McClosky Map Detail The Ish River Lillooet Country with The Salish Sea

WHULGE: The Wheel of Waters

August 5, 2023
Roberta Hoffman
McCloskey Map Detail The Ish River-Lillooet Country with The Salish Sea

Image excerpted from McCloskey’s map “The Ish River-Lillooet Country with The Salish Sea,” 2021, available with its companion map of “Cascadia: A Great Green Land,” 2023, from, open “Cascadia Maps” in menu.

David McCloskey © 2023
Cascadia Institute


Swirling whitewaves    swift greenglass waters surging    islanded narrow tidal channels    roaring round and through the Gulf and San Juan Islands    the great Wheel of Waters turning…. calm at highwater slack    then chop    turbulent churning intense tidal currents    rocks stand while “mixed semidiurnal currents” driven from the ocean thru the big Strait flood and ebb streaming like rivers    standing waves and whirpools coiling sucking down   roiling waters steaming round Rosario Strait    and that wild one–Haro Strait…. Take care with big water ripping and Big Ships running fast…!

Here four big water bodies come together—the deep marine saltwater Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, open to the vast Sea beyond and ocean swells, with many-fingered Puget Sound, and freshwater flooding off the great Fraser River (second only to the Columbia in size in Cascadia), and its huge mud delta forming one of the richest estuaries in the western world. Whulge is the turning center joining all the main spokes—sweet and salt–in this “Tree of Waters.” (What two countries rent asunder, these silverblue streamings continue weaving a basket of waters that has never been severed….)

At the northern tip of the Strait of Georgia, where the southern edge of the Cordilleran Icesheet formed, rises the “Mazeway”—that crennelated jumble of deeply-cut glacial fjords holding hundreds of islands scattered like slurry chips—where mountains literally fall down into the sea…. Along the flow of the great icestreams southward we find those ground-down mountain tops—the San Juan Islands, dark green whalebacks floating in the sound….

Here we find Whulge or “mixing of the waters,” the central place in the inland sea. Whulge is an anglicization of a Lushootseed word meaning “saltwater, sea, ocean, or sound.” But here its used not as a general term for saltwater, but rather for these particular saltwater orbits of the Inland Sea waters swirling around and thru the San Juans—namely, as a mixing “Wheel of Waters”! Its where the great glacial streams coming from different directions met and fused together, and then separated, time and again over millennia … as one icestream to the east thru Rosario Strait flowing from the Fraser River veered south carving out the eastern Puget Lowlands, while the other coming down from the Strait of Georgia and cutting Haro Strait curved southwestward splitting on the cleaver of the corner of the Olympic Mountains, with one slice cleaving south carving out Twana Fjord (Hood Canal) and much of the south Sound, while the other rebounded off the corner flowing northwest out the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the sea…. That Ice ground deep, cutting down to 1356’ near Turn Point at the western end of Boundary Pass where the International Boundary follows Haro Strait, and down to 1070’ at the southwest corner of San Juan Island.

The mixing bowl of  Whulge  or “Wheeling Waters” joins several other newly named locational dynamisms such as the “Mazeway” to the north, and the “Sluiceways”–those channelways carved out by melting glacial-burst floods–in the south…. Coming to know the place not in terms of space, jurisdictions, categories, nor features, but rather in terms of “What It Does”…. This is the Story this Place tells … which twice-told and retold becomes Our Story…!

Whulge is the great “Wheel of Waters” churning in the heart of the Salish Sea, The flow of all flows, joining all sides together….


  1. Patrick Mazza

    Looking up at David’s map on my wall, I will see it in a new way, that center that joins the entire circle. Thanks for this.

  2. Linda A Roller

    I enjoyed reading this immensely, new words & geography to me. All the waters forming a “whulge”. What’s in a word,works here well. Thank you for poating Paul. I saw Cascadia in a new light.

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