The State of Washington is the most northwestern State in the contiguous United States. To the north is the Canadian province of British Columbia, to the east is Northern Idaho, to the south is Oregon and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. Named for George Washington, this area was part of the larger Oregon Territory before becoming the Washington Territory in 1853, which became the 42nd State in the Union on November 11, 1889.
Washington State is one of the most diverse States by several measures, but most prominently in its geography and climate. Washington is divided into Western Washington and Eastern Washington by the Cascade Mountains. The western half is very wet and lush with vegetation. This side, of course, includes the Pacific Coast.
The northern two-thirds of the Washington Pacific Coast is on the Olympic Peninsula. The beaches are fairly rugged as they are mostly covered with rocks, not sand, huge logs, ample amounts of driftwood, and the occasional dead whale. The southern section is much nicer, still with plenty of driftwood but more sand. Near the mouth of the Columbia River, which forms the southern border with Oregon, is the Long Beach Peninsula, a 28 mile stretch of golden sand.
Storms from the ocean generate a large volume of the rainfall on the Olympic Peninsula. On this peninsula one will find the Hoh Rainforest and the worlds largest cedar, which stands 178 feet (54 m) tall and is 20 feet (6 m) in diameter, amongst 3 million acres of evergreen forest. It also contains the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic National Park. The Pacific to the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, and Puget Sound to the east surround the peninsula.
Clouds pick up more water while crossing Puget Sound, which accounts for most of the rain in Seattle and other areas of Western Washington. Puget Sound contains the San Juan Islands, a chain of 172 islands. Because of the large population in the Puget Sound area, including Seattle and Tacoma, Washington operates the largest public transportation ferry fleet in the world.
All of Washington's professional sports franchises are based in Seattle. The Mariners (baseball) play at SafeCo Field. The Seahawks (American football) play next door at Qwest Stadium. And the Supersonics (basketball) play under the Space Needle at the Key Arena.
On a clear day, one can see Mount Rainier from this area, the highest point in Washington at 14,410 feet (4392 m). Farther south is Mount St. Helens, which was at 9677 feet (2950 m) prior to 1980 when it erupted; it is now at 8364 feet (2549 m). And to the east is Mount Adams, which pinnacles at 12,276 feet (3742 m). Mountaineers frequent these three peeks of the Cascade Mountains, amongst others in the region.
The Cascades collect the remaining precipitation generated by Puget Sound, which quenches several more millions of acres of alpine forest, and creates a considerable snow pack. Skiers and snow boarders from all over the State dearly love these mountains. There are several ski areas to patronize including Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, White Pass, Mission Ridge and Crystal Mountain.
The Washington Cascades divide the state geographically, politically and culturally. The mountains must be traveled via one of several 4000 ft mountain passes, which keeps the two sides from interacting too much. The west side is more metropolitan and liberal. The east is more rural and conservative. Also, the two sides have very different industry. The west side conducts a lot of logging, fishing, manufacturing, import / export, and technology development (and consequently retail coffee). The east side takes part in farming, ranching, electrical generation, and other industry.
The minority populations and cultural effects in Washington are very different on these two sides. Though both have significant Native American influences, the tribal cultures differ significantly between the coastal tribes on the west side and the river or plains tribes in the east. Regarding foreign immigration, the west has high populations of Asians (particularly Chinese and Koreans), Eastern Europeans (particularly Ukrainians) and Arabs. The east has high populations of Hispanics (particularly Mexicans). Spanish is defiantly the second language of Eastern Washington.
The east side of the Cascades descends into the Columbia River Basin. The Columbia is the largest electricity producing river system in the world. There are 55 major hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and its tributaries. Because of this, the outlying areas are blessed with the cheapest electricity and arguably the best Internet connections in the world. The Columbia used to be the largest salmon producing river system in the world. Though there is still an ample amount of salmon naturally produced, the declined salmon population as a direct result of the installation of hydroelectric dams is closely monitored and supplemented with hatchery fish.
Lying in the Cascades' rain shadow, the weather and landscape in this area is completely contrary to the west side, having as many sunny days as the west has rainy days. Though technically a desert, the area is kept vibrant with farms through advance irrigation techniques. In this area is the beautiful Gorge Amphitheater, an outside concert venue that seats 20,000. It overlooks the Gorge at George, a magnificent desert backdrop carved out by the Columbia over the last million of years.
Continuing east is the Columbia Plateau and the largest volcanic lava flows in the world known as the Grand Ronde. A massive outpouring of lava a few million years ago literally created rivers and lakes of 2000° (1100°C) magma. Later, melting glaciers caused cataclysmic flooding that quickly quarried the soft basalt creating large cannons that are a geographic phenomenon unique to the Pacific Northwest called coulees. The largest coulee, of course, is the Grand Coulee. In this titanic geological wonder rests the remains of the world's largest waterfall. A three and a half mile long crescent cliff called Dry Falls that once dropped flooding water 400 feet. The flow of the falls is though to have been 10 times greater than the current flow of all the rivers of the world, combined.
In the Northeast corner of the State lays Washington's third mountain range, the Northern Rockies, which crosses into Washington from Idaho before continuing up into British Columbia. To the south one will find the Tri-Cities and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. In contrast to the Olympic Peninsula, one of the cleanest areas in American as far as air quality and pollution, Hanford is one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world. Farther east is Spokane, the second largest urban area in Washington, which is situated near the Idaho border.
British Columbia (Canada)
| * Bellingham | I
\ | d
_ | | a
| \--_______ | | h
/ \ | WASHINGTON | o
| \ / |
\ | |* Seattle Spokane * |
\ | / * Wenatchee |
| \_/* Tacoma |
| * Olympia |
| * Yakima |
| * Tri-cities |
\ ____ ----____-------
Population: 6 million
Land Area: 66,544 square miles (172,348 km2)
Water Area: 4,721 square miles (12,227 km2)
Nickname: The Evergreen State
Bird: Willow Goldfinch
Fish: Steelhead trout
Flower: Coast Rhododendron
Tree: Western Hemlock
Gem: Petrified Wood
Dance: Square Dance
Song: Washington, My Home
Folk song: Roll On, Columbia, Roll On
Unofficial song: Louie Louie
Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue
University of Washington
Washington State University
Central Washington University
Eastern Washington University
The Evergreen State College
Western Washington University
Pacific Lutheran University
Seattle Pacific University
University of Puget Sound
Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray
Brian Baird, Norman Dicks, Doc Hasting, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, Cathy McMorris, David G. Reichert, Adam Smith
You might be a Washingtonian
The Everything People Registry : United States : Washington