Washington is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. 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 42nd state in 1889. In 2008, the Census Bureau estimated the state's population at 6,549,224 people.
The state is named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. Residents are called "Washingtonians" (emphasis on the third syllable, pronounced as tone). Washington is often called Washington state or the State of Washington to distinguish it from the District of Columbia (which is usually called Washington, D.C.). However, Washingtonians generally refer to the state as "Washington" and Washington, D.C., as "D.C."
Washington is the northwestern-most 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.
Washington is part of a region known as the Pacific Northwest, a term which always includes at least Washington and Oregon but 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 speaker or writer's intent.
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 relatively mild temperatures, wet winters, and dry summers. Western Washington also supports dense forests of conifers and areas of temperate rain forest. 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 region of southeast Washington was grassland that has been mostly converted into farmland. Other parts of eastern Washington are forested and mountainous.
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 Rainier, 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.
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, is covered with more glacial ice than any other peak in the lower 48 states.
National forests in the state include:
Other protected lands of note include:
There are many wilderness designated areas in Washington, including:
There are several large military-related reservations, including:
Washington's climate varies greatly from west to east. An oceanic climate (also called "marine west coast 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.
Despite Western Washington having a marine climate similar to those of the coastal cities of Europe, there are exceptions, such as the "Big Snow" events of 1880, 1881, 1893 and 1916. The "deep freeze" winters of 1883/84, 1915/16, 1949/50 and 1955/56 among others. In these events Western Washington has experienced anything from six feet (1.8 m) of snow, sub-zero (−18°C) temperatures, three months of snow on the ground, and lakes and rivers frozen over for weeks on end. Seattle's lowest temperature recorded officially is 0°F (−18°C) set on January 31, 1950, but it has been known that areas away from Seattle have experienced record lows from −10°F to −20°F (−23°C to −29°C).
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.
The coastal 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 in, 95 ft or 28.96 m). 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 River 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 (10.6 °C) on the Pacific coast to 40 °F (4.4 °C) in the northeast. The lowest recorded temperature in the state was -48 °F (-44.4 °C) in Winthrop and Mazama. The highest recorded temperature in the state was 118 °F (47.8 °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 in Marietta and as low as in Longview. The western side of the Olympic Peninsula receives as much as 160 inches (4,064 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 in or 5,080 mm) in the country. In the rain shadow area east of the Cascades, the annual precipitation is only 6 inches (152 mm). Precipitation increases eastward toward the Rocky Mountains.
According to the U.S. Census, as of 2006, Washington has an estimated population of 6,395,798, which is an increase of 501,658, or 8.5%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase of 221,958 people (that is, 503,819 births minus 281,861 deaths) and an increase from net migration of 287,759 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 157,950 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 129,809 people.
As of the Census 2000, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area's population was 3,043,878, about half the state's total population.
As of 2004, Washington's population included 631,500 foreign-born (10.3% of the state population), and an estimated 100,000 illegal aliens (1.6% of state population).
See also: List of cities in Washington.
The largest cities in Washington according to 2008 state census estimates.
Washington has the fourth largest Asian population of any state. The Filipino community is the largest Asian American subgroup in the state. Gary Locke was elected as the first Asian American governor (and so far, the only Chinese American governor of any US state) at the end of the 20th century. Beacon Hill a neigborhood in Seattle is the only majority-asian neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest with 51%.
African Americans are less numerous than Asians or Hispanics in many communities, but have been elected as mayor of Seattle, Spokane and Lakewood and as King County Executive. In Seattle, minorities are moving into the southern part of the city as well as many suburban areas such as South King County. Seattle's Black population is largely concentrated on Rainier Valley and the Central District which remains the only majority-black neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma also has a rising African-American population.
Washington is the location of many Native American reservations, with some placing prominent casinos next to major interstate highways. Residents have adopted many of the artwork themes of the northwest coast Indians who were noted for totem poles, longhouses, dugout canoes and pictures of animals. Many cities have traditional names created by Native Americans such as Yakima, Seattle, Spokane, Puyallup, and Walla Walla.
6.7% of Washington's population was reported as under 5, 25.7% under 18, and 11.2% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.2% of the population.
The religious affiliations of Washington's population are:
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; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 127,854.
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.
The 2005 total gross state product for Washington was $268.5 billion, placing it 14th in the nation. The per capita income was $42,702, 17th in the nation. Significant business within the state include the design and manufacture of jet aircraft (Boeing), computer software development (Microsoft, Amazon.com, Nintendo of America, Valve Corporation), electronics, biotechnology, aluminum production, lumber and wood products (Weyerhaeuser), mining, and tourism. 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. 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.
The state of Washington has the least progressive tax structure in the U.S. It is one of only seven states that does not levy a personal income tax. The wealthiest one percent of Washington taxpayers pay 3.2% of their income in taxes. The poorest fifth of Washington taxpayers pay 17.6% of their income in taxes. 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.
Washington's state sales tax is 6.5 percent, and it applies to services as well as products. 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. 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.
Washington is one of eighteen states which has a government monopoly on sales of alcoholic beverages, although beer and wine with less than 20 percent 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.
Bill Gates (worth $59.2 billion), the second wealthiest man in the world, is the best known billionaire from the state. Other Washington state billionaires include Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Jeffrey Bezos (Amazon), Craig McCaw (McCaw Cellular), James Jannard (Oakley), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), and Charles Simonyi (Microsoft).
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% of total U.S. production), wrinkled seed peas (80.6%), hops (75.0%), spearmint oil (73.6%), apples (58.1%), sweet cherries (47.3%), pears (42.6%), peppermint oil (40.3%), Concord grapes (39.3%), carrots for processing (36.8%), and Niagara grapes (31.6%). 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. 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).
Washington has a system of state highways, called State Routes, as well as an extensive ferry system which is the largest in the nation as well as 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. 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 Bridge over Lake Washington, and the Hood Canal Bridge which connects the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap Peninsula.
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 on State Route 20 closes every year. This is because of the extraordinary amount of snowfall and frequency of avalanches, leading to it not being safe in the winter months.
It is recorded that in Washington that transportation, including automobiles, planes, trains and ships is the cause of 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/washington.htm
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 effecthttp://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2007/2007-06-25-01.asp.
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% 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, Washington, in 2008. 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.
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.
The Washington Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. Nine justices serve on the bench and are elected statewide.
See also: United States Congressional Delegations from Washington. 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), Brian Baird (D-3), Doc Hastings (R-4), Cathy McMorris (R-5), Norm Dicks (D-6), Jim McDermott (D-7), David Reichert (R-8), and Adam Smith (D-9).
See also: Political party strength in Washington.
|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|
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. Lately however, Washington has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1988. Spokane, the state's second largest city located in Eastern Washington, has been leaning more liberal, with one example being Democrat Maria Cantwell winning by a wide margin in the 2006 senate race against Republican Mike McGavick. 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. However, Washington was considered a part of the 1994 Republican Revolution, and had the biggest pickup in the house for Republicans, making 7 of the 9 house members Republicans for the state of Washington. However, this dominance did not last for long as Democrats picked up one seat in the 1996 election and two more in 1998, giving the Democrats a 5-4 majority.
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.
|Club||Sport||League||City & Stadium|
|Seattle Seahawks||Football||National Football League||Seattle, Qwest Field|
|Seattle Mariners||Baseball||Major League Baseball||Seattle, Safeco Field|
|Seattle Thunderbirds||Ice Hockey||Western Hockey League||Kent, ShoWare Center|
|Seattle Storm||Basketball||Women's National Basketball Association||Seattle, KeyArena|
|Seattle Sounders FC||Soccer||Major League Soccer||Seattle, Qwest Field|
|Seattle Sounders||Soccer||USL First Division (men's)|
|Seattle, Qwest Field|
|Bellingham Slam||Basketball||American Basketball Association||Bellingham, Whatcom Community College|
|Bellevue Blackhawks||Basketball||American Basketball Association||Bellevue, Meydenbauer Center|
|Everett Silvertips||Ice Hockey||Western Hockey League||Everett, Everett Events Center|
|Spokane Chiefs||Ice Hockey||Western Hockey League||Spokane, Spokane Arena|
|Tri-City Americans||Ice Hockey||Western Hockey League||Kennewick, Toyota Center|
|Tri-City Fever||Arena Football||af2||Kennewick, Toyota Center|
|Tri-City Dust Devils||Baseball||Northwest League||Pasco, Dust Devils Stadium|
|Tacoma Rainiers||Baseball||Pacific Coast League||Tacoma, Cheney Stadium|
|Spokane Indians||Baseball||Northwest League||Spokane, Avista Stadium|
|Everett AquaSox||Baseball||Northwest League||Everett, Everett Memorial Stadium|
|Yakima Bears||Baseball||Northwest League||Yakima, Yakima County Stadium|
|Spokane Shock||Arena Football||af2||Spokane, Spokane Arena|
|Yakima Sun Kings||Basketball||Continental Basketball Association||Yakima, Yakima Valley SunDome|
|Old Puget Sound Beach RFC||Rugby||RSL||Seattle, various venues|
See main article: List of Washington state symbols.
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 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 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 Whale. The State Seal (featured in the state flag as well) was inspired by the unfinished portrait by Gilbert Stuart.