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Washington State


I was born in Everett Washington in 1972.  When I was very young, my family moved to North Bonneville, deep in the heart of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.  When I was 5 years old, we moved to Vancouver, where I have lived since.  Sandra has resided in Washington since she was 17, after her year as an exchange student from Sweden.  We love Washington and all of its scenic beauty.  This page will introduce you to our home state.  We have included a photo gallery of Washington state, and an area-specific page about our home town of Vancouver.  Also, check out our Washington Directory for tons of information and links about our state. 

DemographicsSnoqualmie Falls

Washington is one of the Pacific states of the United States, bounded on the north by the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the east by Idaho, on the south by Oregon, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. A series of channels in the northwest-Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, and the Strait of Georgia-separate the state from Canada's Vancouver Island. Puget Sound deeply indents the northwestern part of the state. All these bodies of water contain numerous islands that form part of the state. The Columbia River forms much of the southern boundary.

Washington entered the Union on November 11, 1889, as the 42nd state. Formerly known primarily for its agricultural andLake Roosevelt forestry products, Washington had, by the early 1990s, a highly diversified economy. Although the state remained a leading national producer of such products as apples, wheat, and timber, manufacturing had become a leading sector of the economy. Tourism and other services were also important; visitors are attracted by the state's diverse scenic wonders. The state is named for George Washington. Washington is called the Evergreen State.

Washington, with an area of 184,674 sq km (71,303 sq. MI), is the 18th largest state in the U.S.; 29.6 percent of the land area is owned by the federal government. The state is roughly rectangular in shape, and its extreme dimensions are about 380 km (about 235 mi.) from north to south and about 555 km (about 345 mi.) from east to west. Elevations range from sea level to 4392 m (14,411 ft) atop Mount Rainier. The approximate mean elevation is 518 m (1700 ft). Washington's coastline on the Pacific Ocean is 253 km (157 mi.) long

The western section of Washington is part of the Coast Ranges region. In the southwest the mountains, known locally as the Willapa Hills, form the lowest segment of the Pacific Coast mountains; the highest elevation here is about 948 m (about 3110 ft). By contrast, the Olympic Mountains, which lie to the north of the Chehalis River valley, have some of the highest elevations in the entire Pacific mountain system. Mount Olympus, the highest peak, reaches 2424 m (7954 ft). With their deep glacial valleys and snowcapped summits, the Olympic Mountains offer some of the most spectacular scenery of the Coast Ranges

To the east of the Coast Ranges lies the Puget Trough, a structural depression that extends the length of the state. Mt. St. HelensThe maximum elevation here is about 150 m (about 500 ft), and the surface is generally flat, although in places marked by hummocky glacial deposits. The basin is penetrated through more than half its length by Puget Sound, which contains numerous islands.

To the east of the Puget Sound lies the rugged, geologically complex Cascade Range. From the vicinity of Mount Rainier southward, the Cascade Range is a volcanic tableland, studded with such cones as Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens. The northern section of the range, however, is a granitic mass that includes the most extensive valley glaciers in the 48 conterminous states; a portion of this area is contained in North Cascades National Park. Continued mountain building in the volcanic Cascades was dramatically demonstrated by the 1980 eruption and subsequent activity of Mount St. Helens.Deception Pass State Park

The southeastern part of the state is dominated by the Columbia Plateau. This is a huge basin, the surface of which is formed of vast lava flows. In Washington the Columbia and Snake rivers have cut deep trenches in the Columbia Plateau. A portion in the southeast, the Palouse Hills, is covered by fertile, windblown dust (loess); it is one of the state's most important agricultural regions. In the extreme southeast are the relatively low-lying Blue Mountains. The northeastern corner of Washington is crossed by ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Several peaks here have elevations exceeding 2134 m (7000 ft).

The Columbia River, the largest river in the western U.S., drains the eastern section of Washington. The river has a great volume of flow, and the numerous drops along its course give it vast hydroelectric power potential. The ColuWhale Watch Park, San Juansmbia's principal tributaries include the Snake, Spokane, Wenatchee, and Yakima rivers. Many smaller rivers flow west from the Cascade Range and the Coast Ranges. The most important of these is the Chehalis River, which rises in the Cascades and flows west to Grays Harbor, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Other rivers include the Cowlitz, Nisqually, and Skagit. Puget Sound, approximately one-fifth the size of Lake Erie, is an inlet of the Pacific; with its numerous arms, it is the state's most significant body of water. Lake Chelan, a long, narrow glacial lake in the Cascade Range, is the largest natural lake in Washington. Large artificial lakes have been created behind dams on the Columbia River. Among these are Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (behind Grand Coulee Dam) and Banks Lake (behind Dry Falls Dam).

Washington's climate varies greatly from west to east. A mild, humid climate predominates in the western part of the state, and a cooler dry climate prevails east of the Cascade Range. The average annual temperature ranges from 10.6° C (51° F) on the Pacific coast to 4.4° C (40° FKiller Whale) in the northeast. The recorded temperature in the state has ranged from -44.4° C (-48° F) in 1968 to 47.8° C (118° F) in 1961. A wet marine West Coast climate predominates in western Washington; it is mild for its latitude due to the presence of the warm North Pacific Current offshore and the relatively warm maritime air masses. The region has frequent cloud cover, considerable fog, and long-lasting drizzles; summer is the sunniest season. The western side of the Olympic Peninsula receives as much as 4064 mm (160 in) of precipitation annually, making it the wettest area of the 48 conterminous states. Weeks or even months, may pass without a clear day. Portions of the Puget Sound area, on the leeward side of the Olympic Mountains, are less wet, although still humid. The western slopes of the Cascade Range receive some of the heaviest annual snowfall (in some places more than 5080 mm/200 in) in the country. In the rain shadow east of the Cascades the annual precipitation is only 152 mm (6 in). Precipitation increases eastward toward the Rocky Mountains, however.Waptus Lake

Washington is rich in flora. Forest covers about half the state's land area. The North Pacific coniferous forest here contains some of the world's finest commercial softwood trees. On the western side of the Olympic Peninsula extending south to the Columbia River is a temperate rain forest. This is an extraordinarily luxuriant woodland of spruce, cedar, and hemlock, its floor densely covered with ferns and mosses. Inland, on the southeastern side of the Olympic Range, is a more open spruce and fir forest with a shrubby understory. Surrounding Puget Sound and extending into the western Cascade Range is a much-logged forest dominated by cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir. Deeper in the heart of the Cascades is a magnificent forest consisting of silver and Douglas fir with scattered shrub undergrowth. An open forest of ponderosa pine with grasses and shrubs is found on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Farther north is a Douglas fir forest that extends east into the Rocky Mountains. In the driest portions of the central Columbia Plateau is a steppe, an area covered by short grasses. To the east, in the Palouse Hills, is a prairie, a region of taller grasses.

Washington also has a great diversity of wildlife. In the forests and mountains are bear, elk, mountain lion, wildcat, mountain goat, and mule deer. Smaller mammals include beaver, mink, Glacier Peak from Surprise Mtn.marten, muskrat, weasel, squirrel, porcupine, chipmunk, and gopher. Birdlife includes the crow, western lark, willow goldfinch, grouse, and prairie falcon. Shore and marsh birds include gull, sandpiper, oyster catcher, tern, and cormorant. Shrimp, oysters, and clams are abundant in the state's coastal waters, as are tuna, halibut, and red snapper. Salmon ascend the Columbia River annually to spawn. Rainbow and steelhead trout and white sturgeon are principal species in the state's rivers and lakes.

As of April, 1999, Washington is home to 5.757,400 people, with most of the population residing in the Seattle Metropolitan Area (3,424,361).  Its five largest cities are Seattle (540,500 inhabitants), Spokane (189,200), Tacoma (187,200), Vancouver (135,100), and Bellevue (106,200).  Washington's population has increased 18.3 percent over the last decade, up from 17.8 percent in the 1980s.  The population density is 86 people per square mile, up from 68 per square mile in 1990.  The state's most populated county is King County, and Clark County is the state's fastest growing, with a population increase of 41.6% over the past decade.  89% of Washington's population is caucasian, while African-Americans constituted 3.5%, Native Americans 2%, and Asian-Americans and Hispanics each 6%.  Washington residents harbor the 8th highest tax burden, per capita, in the nation, despite being one only seven states without a state income tax, primarily due to the second highest, per capita, intake of sales taxes in the country.


Before the coming of the Europeans, the Native American peoples inhabiting what is now the state of Washington included the Nez Percé, Spokane, Yakima, Cayuse, Okanogan, Walla Walla, and Colville in the interior, and the Nooksak, Chinook, Nisqually, Clallam, Makah, Quinault, and Puyallup in the coastal area.

In the 18th century, Europeans were attracted to the coast of present-day Washington by the valuable fur of the sea otter, an animal found there in great numbers. The Spanish explorer Bruno Heceta visited the area in 1775 and claimed it for his country. In 1790, however, Britain and Spain concluded the Nootka SounGlacier Peakd Agreement, which opened the coast between California and Alaska to trade and settlement by both nations. In 1792 George Vancouver, a British naval officer, explored Puget Sound. By 1800 British interest had shifted from sea-dwelling furbearers to land animals, particularly the beaver, and the Montréal-based North West Company played a major role in opening Washington to the fur trade.

The first Americans interested in the Pacific Northwest were merchants who came from Boston as early as the 1780s, among them Robert Gray, who explored the Columbia River in 1792. The Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-06) stimulated public interest, and in 1811 John Jacob Astor established a fur-trading post-Astoria-near the mouth of the Columbia and a fort at the mouth of the Okanogan River. In 1818 the U.S. and Britain agreed to a 10-year period of joint occupancy of the Oregon country.

In 1846 the present U.S.-Canadian boundary was established, and Washington became part of the United States territory of Oregon two years later. When it was separated from Oregon in 1853, the new territory contained fewer than 4000 white inhabitants and stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The first territorial governor, Isaac I. Stevens, moved quickly to extinguish Native American title to the land and to improve transportation, the two keys to rapid Physics Hall, University of Washingtonsettlement and economic development. The treaties negotiated by Stevens in 1854-55 were an attempt to defuse tensions between natives and settlers, but for various reasons the treaty structure quickly deteriorated, and intermittent warfare took place between 1855 and 1858. Because of this strife, and numerous delays in constructing a northern transcontinental railroad, the territory languished until the 1880s.

Completion of the Northern Pacific (1886) and Great Northern (1893) rail lines boosted Washington's economy, and statehood in 1889 brought political stability, beginning a period of rapid growth that lasted through World War I. During that time the population increased from 75,000 to 1.25 million. Wheat growing and cattle raising in eastern Washington and lumbering and fishing in the western portions of the state were the main economic activities. The Boeing Airplane Company, founded during World War I, became the largest private employer in the state during and after World War II. Lack of diversification and the cyclical nature of the major elements of the economy led to a series of boom-and-bust periods. The availability of inexpensive hydroelectric power after 1940 attracted the energy-intensive aluminum industry.

By the mid-20th century, agriculture had made dramatic gains. Construction of huge dams provided irrigation and flood control, as well as cheap electric power, and led to the development of inland ports and increased river shipping. As the gateway to Alaska, Washington has been moving away from dependence on federal contracts and has encouraged new industries to develop and process Alaskan resources. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the population increased rapidly-especially in the Seattle and Puget Sound areas. State authorities tried to encourage industrial growth while protecting the environment.

Today, of course, Washington is known for its high-technology, such as software giant Microsoft, video game manufacturer Nintendo, airplane manufacturer Boeing, and computer hardware maker Hewlett Packard, among others.  The San Juan Islands are a major vacation area, locatOlympic Rain Forested in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, as is Lake Chelan, in Eastern Washington.  The Cascade Mountains such as Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. Adams, Mt. Shucksan, and of course the active volcano Mt. St. Helens provide beautiful backdrops to the forested cities of Washington, and countless recreational oppurtunities. The beautiful Rocky Mountains run through the Northeast corner of the state and the Coast Range shelters the inner cities from the Pacific Ocean.  Nowhere else can you find such diversity of climate and agriculture.  The primary crops of Washington (although we produce most everything you can find in the grocery store) are apples, grapes for wine, onions, and potatoes.  All in all, Washington is a great place to live, and we consider ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up here. 

For further information on Washington, please check out some of our other pages on this site!

The Washington Directory    Links to everything Washington

Photo Gallery        Our photos of our home state, including several with us in them!

Vancouver            Our Hometown

Scuba Diving        Diving in the Puget Sound and San Juans.

Golf                     Washington Golf Courses & Facilities

Mountaineering     Pacific Northwest outdoor opportunities

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