan for the grand tour, and to everyone I met that day—it feels so good to be in on the secret.

Salmon Beach sketch by Chandler O'Leary

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Comments (13)

  1. monstergirlee

    I lived on Salmon Beach for about a year and half. You quickly learn to A. not forget anything from your car or in the house. B. When guests come they pack out their garbage. C. Enjoy the hell out of it.

    It was a wonderful experience except that my landlord was a super jerk.

  2. Chelsea Ward

    That stairway sketch is incredible! Just stumbled onto your blog this morning, so excited to click back through all your sketches and follow along with your new adventures. Your work is fantastic!

  3. Christine

    I attended University of Puget Sound from 79-83 and then hung around Tacoma until 85…. hanging out at Antique Sandwich Shop in Ruston was popular then. Even more popular were the sauna parties at Salmon Beach. People used to bring kegs in by boat from Gig Harbor. Good times.

  4. marilyn k

    Great drawings! Your blog site was sent to me by Roger and Marilyn, which was avery nice surpise. Made me homesick for Salmon Beach again and I’m forwarding it on to my 2 expat sons. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it as they sort of grew up there.

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  7. Dave Peterson

    Hi there – Great drawings! I stumbled across your website just today. Ethan is a good friend, and we have lived at the beach since ’86. Your 4th sketch (of the house at the bottom of the stairs with the bridge in the background) is our home! I’d love to get a print of it. Let me know how we can make that happen…
    Dave Peterson

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