Whatever Happened to Tillicum Village on Blake Island?

In my 20s, I worked as a radio personality on Seattle’s KUBE 93 and as a boat employee/tour guide at Argosy Tours on the Seattle waterfront.

Of all the great routes, my favorite assignment was the four-hour excursion to Blake Island’s Tillicum Village longhouse. This popular attraction filled the tour boat to capacity. Everyone was excited to see the show put on by the Native American dancers and the storytelling from generations ago.

The spoken word and traditional singing pointed to an earlier era when Chief Seattle, who was supposedly born on Blake Island, was alive and leading his people. For centuries, the area natives prepared salmon, fished from the Salish Sea; cooked on cedar stakes over an alder wood fire. As an employee of Argosy Tours, we got to partake in the Tillicum Village meals during the dancing show. I’ll never forget how good it was. 

CREDIT: Shameran81 via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (No Changes Made)
CREDIT: Shameran81 via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (No Changes Made)

Some TripAdvisor Reviews of the Argosy Tillicum Excursion

Pre-COVID there was an awesome presentation about and by the Coast Salish people, and a salmon barbeque. During COVID, you can see a small presentation about the presentation (so you learn and see and touch the masks, but not so much the dances), and you can still buy salmon (and drinks!) to enjoy outside.

And there's a whole giant state park to explore outside the "Tillicum Village" building! Walking the perimeter trail, or getting brave and heading for the interior of the island, is a really great nature walk. Not quite as hardcore nature as the coast rain forests in the Olympic National Park, but pretty close! - iocat


My husband and I really enjoyed this trip. The boat ride to Blake Island is about 45 minutes long. The boat has a lot of seating and food/drinks for purchase at reasonable prices. Once on the island, we were greeted with mugs of clams and broth. It was really fun stomping the shells on the path. The meal inside the longhouse was buffet style and very good. The salmon cooked over the open fire was awesome. The show was okay. It was a mix of holographic images and real life dancers. The masks were interesting and we had a chance to get a close up look at them after the show. We had some time at then end to explore. We sat outside and watched a bald eagle flying around before we got on the boat and headed back to Seattle. Overall, great trip. Would recommend. - Ashley


Tillicum Village ran shows on Blake Island for nearly 60 years - from 1962 to 2021.

Then the dancing, the spoken word, and the delicious Salmon meals all stopped. 


When Argosy Tours purchased the rights to Tillicum Village in 2009, everything seemed profitable and smooth - until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

The worldwide crisis, diminished parking on the Downtown Seattle Waterfront (READ: Construction), and needed repairs to the facilities all dogpiled themselves upon Argosy.

Argosy briefly brought the tours back to Blake Island, as the rebranded Tillicum Experience. Then the hard decision was made to close it all down in 2021.

Blake Island's future. 

Today, the Tillicum Village buildings and the lovingly carved totems have all returned to the care of the Washington State Parks and Recreation. 

Leaders at State Parks are tossing around possible options, including recreational activities, tour operators, and food providers - all meaning the return to the glory days of Tillicum Village is possible, but not likely.

Freedom Boat Club Seattle (via Facebook)
Freedom Boat Club Seattle (via Facebook)

If you have a boat, you can still access the many available moorage docks. You can also reserve a slot from its nearly four dozen BLAKE ISLAND MARINE STATE PARK campsites. Once you’re there you can dig for clams, go scuba diving, or hike the miles of trails and watch the breathtaking sunsets over the Olympic Mountains to the west. Bring your family to play and explore like Chief Seattle did many years ago.

INFO: Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle Met

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