Whidbey Island is the largest of the islands in Island County, Washington. Whidbey is about 30 miles (48 km) as the crow flies north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington. The island forms the northern boundary of Puget Sound. The state parks and natural forests are home to numerous old growth trees.
According to the 2000 census, Whidbey Island was home to 67,000 residents with an estimated 29,000 of those living in rural locations. This increased slightly to 69,480 residents as of the 2010 census.
Whidbey Island is approximately 55 miles (89 km) long (if measured along roads traveled from the extreme north to extreme south), or about 37 miles (60 km) when measured along a straight line from north to south, and 1.5 to 10 miles (2.4 to 16.1 km) wide, with a total land area of 168.67 square miles (436.9 km2), making it the 40th largest island in the United States. It is ranked as the fourth longest and fourth largest island in the contiguous United States, behind Long Island, New York; Padre Island, Texas (the world's longest barrier island); and Isle Royale, Michigan. In the state of Washington, it is the largest island, followed by Orcas Island.
The United States Navy has been operating regularly in Pacific Northwest waterways since 1841.
The Navy, Marine Corps, and Revenue Marine (forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard), explored, charted, and protected the area during the mid-nineteenth century. Ships and cutters worked to keep the peace between natives and settlers, and helped negotiate boundary disputes over the San Juan Islands. When the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867, the sea services began patrols to regulate fishing and sealing, assist mariners in distress, and establish forward presence in the Last Frontier. Bases and a shipyard were operating in Puget Sound by the 1890s, and on May 7, 1903, the Thirteenth Naval District was established in Seattle.
Through World Wars, natural disasters, and incredible changes in the population and economy of the area, the Navy remained a steadfast presence, providing defense, security, and stability. Even in the inland States of the Region, Navy Reserve and Training centers gave testament to the fact that the Northwest, like all of America, was dependent on Sea Power.
The Thirteenth Naval District was renamed Naval Base Seattle in 1980, and subsequently renamed Navy Region Northwest in 1999. In 2004 and 2005, the Region Headquarters moved from Seattle to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, in Silverdale, Washington.
Today, Commander, Navy Region Northwest provides consolidated base operations support for Navy activities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The Commander oversees the assigned shore organization and provides facilities and space management, exercise coordination, and support to homeported and transient ships, submarines, and aircraft as well as afloat and ashore tenants, military and family members.
Puget Sound is the U. S. Navy’s third largest fleet concentration area. The major Northwest installations are Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Naval Station Everett, Naval Base Kitsap and Naval Magazine Indian Island. The Navy infuses more than $10.7 billion annually into the local Northwest economy, and the region is home to approximately 25,041 active duty service members, 3,600 reservists and 20,974 civilian employees, as well as more than 2,300 contractors, 42,000 family members, and 99,200 retirees.