Bellingham is the largest city in, and the county seat of, Whatcom County in the U.S. state of Washington, and the twelfth largest city in the state. It is situated on Bellingham Bay, which is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula, and opens onto the Strait of Georgia. It lies west of Mount Baker and Lake Whatcom (from which it gets its drinking water) and north of the Chuckanut Mountains and Skagit Valley. Whatcom Creek runs through the center of the city. The Census Bureau estimated that Bellingham's population was 78,905 in July 1, 2008. The boundaries of the city encompass the former towns of Fairhaven (now home to the southern ferry terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System), Whatcom, Sehome, and Silver Beach. Nearly half of all residents of Whatcom County live within Bellingham.