Marine Protected Areas within Puget Sound

Titlow Beach Marine Preserve

WAC 220-302-110: "The 'Titlow Beach Marine Preserve Area' is defined as all waters and tidal and submerged lands within a line beginning at the mean high water line at the southernmost point of the Tacoma Outboard Association leasehold, then projected due west to the intersection with the outer harbor line, then following the outer harbor line to a line projected due west from the old ferry dock at the foot of the Sixth Avenue extension, then east on said line to the mean high water line, then following the mean high water line to the point of origin." Effective since 8/1/1994.


Links to other imagery about this site

Image taken from outside the southerly portion of preserve and to its west, facing east.

Recreational Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Limited Salmon fishing allowed, but only by using lures from shore or from non-motorized watercraft.
Trout Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  
Commercial Restrictions / Openings
Species Status Comments, notes...
Salmon Closed  
Bottomfish Closed  
Shellfish Closed  
Forage Fish Closed  
Unclassified Closed  


Geographic Statistics

Area Type Acres Hectares
Intertidal 14.78 5.98
Subtidal 26.87 10.87
Total 41.65 16.86


Prominent and unique features

Titlow Beach is closed as a cooperative project with the City of Tacoma. The area is closed from the ordinary high water mark offshore to the outer harbor line. The beach is located just south of Tacoma Narrows, a narrow and prominent sill dividing two large oceanographic basins. Consequently, strong tidal currents run just offshore of the reserve that result in a gradation of mixed, coarse sediments from the offshore extent of the reserve to sand and mud habitats at the shore's edge. There are sporadic boulders throughout the reserve but most of the subtidal habitat is dominated by sand, gravel, pebble, and cobble. A sparse bed of eelgrass occurs in the nearshore and bladed kelps and red algae occur on coarse substrates or on the sand.

There are substantial artificial structures in the reserve consisting of dense pilings that are the remnants of a ferry dock and other pilings along the shore and intertidal zone that once supported a pier.

Description of fish, bird, and mammal resources at the site

Unlike most of the other subtidal reserves, very little habitat exists within the Titlow Beach Preserve that supports rocky habitat species. Those species present include flatfishes such as rock sole (Lepidopsetta spp.), buffalo sculpin (Enophrys bison), pile perch (Rhacochilus vacca), striped seaperch (Embiotoca lateralis), and painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus). Copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus), brown rockfish (S. auriculatus), and lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) are rocky-habitat species that have been observed in the reserve.

Dominant invertebrates include giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), sea pens (Ptilosarcus gurnei) and giant anemones (Metridium senile).

Programs in place to manage the site

WDFW regulations prohibit commercial fishing and most forms of recreational fishing at the Titlow Beach Marine Preserve, and WDFW manages the site as a partially-protected marine reserve for non-tribal citizens. The taking of all species of invertebrates and fishes is prohibited by WDFW regulations except for the harvest of salmon by anglers using lures from the shore or non-motorized watercraft.

The City of Tacoma displays interpretive material highlighting the shore and marine environment at the site. This is a very popular site for recreational diving and the parks department has developed diver-friendly facilities at the site. The City of Tacoma has a management plan for the park and adjacent park waters. Local school programs use the park for field trips and as a teaching tool.

Volunteers and students at a local high school have mapped the site and have planned an artificial habitat for the site.

The uplands are under the control of the City of Tacoma, which provides some protection from impacts due to upland development. The city also has some control over bedlands inside the harbor line, which was set as the outer boundary of the site.

WDFW Enforcement Officers patrol the waters and shoreline of the conservation area, and fishers are informed of the prohibited fishing in the WDFW recreational fishing pamphlet and by shore-side signs.

WDFW scientists monitor the reserve on a sporadic basis. Scientific divers survey fish at the site by identifying, counting, and measuring fishes encountered throughout the park. Species composition and length frequency data are compared over time and among fished and other reserve areas.

Issues of concern

The derelict pilings contain creosote, a known toxic chemical. Some of the shore-side pilings may be removed as a mitigation activity associated with a nearby construction activity. The small size of the reserve may not be sufficient to include the natural home ranges of many of the fish and invertebrate species that occur at the site. There are nearby natural rocky habitats that may serve as the primary habitat for some species that range into the park. These may be exposed to fishing.

The plan by some community members to build an artificial rocky habitat could drastically alter and deter the reserve effects in a natural habitat.

Performance measures

This area was cooperatively closed and the City of Tacoma manages the site for recreational uses. The site is actively used by the general public, recreational divers, and by teachers with their students from neighboring schools. There are no performance measures associated with this use.