Washington (state)

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State of Washington
Flag of Washington Seal of Washington
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Evergreen State
Motto(s): Alki (Chinook Wawa: "Eventually" or "By and by")[1]
Map of USA WA
Demonym Washingtonian
Capital Olympia
Largest citySeattle
Largest metro area Seattle metropolitan area
Area  Ranked 18th in the U.S.
 - Total 71,300 sq mi
(184,827 km2)
 - Width 240 miles (400 km)
 - Length 360 miles (580 km)
 - % water 6.6
 - Latitude 45° 33′ N to 49° N
 - Longitude 116° 55′ W to 124° 46′ W
Population  Ranked 13th in the U.S.
 - Total (2010) 6,724,540
 - Density 88.6/sq mi  (34.20/km2)
Ranked 25th in the U.S.
 - Median household income  $58,078 (10th)
 - Highest point Mount Rainier[2]
14,411 ft (4,395 m)
 - Mean 1,700 ft  (520 m)
 - Lowest point Pacific Ocean[2]
sea level
Admission to Union  November 11, 1889 (42nd)
Governor Christine Gregoire (D)
Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (D)
Legislature State Legislature
 - Upper house State Senate
 - Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D)
Maria Cantwell (D)
U.S. House delegation 5 Democrats, 4 Republicans (list)
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
Abbreviations WA US-WA
Washington State Symbols
Flag of Washington
The Flag of Washington.

Seal of Washington
The Seal of Washington.

Animate insignia
Amphibian Pacific Chorus Frog
Bird(s) American Goldfinch
Fish Steelhead
Flower(s) Rhododendron
Grass Bluebunch wheatgrass
Insect Green Darner dragonfly
Mammal(s) Olympic Marmot / Orca
Tree Tsuga heterophylla

Inanimate insignia
Dance Square dance
Food Apple
Gemstone Petrified wood
Ship(s) Lady Washington
Song(s) "Washington, My Home"
Tartan Washington state tartan
Other Vegetable: Walla Walla onion

Route marker(s)

State Quarter
2007 WA Proof
Released in 2007

Lists of United States state insignia

Washington (Speakerlinki /ˈwɒʃɪŋtən/) is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States located south of British Columbia, Canada, north of Oregon and west of Idaho. Washington was carved out of the western part of Washington Territory which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty as settlement of the Oregon Boundary Dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the forty-second state in 1889.

The 2010 United States Census recorded the state's population at 6,724,540. Almost 60 percent of Washington's residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area, the center of transportation, business, and industry along the Puget Sound region of the Salish Sea. The remainder of the state consists of deep rain forests in the west, mountain ranges in the center, northeast and far southeast, and eastern semi-deserts given over to intensive agriculture.

Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States, and is the only U.S. state named after a president. Washington is commonly called Washington state or occasionally the State of Washington to distinguish it from the U.S. capital. However, Washingtonians (residents of Washington) and many residents of neighboring states normally refer to the state simply as "Washington", while usually referring to the nation's capital as "Washington, D.C." or simply "D.C."


Outcropping near Riverside WA

A land of contrasts: a farm and barren hills near Riverside.

Washington is the northwesternmost state of the contiguous United States. Its northern border lies mostly along the 49th parallel, and then via marine boundaries through the Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait and Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north. Washington borders Oregon to the south, with the Columbia River forming most of the boundary and the 46th parallel forming the eastern part of the southern boundary.

To the east, Washington borders Idaho, bounded mostly by the meridian running north from the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River (about 116°57' west), except for the southernmost section where the border follows the Snake River. To the west of Washington lies the Pacific Ocean.[3] Washington was a Union territory during the American Civil War, although it never actually participated in the war.

Washington is part of a region known as the Pacific Northwest, a term which always includes at least Washington and Oregon and may or may not include Idaho, western Montana, northern California, and part or all of British Columbia, Alaska, and the Yukon Territory, depending on the user's intent.


Digitally colored elevation map of Washington.

The high mountains of the Cascade Range run north-south, bisecting the state. Western Washington, west of the Cascades, has a mostly marine west coast climate with moderately mild temperatures, wet winters, and dry summers. Western Washington also supports dense forests of conifers and areas of temperate rain forest.[4]

In contrast, Eastern Washington, east of the Cascades, has a relatively dry climate with large areas of semiarid steppe and a few truly arid deserts lying in the rainshadow of the Cascades; the Hanford reservation receives an average annual precipitation of between six and seven inches (178 mm). Farther east, the climate becomes less arid. The Palouse southeast region of Washington was grassland that has been mostly converted into farmland. Other parts of eastern Washington are forested and mountainous.

South Eastern Washington State

South Eastern Washington State

The Cascade Range contains several volcanoes, which reach altitudes significantly higher than the rest of the mountains. From the north to the south these volcanoes are Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. Mount St. Helens is currently the only Washington volcano that is actively erupting; however, all of them are considered active volcanoes. The state is also home to Mt. Rainier, a volcano 50 miles (80 km) south of the city of Seattle, from which it is prominently visible. The 14,411-foot (4,392 m)-tall Mt. Rainier is considered the most dangerous volcano in the continental U.S.,[5] due to its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan area. It is also listed as a Decade Volcano.

Washington's position on the Pacific Ocean and the harbors of Puget Sound give the state a leading role in maritime trade with Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific Rim. Puget Sound's many islands are served by the largest ferry fleet in the United States.

Washington is a land of contrasts. The deep forests of the Olympic Peninsula, such as the Hoh Rain Forest, are among the only temperate rainforests in the continental United States, but the semi-desert east of the Cascade Range has few trees. Mount Rainier, the highest mountain in the state,[2] is covered with more glacial ice than any other peak in the lower 48 states.[6]

Federal land, reservations and international recognitionEdit

Olympic National Park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as International Biosphere Reserve.

The following United States federal areas are Washington.

National parks and monumentsEdit

There are three National Parks and two National Monuments in Washington:

National forestsEdit

Nine national forests are located (at least partly) in Washington:

Federally protected wildernessesEdit

31 wildernesses are located (at least partly) in Washington, including:

National wildlife refugesEdit

23 National Wildlife Refuges are located (at least partly) in Washington including:

Other federally protected landsEdit

Other protected lands of note include:

Military and related reservationsEdit

There are several large military-related reservations, including:


Large dust storm in parts of eastern Washington on October 4, 2009

Dryland farming caused a large dust storm in arid parts of eastern Washington on October 4, 2009. Courtsey: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response.[7]

Washington's climate varies greatly from west to east. An oceanic climate (also called "west coast marine climate") predominates in western Washington, and a much drier semi-arid climate prevails east of the Cascade Range. Major factors determining Washington's climate include the large semi-permanent high pressure and low pressure systems of the north Pacific Ocean, the continental air masses of North America, and the Olympic and Cascade mountains. In the spring and summer, a high pressure anticyclone system dominates the north Pacific Ocean, causing air to spiral out in a clockwise fashion.

For Washington this means prevailing winds from the northwest bringing relatively cool air and a predictably dry season. In the autumn and winter, a low pressure cyclone system takes over in the north Pacific Ocean, with air spiraling inward in a counter-clockwise fashion. This causes Washington's prevailing winds to come from the southwest, bringing relatively warm and moist air masses and a predictably wet season. The term Pineapple Express is used to describe the extreme form of this wet season pattern.[8]

Despite western Washington having a marine climate similar to those of many coastal cities of Europe, there are exceptions such as the "Big Snow" events of 1880, 1881, 1893 and 1916 and the "deep freeze" winters of 1883–84, 1915–16, 1949–50 and 1955–56, among others. During these events western Washington experienced up to 6 feet (1.8 m) of snow, sub-zero (−18°C) temperatures, three months with snow on the ground, and lakes and rivers frozen over for weeks. [9] Seattle's lowest officially recorded temperature is 0 °F (−18 °C) set on January 31, 1950, but low-altitude areas a short distance away from Seattle have recorded lows as cold as −48 °F (−44.4 °C).[10]

In 2006, the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington published The Impacts of Climate change in Washington’s Economy, a preliminary assessment on the risks and opportunities presented given the possibility of a rise in global temperatures and their effects on Washington state.[11]

Rain shadow effectsEdit

Wa rain map

Washington experiences extensive variation in rainfall.

The Olympic mountains and Cascades compound this climatic pattern by causing orographic lift of the air masses blown inland from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in the windward side of the mountains receiving high levels of precipitation and the leeward side receiving low levels. This occurs most dramatically around the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range. In both cases the windward slopes facing southwest receive high precipitation and mild, cool temperatures. While the Puget Sound lowlands are known for clouds and rain in the winter, the western slopes of the Cascades receive larger amounts of precipitation, often falling as snow at higher elevations. (Mount Baker, near the state's northern border, is one of the snowiest places in the world: in 1999, it set the world record for snowfall in a single season: 1,140 inches, or 95 foot (29 m).[12]

East of the Cascades, a large region experiences strong rain shadow effects. Semi-arid conditions occur in much of eastern Washington with the strongest rain shadow effects at the relatively low elevations of the central Columbia Plateau—especially the region just east of the Columbia River from about the Snake River to the Okanagan Highland. Thus instead of rain forests much of eastern Washington is covered with grassland and shrub-steppe.


The average annual temperature ranges from 51 °F (11 °C) on the Pacific coast to 40 °F (4 °C) in the northeast. The lowest temperature recorded in the state was −48 °F (−44.4 °C) in Winthrop and Mazama. The highest recorded temperature in the state was 118 °F (48 °C) at Ice Harbor Dam. Both records were set east of the Cascades. Western Washington is known for its mild climate, considerable fog, frequent cloud cover and long-lasting drizzles in the winter, and sunny and dry summers. The western region occasionally experiences extreme climate. Arctic cold fronts in the winter and heat waves in the summer are not uncommon. In the Western region, temperatures have reached as high as 112 °F (44 °C) in Marietta[13] and as low as −20 °F (−28.9 °C) in Longview.[14]

The western side of the Olympic Peninsula receives as much as 160 inches (4,100 mm) of precipitation annually, making it the wettest area of the 48 conterminous states. Weeks or even months may pass without a clear day. The western slopes of the Cascade Range receive some of the heaviest annual snowfall (in some places more than 200 inches (510 cm) water equivalent) in the country. In the rain shadow area east of the Cascades, the annual precipitation is only 6 inches (150 mm). Precipitation then increases again eastward toward the Rocky Mountains.



Mt. Rainier reflected in Reflection lake.

The Dalles Dam USGS

The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River

Mount Rainier over Tacoma

Mount Rainier with Tacoma in foreground

Prior to the arrival of explorers from Europe, this region of the Pacific Coast had many established tribes of Native Americans, each with its own unique culture. Today, they are most notable for their totem poles and their ornately carved canoes and masks. Prominent among their industries were salmon fishing and, among the Makah, whale hunting. The peoples of the Interior had a very different subsistence-based culture based on hunting, food-gathering and some forms of agriculture, as well as a dependency on salmon from the Columbia and its tributaries. The smallpox epidemic of the 1770s devastated the Amerindian population.[15]

The first European record of a landing on the Washington coast was by Spanish Captain Don Bruno de Heceta in 1775, on board the Santiago, part of a two-ship flotilla with the Sonora. They claimed all the coastal lands up to Prince William Sound in the north for Spain as part of their claimed rights under the Treaty of Tordesillas, which they maintained made the Pacific a "Spanish lake" and all its shores part of the Spanish Empire.

In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook sighted Cape Flattery, at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but Cook thought the strait did not exist. It was not discovered until Charles William Barkley, captain of the Imperial Eagle, sighted it in 1787. Further explorations of the straits were performed by Spanish explorers Manuel Quimper in 1790 and Francisco de Eliza in 1791, then by British Captain George Vancouver in 1792.

The British-Spanish Nootka Convention of 1790 ended Spanish claims of exclusivity and opened the Northwest Coast to explorers and traders from other nations, most notably Britain and Russia as well as the fledgling United States. American captain Robert Gray (for whom Grays Harbor County is named) then discovered the mouth of the Columbia River. He named the river after his ship, the Columbia. Beginning in 1792, Gray established trade in sea otter pelts. The Lewis and Clark Expedition entered the state on October 10, 1805.

Explorer David Thompson, on his voyage down the Columbia River camped at the junction with the Snake River on July 9, 1811 and erected a pole and a notice claiming the country for Great Britain and stating the intention of the North West Company to build a trading post at the site.

The UK and the USA agreed to what has since been described as "joint occupancy" of lands west of the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean as part of the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, which established the 49th Parallel as the international boundary west from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky mountains. Resolution of the territorial and treaty issues, west to the Pacific, were deferred until a later time. Spain, in 1819, ceded their rights north of the 42nd Parallel to the United States, although these rights did not include possession.

Negotiations with Great Britain over the next few decades failed to settle upon a compromise boundary and the Oregon boundary dispute became important in geopolitical diplomacy between the British Empire and the new American Republic. Disputed joint-occupancy by Britain and the U.S.A., lasted for several decades. With American settlers pouring into the Oregon Country; the Hudson's Bay Company, which had previously discouraged settlement because it conflicted with the fur trade, reversed its position in an attempt to maintain control of the Columbia District for Great Britain. Fur trapper James Sinclair, on orders from Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, guided some 200 settlers from the Red River Colony west in 1841 to settle on Hudson Bay Company farms near Fort Vancouver. The party crossed the Rockies into the Columbia Valley, near present-day Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, then traveled south-west down the Kootenai River and Columbia River. Despite such efforts, Britain eventually ceded all claim to land south of the 49th parallel to the United States in the Oregon Treaty on June 15, 1846.

In 1836, a group of missionaries including Marcus Whitman established several missions and Whitman’s own settlement Waiilatpu, in what is now southeastern Washington state, near present day Walla Walla County, in territory of both the Cayuse and the Nez Perce Indian tribes. Whitman’s settlement would in 1843 help the Oregon Trail, the overland emigration route to the west, get established for thousands of emigrants in following decades. Marcus provided medical care for the Native Americans, but when Indian patients – lacking immunity to new, ‘European’ diseases – died in striking numbers, while at the same time many white patients recovered, they held ‘medicine man’ Marcus Whitman personally responsible, and murdered Whitman and twelve other white settlers in the Whitman massacre in 1847. This event triggered the Cayuse War between settlers and Indians.

The first settlement in the Puget Sound area in the west of what is now Washington, was that of Fort Nisqually, a farm and trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1833. Washington's founder, the black pioneer George Washington Bush and his caucasian wife, Isabella James Bush, from Missouri and Tennessee, respectively, led four white families into the territory and settled New Market, now known as Tumwater, Washington, in 1846. They settled in Washington to avoid Oregon's racist settlement laws.[16] After them, many more settlers, migrating overland along the Oregon trail, wandered north to settle in the Puget Sound area.

In 1852, people from all over what was to become Washington state gathered in Monticello (now Longview) to draft a memorandum to Congress. The memorandum expressed their desire to be granted statehood under the name of Columbia. This meeting came to be known as the Monticello Convention. The desires of the Convention were met favorably in Congress, but it was decided that a state named Columbia might be confused with the preexisting District of Columbia. In a manner which strangely enough did not solve the problem of being confused with the nation's capital, the state was instead named Washington in honor of the first U.S. president.[17][18] Washington became the 42nd state in the United States on November 11, 1889.[19]

Early prominent industries in the state included agriculture and lumber. In eastern Washington, the Yakima River Valley became known for its apple orchards, while the growth of wheat using dry-farming techniques became particularly productive. The heavy rainfall to the west of the Cascade Range produced dense forests, and the ports along Puget Sound prospered from the manufacturing and shipping of lumber products, particularly the Douglas-fir. Other industries that developed in the state include fishing, salmon canning and mining.

For a long period, Tacoma was noted for its large smelters where gold, silver, copper and lead ores were treated. Seattle was the primary port for trade with Alaska and the rest of the country, and for a time it possessed a large shipbuilding industry. The region around eastern Puget Sound developed heavy industry during the period including World War I and World War II, and the Boeing company became an established icon in the area.

During the Great Depression, a series of hydroelectric dams were constructed along the Columbia river as part of a project to increase the production of electricity. This culminated in 1941 with the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam, the largest concrete structure in the United States.

During World War II, the state became a focus for war industries, with the Boeing Company producing many of the nation's heavy bombers and ports in Seattle, Bremerton, Vancouver, and Tacoma were available for the manufacture of warships. Seattle was the point of departure for many soldiers in the Pacific, a number of which were quartered at Golden Gardens Park. In eastern Washington, the Hanford Works atomic energy plant was opened in 1943 and played a major role in the construction of the nation's atomic bombs.

On May 18, 1980, following a period of heavy tremors and eruptions, the northeast face of Mount St. Helens exploded outward, destroying a large part of the top of the volcano. This eruption flattened the forests, killed 57 people, flooded the Columbia River and its tributaries with ash and mud, and blanketed large parts of Washington and other surrounding states in ash, making day look like night.[20][21]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1850 1,201 <center>—
1860 11,594 865.4%
1870 23,955 106.6%
1880 75,116 213.6%
1890 357,232 375.6%
1900 518,103 45.0%
1910 1,141,990 120.4%
1920 1,356,621 18.8%
1930 1,563,396 15.2%
1940 1,736,191 11.1%
1950 2,378,963 37.0%
1960 2,853,214 19.9%
1970 3,409,169 19.5%
1980 4,132,156 21.2%
1990 4,866,692 17.8%
2000 5,894,121 21.1%
2010 6,724,540 14.1%
Washington population map

Washington Population Density Map

Seattle Ferry


SpokaneFromPalisades 20070614


Tacoma skyline from Thea Foss Waterway


Vancouverwaskyline 004


According to the U.S. Census, as of 2010, Washington has a historical estimated population of 6,724,540 which is an increase of 830,419 or 14.1 percent, since the year 2000.[22] This includes a natural increase of 380,400 people, and an increase from net migration of 450,019 people into the state. Washington ranks first in the Pacific Northwest region in terms of population, followed by Oregon, and Idaho. There has historically been a lot of German American, Irish American and English American immigration to what is now the state of Washington.

The center of population of Washington in the year 2000 was located in an unpopulated part of rural eastern King County, southeast of North Bend and northeast of Enumclaw.[23]

As of the Census 2000, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area's population was 3,043,878, approximately half the state's total population.[24]

6.7 percent of Washington's population was reported as under five years of age, 25.7 percent under 18 years of age, and 11.2 percent were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.2 percent of the population.

The largest ancestry groups (which the Census defines as not including racial terms) in the state are:[25]

  • 20.9% German
  • 12.6% English
  • 12.6% Irish
  • 6.2% Norwegian
  • 4.1% American
  • 4.0% French
  • 3.9% Swedish
  • 3.6% Italian
  • 3.4% Scottish
  • 2.6% Scotch Irish
  • 2.5% Dutch
  • 1.9% Polish
  • 1.4% Russian
  • 1.2% Danish
  • 1.1% Welsh

Largest citiesEdit

The largest cities in Washington according to 2010 state census.[26]

Rank City Population
1 Seattle 608,660
2 Spokane 208,916
3 Tacoma 204,200
4 Vancouver 161,791
5 Bellevue 122,363
6 Everett 103,019
7 Kent 92,411
8 Yakima 91,067
9 Renton 90,927
10 Spokane Valley 89,755
11 Federal Way 89,306
12 Bellingham 80,885
13 Kennewick 73,917
14 Auburn 70,180
15 Marysville 60,020
16 Pasco 59,781
17 Lakewood 58,163
18 Redmond 54,144
19 Shoreline 53,007
20 Kirkland 48,787


Major religious affiliations of the people of Washington are:[27]

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 716,133; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 178,000 (253,166 year-end 2007) ; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 127,854.[28]

As with many other Western states, the percentage of Washington's population identifying themselves as "non-religious" is higher than the national average. The percentage of non-religious people in Washington is the highest of any state other than Colorado.[29]

Racial diversityEdit

According to 2010 United States Census estimates, 80% of Washington staters are white or European American, including those who are born in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the former USSR (the evident Russian American communities of Western Washington), and countries of the Middle East and North Africa (the number of Arab American nationalities risen dramatically in the 1990's and 2000's).

5% African-Americans (they concentrate in southern Seattle and inner Tacoma), in one of the least "black" states in the country. The Black community of Seattle developed after World War II when wartime industries and the US Armed Forces employeed/recruited tens of thousands of African-Americans from the Southeastern US. They left a high influence in west coast rock (Rock & Roll) and R&B/Soul in the 1960's, including Seattle native Jimi Hendrix (half-Black/Cherokee Indian) a pioneer in hard rock.

3% American Indians lived on Indian reservations or jurisdictory lands such as the Colville Indian Reservation, Lummi, Makah, Quinault, Salish, Spokane Indian Reservation and Yakima Indian Reservation. The westernmost and Pacific coasts have primarily American Indian communities, but Urban Indian communities formed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation programs in Seattle since the end of World War II brought a variety of Native American cultures to this diverse metropolis. The city was actually named for Chief Seattle when white Americans settled the isthmus in the 1880's.

Followed by 8% Asian American and 2% Pacific Islander: such as Chinese and Taiwanese, Hmong and Laotian, Indian (now the largest Asian group though other sources suggest the Chinese or Pilipinos), Japanese (once the state's largest racial minority in the 20th century), Korean, Pilipino, Thai and Vietnamese whom established communities and neighborhoods in the Seattle Metropolitan Area from Mount Vernon on the Canadian border down to Vancouver, Washington across from Portland, Oregon, and about 10% of residents in Spokane are Asian.

Now the most numerous (ethnic not racial group) are Latinos at 11%, as Mexican Americans formed a large ethnic group in the Chehalis Valley, farming areas of Yakima Valley and Eastern Washington. In the late 20th century, large-scale Mexican immigration and other Latinos settled in the southern suburbs of Seattle with limited concentrations in King, Pierce and Snomonish Counties during the region's real estate construction booms in the 1980's and 1990's.


Microsoft sign closeup

Microsoft Corporation headquarters in Redmond, an Eastside suburb of Seattle.

The 2007 total gross state product for Washington was $311.5 billion, placing it 14th in the nation.[30] The per capita personal income in 2009 was $41,751, 12th in the nation. Significant business within the state include the design and manufacture of aircraft (Boeing), automotive (Paccar), computer software development (Microsoft, Bungie,, Nintendo of America, Valve Corporation), telecom (T-Mobile USA), electronics, biotechnology, aluminum production, lumber and wood products (Weyerhaeuser), mining, beverages (Starbucks, Jones Soda), real estate (John L. Scott), retail (Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Car Toys, Costco, R.E.I., Gene Juarez), and tourism (Alaska Airlines, Expedia, Inc.). The state has significant amounts of hydroelectric power generation.

Significant amounts of trade with Asia pass through the ports of the Puget Sound. (See list of United States companies by state.) A Fortune magazine survey of the top 20 Most Admired Companies in the US has 4 Washington based companies in it, Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco and Nordstrom.[31]

Washington is one of eighteen states which has a government monopoly on sales of alcoholic beverages, although beer and wine with less than 20% alcohol by volume can be purchased in convenience stores and supermarkets. Liqueurs (even if under 20 percent alcohol by volume) and spirits can only be purchased in state-run or privately-owned-state-contracted liquor stores.[32]

Among its resident billionaires, Washington boasts Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, who, with a net worth of $40 billion, was ranked the wealthiest man in the world as of February 2009, according to Forbes magazine.[33] Other Washington state billionaires include Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Craig McCaw (McCaw Cellular Communications), James Jannard (Oakley), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), and Charles Simonyi (Microsoft).[34]

As of January 2010, the state's unemployment rate is 9.0 percent.[35]


The state of Washington is one of only seven states that does not levy a personal income tax. The state also does not collect a corporate income tax or franchise tax. However, Washington businesses are responsible for various other state levies. One tax Washington charges on most businesses is the business and occupation tax (B & O), a gross receipts tax which charges varying rates for different types of businesses.

Starbucks Headquarters Seattle

Starbucks Headquarters, Seattle.

Washington's state base sales tax is 6.5 percent which is combined with a local rate. As of April 2010, the rate will be 9.5 percent in Seattle and other cities.[36] These taxes apply to services as well as products.[37] Most foods are exempt from sales tax; however, prepared foods, dietary supplements and soft drinks remain taxable. The combined state and local retail sales tax rates increase the taxes paid by consumers, depending on the variable local sales tax rates, generally between 8 and 9 percent.[38]

An excise tax applies to certain select products such as gasoline, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages. Property tax was the first tax levied in the state of Washington and its collection accounts for about 30 percent of Washington's total state and local revenue. It continues to be the most important revenue source for public schools, fire protection, libraries, parks and recreation, and other special purpose districts.

All real property and personal property is subject to tax unless specifically exempted by law. Personal property also is taxed, although most personal property owned by individuals is exempt. Personal property tax applies to personal property used when conducting business or to other personal property not exempt by law. All property taxes are paid to the county treasurer's office where the property is located. Washington does not impose a tax on intangible assets such as bank accounts, stocks or bonds. Neither does the state assess any tax on retirement income earned and received from another state. Washington does not collect inheritance taxes; however, the estate tax is decoupled from the federal estate tax laws, and therefore the state imposes its own estate tax.


Wells Dam from Azwell WA

Azwell, Washington, a small community of pickers' cabins and apple orchards.

Washington is a leading agricultural state. (The following figures are from the Washington State Office of Financial Management and the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington Field Office.) For 2003, the total value of Washington's agricultural products was $5.79 billion, the 11th highest in the country. The total value of its crops was $3.8 billion, the 7th highest. The total value of its livestock and specialty products was $1.5 billion, the 26th highest.

In 2004, Washington ranked first in the nation in production of red raspberries (90.0 percent of total U.S. production), wrinkled seed peas (80.6 percent), hops (75.0 percent), spearmint oil (73.6 percent), apples (58.1 percent), sweet cherries (47.3 percent), pears (42.6 percent), peppermint oil (40.3 percent), Concord grapes (39.3 percent), carrots for processing (36.8 percent), and Niagara grapes (31.6 percent). Washington also ranked second in the nation in production of lentils, fall potatoes, dry edible peas, apricots, grapes (all varieties taken together), asparagus (over a third of the nation's production), sweet corn for processing, and green peas for processing; third in tart cherries, prunes and plums, and dry summer onions; fourth in barley and trout; and fifth in wheat, cranberries, and strawberries.

The apple industry is of particular importance to Washington. Because of the favorable climate of dry, warm summers and cold winters of central Washington, the state has led the U.S. in apple production since the 1920s.[39] Two areas account for the vast majority of the state's apple crop: the Wenatchee–Okanogan region (comprising Chelan, Okanogan, Douglas, and Grant counties), and the Yakima region (Yakima, Benton and Kittitas counties).[40]


Washington State Ferry Tacoma

Washington has the largest ferry system in the United States.

Washington was rated the top BEST state (amongst fifty U.S. states) in the 2011 American State Litter Scorecard, for overall effectiveness and quality of its public space cleanliness from state and related litter/debris removal efforts, unseating Vermont, the previous topmost winner.[41]

Washington has a system of state highways, called State Routes, as well as an extensive ferry system which is the largest in the nation[42] and the third largest in the world. There are 140 public airfields in Washington, including 16 state airports owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Boeing Field in Seattle is one of the busiest primary non-hub airports in the US. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) is the other major airport of greater Seattle.[43] The unique geography of Washington presents exceptional transportation needs.

There are extensive waterways in the midst of Washington's largest cites, including Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Olympia. The state highways incorporate an extensive network of bridges and the largest ferry system in the United States to serve transportation needs in the Puget Sound area. Washington's marine highway constitutes a fleet of twenty-eight ferries that navigate Puget Sound and its inland waterways to 20 different ports of call. Washington is home to four of the five longest floating bridges in the world: the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge over Lake Washington, and the Hood Canal Bridge which connects the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap Peninsula.

I-90 floating bridges looking east

Floating bridges on Lake Washington

The Cascade Mountain Range also provides unique transportation challenges. Washington operates and maintains roads over seven major mountain passes and eight minor passes. During winter months some of these passes are plowed, sanded, and kept safe with avalanche control. Not all are able to stay open through the winter. The North Cascades Highway, State Route 20, closes every year. This is because the extraordinary amount of snowfall and frequency of avalanches in the area of Washington Pass make it unsafe in the winter months.

Toxic chemicalsEdit

In 2007, Washington became the first state in the nation to target all forms of highly toxic brominated flame retardants known as PBDEs for elimination from the many common household products in which they are used. A 2004 study of 40 mothers from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Montana found PBDEs in the breast milk of every woman tested.

Three recent studies by the Washington Department of Ecology showed that toxic chemicals banned decades ago continue to linger in the environment and concentrate in the food chain. In one of the studies, state government scientists found unacceptable levels of toxic substances in 93 samples of freshwater fish collected from 45 sites. The toxic substances included PCBs; dioxins, two chlorinated pesticides, DDE and dieldrin, and PBDEs. As a result of the study, the department will investigate the sources of PCBs in the Wenatchee River, where unhealthy levels of PCBs were found in mountain whitefish. Based on the 2007 information and a previous 2004 Ecology study, the Washington Department of Health is advising the public not to eat mountain whitefish from the Wenatchee River from Leavenworth downstream to where the river joins the Columbia, due to unhealthy levels of PCBs. Study results also indicated high levels of contaminants in fish tissue that scientists collected from Lake Washington and the Spokane River, where fish consumption advisories are already in effect.[44]

On March 27, 2006 Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law the recently approved House Bill 2322. This bill would limit phosphorus content in dishwashing detergents statewide to 0.5 percent over the next six years. Though the ban would be effective statewide in 2010, it would take place in Whatcom County, Spokane County, and Clark County in 2008.[45] A recent discovery had linked high contents of phosphorus in water to a boom in algae population. An invasive amount of algae in bodies of water would eventually lead to a variety of excess ecological and technological issues.[46]

Law and governmentEdit

The Washington State Capitol

The Washington State Capitol building in Olympia.

The bicameral Washington State Legislature is the state's legislative branch. The state legislature is composed of a lower House of Representatives and an upper State Senate. The state is divided into 49 legislative districts of equal population, each of which elects two representatives and one senator. Representatives serve two-year terms, whilst senators serve for four years. There are no term limits. Currently, the Democratic Party holds majorities in both chambers.

Washington's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. The current governor is Christine Gregoire, a Democrat who has been in office since 2005.

The Washington Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. Nine justices serve on the bench and are elected statewide.

U.S. CongressEdit

The two U.S. Senators from Washington are Patty Murray (D) and Maria Cantwell (D).

Washington representatives in the United States House of Representatives (see map of districts) are Jay Inslee (D-1), Richard Ray (Rick) Larsen (D-2), Jaime Herrera (R-3), Doc Hastings (R-4), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5), Norm Dicks (D-6), Jim McDermott (D-7), Dave Reichert (R-8), and Adam Smith (D-9).

State elected officialsEdit



Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2008 40.48% 1,229,216 57.65% 1,750,848
2004 45.59% 1,304,893 52.82% 1,510,201
2000 44.59% 1,108,864 50.21% 1,247,652
1996 37.32% 840,712 49.81% 1,123,323
1992 31.99% 731,234 43.41% 993,037
1988 47.97% 903,835 50.03% 933,516
1984 55.82% 1,051,670 42.86% 807,352
1980 49.66% 865,244 37.32% 650,193
1976 50.00% 777,732 46.11% 717,323
1972 56.92% 837,135 38.64% 568,334

The state has been thought of as politically divided by the Cascade Mountains, with Western Washington being liberal (particularly the I-5 Corridor) and Eastern Washington being conservative. Washington has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1988.

Since the population is larger in the west, the Democrats usually fare better statewide. More specifically, the Seattle metro area (especially King County) generally delivers strong Democratic margins, while the outlying areas of Western Washington were nearly tied in both 2000 and 2004. It was considered a key swing state in 1968, and it was the only Western state to give its electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey over his Republican opponent Richard Nixon. Washington was considered a part of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and had the biggest pickup in the house for Republicans, making seven of the nine house members Republicans for the state of Washington.[47] However, this dominance did not last for long as Democrats picked up one seat in the 1996 election[48] and two more in 1998, giving the Democrats a 5–4 majority.[49]

The two current United States Senators from Washington are Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both of whom are members of the Democratic Party. The office of Governor is held by Christine Gregoire, who was re-elected to her second term in the 2008 gubernatorial election. Washington is the first and only state in the country to have elected women to both of its United States Senate seats and the office of Governor. Both houses of the Washington State Legislature (the Washington Senate and the Washington House of Representatives) are currently controlled by the Democratic Party.


Elementary and secondaryEdit

See also List of school districts in Washington

As of the 2008–2009 school year, 1,040,750 students were enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in Washington, with 59,562 teachers employed to educate them.[50] As of August 2009, there were 295 school districts in the state, serviced by nine educational service districts.[51] Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (a non-profit, opt-in, State agency) provides information management systems for fiscal & human resources and student data. Elementary and secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn.[52]

High school juniors and seniors in Washington have the option of utilizing the state's Running Start program. Initiated by the state legislature in 1990, the program allows students attend institutions of higher education at public expense, simultaneously earning high school and college credit.[53]

The State also has several public arts focused high schools including Tacoma School of the Arts, Vancouver school of Arts and Academics, and The Center School. There is also a Science and Math based high school in Tacoma, Washington known as SAMI.

Colleges and universitiesEdit

State universities

Private universities


Community colleges


Professional sportsEdit

Club Sport League City & Stadium
Seattle Seahawks Football National Football League; NFC Seattle, Qwest Field
Seattle Mariners Baseball Major League Baseball; AL Seattle, Safeco Field
Spokane Shock Arena Football Arena Football League Spokane, Spokane Arena
Wenatchee Valley Venom Indoor Football American Indoor Football Association Wenatchee, Town Toyota Center
Seattle Storm Basketball Women's National Basketball Association Seattle, KeyArena
Spokane Spiders Soccer Premier Development League (Northwest Division) Spokane, Joe Albi Stadium
Seattle Sounders FC Soccer Major League Soccer Seattle, Qwest Field
Seattle Sounders Women Soccer United Soccer Leagues; W-League Tukwila, Starfire Sports Complex
Bellingham Slam Basketball American Basketball Association Bellingham, Whatcom Community College
Everett Silvertips Ice Hockey Western Hockey League Everett, Everett Event Center
Spokane Chiefs Ice Hockey Western Hockey League Spokane, Spokane Arena
Seattle Thunderbirds Ice Hockey Western Hockey League Kent, ShoWare Center
Tri-City Americans Ice Hockey Western Hockey League Kennewick, Toyota Center
Tri-Cities Fever Indoor Football Indoor Football League Kennewick, Toyota Center
Kent Predators Indoor Football Indoor Football League Kent, ShoWare Center
Tri-City Dust Devils Baseball Northwest League; A Pasco, Gesa Stadium
Tacoma Rainiers Baseball Pacific Coast League; AAA Tacoma, Cheney Stadium
Spokane Indians Baseball Northwest League; A Spokane, Avista Stadium
Everett AquaSox Baseball Northwest League; A Everett, Everett Memorial Stadium
Yakima Bears Baseball Northwest League; A Yakima, Yakima County Stadium
Old Puget Sound Beach RFC Rugby Rugby Super League Seattle, various venues
Washington Stealth Lacrosse National Lacrosse League Everett, Everett Event Center
Seattle Mist Lingerie Football Lingerie Football League Kent, ShoWare Center

Symbols, honors, and namesEdit

2007 WA Proof

Reverse side of the Washington quarter

Four ships of the United States Navy, including two Battleships, have been named USS Washington in honor of the state. Previous ships had held that name in honor of George Washington.

The Evergreen StateEdit

The state's nickname "Evergreen" was proposed in 1890 by Charles T. Conover of Seattle, Washington. The name proved popular as the forests were full of evergreen trees and the abundance of rain keeps the shrubbery and grasses green throughout the year.[54]

State symbolsEdit

The state song is "Washington, My Home," the state bird is the American Goldfinch, the state fruit is the apple, and the state vegetable is the Walla Walla sweet onion.[55] The state dance, adopted in 1979, is the square dance. The state tree is the Western Hemlock. The state flower is the Coast Rhododendron. The state fish is the steelhead trout. The state folk song is "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On" by Woody Guthrie. The unofficial, but popularly accepted, state rock song is Louie Louie.[56] The State Grass is bluebunch wheatgrass. The state insect is the Green Darner Dragonfly. The state gem is petrified wood. The state fossil is the Columbian Mammoth. The state marine mammal is the orca.[57] The state land mammal is the Olympic Marmot. The state seal (featured in the state flag as well) was inspired by the unfinished portrait by Gilbert Stuart.[58]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ State Symbols
  2. ^ a b c "Elevations and Distances in the United States". U.S Geological Survey. 29 April 2005. Retrieved November 9, 2006. 
  3. ^ Washington State Constitution, Article XXIV Boundaries
  4. ^ Mapes, Lynda V. (February 3, 2010). "Hoh Rain Forest revels in wet, 'wild ballet'". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ "CVO Website - Mount Rainier Volcano". Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  6. ^ Washington State's Glaciers are Melting, and That Has Scientists Concerned — Blumenthal, Les. (August 29, 2006). McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved on September 13, 2009 from
  7. ^ "Dust Storm in Eastern Washington : Image of the Day". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  8. ^ Kruckeberg, Arthur R. (1991). The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. University of Washington Press. pp. 42–43. ISBN 0-295-97477-X. 
  9. ^ " the Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History". Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Climate Change – Economic Impacts". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  12. ^ "NOAA: Mt. Baker snowfall record sticks". 1999-08-03. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  13. ^ "Western Regional Climate Data Center, Marietta". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  14. ^ "Western Regional Climate Data Center, Longview". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  15. ^ Lange, Greg (2003-01-23). "Smallpox epidemic ravages Native Americans on the northwest coast of North America in the 1770s.". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  16. ^ "Articles on George Washington Bush". City of Tumwater, WA. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  17. ^ "City of Longview History". City of Longview, WA. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  18. ^ "Settlers met at Cowlitz Landing and discussed the establishment of a new territory north of the Columbia River". Washington History – Territorial Timeline. Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  19. ^ Lange, Greg (2003-02-15). "Washington is admitted as the 42nd state to the United States of America on November 11, 1889.". Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  20. ^ "Mount St. Helens: Senator Murray Speaks on the 25th Anniversary of the May 18, 1980 Eruption". Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  21. ^ "Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument: General Visitor Information". USDA Forest Service. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  22. ^ "Washington QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  23. ^ "Population and Population Centers by State: 2001". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  24. ^ "Population in Metropolitan Statistical Areas Ranked by 2000 Census" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2006-12-17. 
  25. ^ American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau. "2006–2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  26. ^ "Official April 1, 2010 Washington State Population Census | OFM". Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  27. ^ "Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  28. ^ "The Association of Religion Data Archives | Maps & Reports". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  29. ^ Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone. AltaMira Press. ISBN 978-0759106253. 
  30. ^ "BEA : Gross Domestic Product by State". 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  31. ^ "Top 20 Most Admired Companies". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  32. ^ "Washington State Liquor Control Board". Washington State Liquor Control Board. Archived from the original on 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  33. ^ #1 William Gates III – The World's Billionaires 2009 — Forbes (February 11, 2009). Retrieved 9-13-2009.
  34. ^ [1] Seattle Times September 22, 2006 "No news here ... Gates still richest"
  35. ^; Local Area Unemployment Statistics
  36. ^ "Local Sales and Use Tax Rates by City/County". Washington State Department of Revenue. Retrieved 2010-03-22. 
  37. ^ "Collection of Retail Sales Tax". Washington State Department of Revenue. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ Schotzko, Thomas R.; Granatstein, David (2005), A Brief Look at the Washington Apple Industry: Past and Present, Pullman, WA: Washington State University, p. 1,, retrieved 2008-05-09 
  40. ^ Lemons, Hoyt; Rayburn, D. Tousley (July 1945). "The Washington Apple Industry. I. Its Geographic Basis". Economic Geograpy 21 (3): 161–162, 166. DOI:10.2307/141294. Retrieved on 2008-05-09. 
  41. ^ S. Spacek, 2011 American State Litter Scorecard: New Rankings for an Environmentally Concerned Populous.
  42. ^ "WSFLargest_foliov3_May06.indd" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  43. ^ King County International Airport/Boeing Field
  44. ^ staff (2007-06-25). "Toxics Persist in Washington Rivers, Lakes and Fish". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ "Historical Perspecitve Of The Phosphate Detergent Conflict". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  47. ^ "November 1994 General". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  48. ^ "November 1996 General". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  49. ^ "November 1998 General". Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  50. ^ Washington State Report Card — Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved 10-6-2009.
  51. ^ Districts and Schools — Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved 10-6-2009.
  52. ^ About Us — Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved 10-6-2009.
  53. ^ Running Start — Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved 10-6-2009.
  54. ^ Jollata, Pat, "Naming Clark County". Vancouver Historical Society. Vancouver, Washington. 1993. p.17
  55. ^ Senate passes measure designating Walla Walla onion state veggie. Komo 4 Television. April 5, 2007. Retrieved on April 5, 2007.
  56. ^ "WSDOT - Highway Map - Washington State Facts". 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2010-11-30. 
  57. ^ State Symbols. Washington State Legislature. Retrieved on April 5, 2007
  58. ^ History of the State Seal. Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved on April 5, 2007

External linksEdit

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Preceded by
List of U.S. states by date of statehood
Admitted on November 11, 1889 (42nd)
Succeeded by


Coordinates: 47°30′N 120°30′W / 47.5, -120.5

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Washington (state). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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