Coal of Bellingham Bay


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Excerpt from:  Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean by Joseph Henry, Spencer Fullerton Baird – 1856

This coal is found interstratified with sandstones and shales on the shores of Bellingham bay.  Lieutenant W.P. Trowbridge, U.S.A., while superintending the construction of light-houses on that part of the coast, made a careful measurement of the strata of the section in which the beds of coal are exposed, of which the results have been published in the geological report of Mr. W.P. Blake, contained in vol. V, U.S.P.R.S. Reports.

The section exposed, when measured by Lieutenant Trowbridge, consisted of about [2,000 feet] of shales, sandstones, and coal, of which the coal presented the enormous aggregate of 110 feet.  It is possible, however, that the series is, in part, composed of repetitions of the same members, as the strata are inclined at a high angle, and are much convoluted and disturbed in all that region.  

Many of the shales are fossiliferous, and vegetable impressions are particularly abundant. T hese consist, for the most part, of the impressions of dicotyledonous leaves, and are similar in general character; and some of them specifically identical with those collected on Frazer’s river by the United States Exploring Expedition, under Capt. Charles Wilkes.  Among them are species of Platanus, Acer, Alnus, etc, as yet undescribed.  There is also a Taxus, or Taxodium, and a Juniperus.  It is probable that all the dicotyledonous species there represented are extinct.  The coniferae may not be so.  A sufficient number of well marked specimens has, however, not yet been collected to determine this question.

The flora of the coal deposits of Bellingham bay is remarkably like that of the lignite beds of the upper Missouri, the genera being nearly all represented on the Missouri, and some of the species are identical.

The lignite beds of the Missouri are undoubtedly Miocene, and it is very difficult to distinguish some of the species found in them from those of the Miocenes of Austria and of the Island of Mull.

The strata exposed on Bellingham bay, both in their lithological character and their fossils, are closely related to the sandstones and shales of the Columbia and Coose bay, and are, probably, portions of the great San Francisco group, which forms the most striking feature of the geology of the coast mountains.

The mines at Bellingham bay were among the first opened on the western coast, and have already furnished a large quantity of coal for the San Francisco market.


Further Reading and External Links

Bellingham Coal –

Sir William Bellingham of the Royal Navy