), officially the State of Washington
, is a state
in the Pacific Northwest
region of the Western United States
. Named for George Washington
, the first U.S. president
, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory
, which was ceded by the British Empire
in 1846, in accordance with the Oregon Treaty
in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute
. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean
to the south, Idaho
to the east, and the Canadian province
of British Columbia
to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia
is the state capital
; the state's largest city is Seattle
. Washington is often referred to as Washington state
to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
Washington is the 18th largest state
, with an area of 71,362 square miles (184,827 km2
), and the 13th most populous
state, with more than 7.7 million people. Approximately 60 percent of Washington's residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area
, the center of transportation, business, and industry along Puget Sound
, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean consisting of numerous islands, deep fjords
, and bays carved out by glaciers. The remainder of the state consists of deep temperate rainforests
in the west; mountain ranges
in the west, central, northeast, and far southeast; and a semi-arid basin region in the east, central, and south, given over to intensive agriculture. Washington is the second most populous state on the West Coast
and in the Western United States
, after California
. Mount Rainier
, an active stratovolcano
, is the state's highest elevation, at almost 14,411 feet (4,392 meters), and is the most topographically prominent
mountain in the contiguous U.S.
Washington is a leading lumber
producer; its rugged surface is rich in stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, ponderosa pine, white pine, spruce, larch, and cedar. Washington is the nation's largest producer of apples, hops, pears, red raspberries, spearmint oil, and sweet cherries, and ranks high in the production of apricots, asparagus, dry edible peas, grapes, lentils, peppermint oil, and potatoes. Livestock and livestock products make important contributions to total farm revenue, and the commercial fishing of salmon, halibut, and bottomfish makes a significant contribution to the state's economy. Washington ranks second only to California in wine
Manufacturing industries in Washington include aircraft and missiles, shipbuilding, and other transportation equipment, food processing, metals and metal products, chemicals, and machinery. Washington has more than a thousand dams, including the Grand Coulee Dam
, built for a variety of purposes including irrigation, power, flood control, and water storage.
Confusion over the state of Washington and the city of Washington, D.C., led to renaming proposals during the statehood process for Washington in 1889, including David Dudley Field II
's suggestion to name the new state "Tacoma". These proposals failed to garner support.
Washington, D.C.'s, own statehood movement
in the 21st century includes a proposal to use the name "State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth", which would conflict with the current state of Washington.
Residents of Washington (known as "Washingtonians") and the Pacific Northwest
simply refer to the state as "Washington",
and the nation's capital "Washington, D.C.", "the other Washington",
or simply "D.C."
Major cities in Washington
Washington is the northwesternmost state of the contiguous United States
. It borders Idaho
to the east, bounded mostly by the meridian running north from the confluence of the Snake River
and Clearwater River
(about 117°02'23" west), except for the southernmost section where the border follows the Snake River. Oregon
is to the south, with the Columbia River forming the western part and the 46th parallel forming the eastern part of the Oregon-Washington border. During Washington's partition from Oregon, the original plan for the border followed the Columbia River east until the confluence with the Snake, and then would have followed the Snake River east; this was changed in order to keep Walla Walla
's fertile farmland in Washington.
Washington is part of a region known as the Pacific Northwest
, a term which always refers to at least Washington and Oregon, and may or may not include some or all the following, depending on the user's intent: Idaho, western Montana
, northern California, British Columbia, and Alaska
The high mountains of the Cascade Range
run north–south, bisecting the state. In addition to Western Washington
and Eastern Washington
, residents call the two parts of the state the "West side" and the "East side", "Wet side" and "Dry side", or "Timberland" and "Wheatland", the latter pair more commonly in the names of region-specific businesses and institutions. These terms reflect the geography, climate and industry of the land on both sides of the Cascades.
Major volcanoes in Washington
From the Cascade Mountains
westward, Western Washington
has a mostly Mediterranean Climate
, with mild temperatures and wet winters, autumns and springs, and relatively dry summers. The Cascade Range has several volcanoes
, which reach altitudes significantly higher than the rest of the mountains. From north to south, these major volcanoes are Mount Baker
, Glacier Peak
, Mount Rainier
, Mount St. Helens
, and Mount Adams
. All are active volcanoes. Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the state,
is 50 miles (80 km) south of the city of Seattle, from which it is prominently visible. The USGS
considers 14,411-foot-tall (4,392 m) Mount Rainier the most dangerous volcano in the Cascade Range, due to its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan area
, and most dangerous in the continental U.S. according to the Decade Volcanoes
It is also covered with more glacial ice
than any other peak in the contiguous 48 states.
Western Washington also is home of the Olympic Mountains
, far west on the Olympic Peninsula
, which support dense forests of conifers and areas of temperate rainforest
. These deep forests, such as the Hoh Rainforest
, are among the only rainforests in the continental United States.
Indeed, while Western Washington does not always suffer from a high amount of rainfall as measured in total inches of rain per year, it does consistently have more rainy days per year than most other places in the country.
—the part of the state east of the Cascades—has a relatively dry climate, in distinct contrast to the west side. It includes large areas of semiarid steppe
and a few truly arid deserts
in the rain shadow
of the Cascades; the Hanford reservation receives an average annual precipitation of 6 to 7 inches (150 to 180 mm). Despite the limited amount of rainfall, agriculture
is an extremely important business throughout much of Eastern Washington, as the soil is highly productive and irrigation
, aided by dams along the Columbia River, is fairly widespread. The spread of population in Eastern Washington is dominated by access to water, especially rivers. The main cities are all located alongside rivers or lakes; indeed, most of them are named after the river or lake they adjoin.
Farther east, the climate becomes less arid, with annual rainfall increasing as one goes east to 21.2 inches (540 mm) in Pullman, near the Washington-Idaho border.
The Okanogan Highlands
and the rugged Kettle River Range
and Selkirk Mountains
cover much of the state's northeastern quadrant. The Palouse
southeast region of Washington was grassland that has been mostly converted into farmland, and extends to the Blue Mountains
As described above, Washington's climate varies greatly from west to east. A Mediterranean 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 bring 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. The air spiraling inward in a counter-clockwise fashion causes Washington's prevailing winds to come from the southwest, and bring relatively warm and moist air masses and a predictably wet season
. The term "Pineapple Express
" is used colloquially to describe atmospheric river
events, where repeated storm systems are directed by this persistent cyclone from tropical and near-tropical Pacific regions into the Pacific Northwest.
Despite western Washington's having a marine climate similar to 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 1883–1884, 1915–1916, 1949–1950, and 1955–1956, 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.
Seattle's lowest officially recorded temperature is 0 °F (−18 °C) set on January 31, 1950, but low-altitude areas approximately three hours away from Seattle have recorded lows as cold as −48 °F (−44 °C).
The Southern Oscillation greatly influences weather during the cold season. During the El Niño phase, the jet stream enters the U.S. farther south through California, therefore late fall and winter are drier than normal with less snowpack. The La Niña phase reinforces the jet stream through the Pacific Northwest, causing Washington to have more rain and snow than average.
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.
Rain shadow effects
Washington experiences extensive variation in rainfall.
Rainfall in Washington varies dramatically going from east to west. The Olympic Peninsula's western side receives as much as 160 inches (4,100 mm) of precipitation annually, making it the wettest area of the 48 conterminous states and a temperate rainforest
. Weeks 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 or 5,100 millimeters 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 (about 120 miles east of the Idaho border).
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 (95 ft; 29 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 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 dry grassland
, and sand dunes
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 °C) in Winthrop
. The highest recorded temperature in the state was 118 °F (48 °C) at Ice Harbor Dam
on August 5, 1961.
Both records were set east of the Cascades. Western Washington is known for its mild climate, considerable fog, frequent cloud cover, long-lasting drizzles in the winter and warm, temperate summers. The Eastern region, which does not benefit from the general moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, 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 only reached as high as 107 °F (42 °C) in Centralia
and as low as −6 °F (−21 °C) in Longview
Average daily high and low temperatures in °F (°C)
in cities and other locations in Washington
colored and sortable by average temperature
Flora and fauna
Washington's national forests
Forests cover about half the state's land area, mostly west of the North Cascades. Approximately two-thirds of Washington's forested area is publicly owned, including 64 percent of federal land.
Common trees and plants in the region are camassia
, Douglas fir
, hemlock, penstemon
, ponderosa pine
, western red cedar
, and many species of ferns.
The state's various areas of wilderness offer sanctuary, with substantially large populations of shorebirds and marine mammals. The Pacific shore surrounding the San Juan Islands
are heavily inhabited with killer
, gray, and humpback whales.
In Eastern Washington, the flora is vastly different. Tumbleweeds
dominate the landscape throughout large parts of the countryside. Russian olives
and other trees are common alongside riverbanks; however, apart from the riversides, enormous swaths of Eastern Washington have no naturally existing trees at all (though many trees have been planted and are irrigated by people, of course). A wider variety of flora can be found in both the Blue Mountains
and the eastern sides of the Cascades.
Mammals native to the state include the bat
, black bear
, gray wolf
, mountain beaver
, pocket gopher
, river otter
, and tree squirrel
Because of the wide range of geography, the State of Washington is home to several different ecoregions, which allow for a varied range of bird species. This range includes raptors, shorebirds, woodland birds, grassland birds, ducks, and others.
There have also been a large number of species introduced to Washington, dating back to the early 18th century, including horses and burros.
The channel catfish
, and sturgeon
are among the 400 known freshwater fishes
Along with the Cascades frog, there are several forms of snakes that define the most prominent reptiles
Coastal bays and islands are often inhabited by plentiful amounts of shellfish and whales. There are five species of salmon
that ascend the Western Washington area, from streams to spawn.
Washington has a variety of National Park Service
units. Among these are the Alta Lake State Park
, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
, San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge
, as well as three national parks—the Olympic National Park
, North Cascades National Park
, and Mount Rainier National Park
The three national parks were established between 1899 and 1968. Almost 95 percent (876,517 acres, 354,714 hectares, 3,547.14 square kilometers) of Olympic National Park's area has been designated as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System
Additionally, there are 143 state parks
and 9 national forests
, run by the Washington State Park System
and the United States Forest Service
The Okanogan National Forest
is the largest national forest on the West Coast
, encompassing 1,499,023 acres (606,633 ha). It is managed together as the Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest
, encompassing a considerably larger area of around 3,239,404 acres (1,310,940 ha).
A farm and barren hills near Riverside
, in north central Washington
The skeletal remains of Kennewick Man
, one of the oldest and most complete human remains found in North America, were discovered in Washington.
The area has been known to host megathrust earthquakes
in the past, the last being the Cascadia earthquake of 1700
Before the Europeans arrived, the region had many established tribes of aboriginal Americans, notable for their totem poles
and their ornately carved canoes and masks. Prominent among their industries were salmon
fishing and, notably 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 Native American population.
The first recorded European 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
. He claimed the coastal lands up to Prince William Sound
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.
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 confluence 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.
Britain and the United States 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, was 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
was highly contested between Britain and the United States. Disputed joint-occupancy by Britain and the U.S. lasted for several decades. With American settlers pouring into Oregon Country
, Hudson's Bay Company
, which had previously discouraged settlement because it conflicted with the fur trade, reversed its position in an attempt to maintain British control of the Columbia District
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 the 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.
, a farm and trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company and the first European settlement in the Puget Sound
area, was founded in 1833. Black pioneer George Washington Bush
and his Caucasian wife, Isabella James Bush, from Missouri
, respectively, led four white families into the territory and founded New Market, now Tumwater
, in 1846. They settled in Washington to avoid Oregon's Black Exclusion Law
, which prohibited African Americans from entering the territory while simultaneously prohibiting slavery
After them, many more settlers, migrating overland along the Oregon Trail, wandered north to settle in the Puget Sound area.
Seattle in 1887
The growing populace of Oregon Territory north of the Columbia River formally requested a new territory. As a result of the Monticello Convention
, held in present-day Cowlitz County
passed legislation and President Millard Fillmore
signed into law on March 2, 1853, the creation of a new Washington Territory
The boundary of Washington Territory initially extended farther east than the present state's, including what is now the Idaho Panhandle
and parts of western Montana, and picked up more land to the southeast that was left behind when Oregon was admitted as a state. The creation of Idaho Territory
in 1863 established the final eastern border. A Washington State constitution
was drafted and ratified in 1878, but it was never officially adopted.
Although never approved by Congress, the 1878 constitution is an important historical document which shows the political thinking of the time. It was used extensively during the drafting of Washington State's 1889 constitution, the one and only official Constitution of the State of Washington. Washington became the 42nd
state in the United States on November 11, 1889.
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. 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 included fishing, salmon canning and mining.
For a long period, Tacoma
had 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. While the Boeing Company produced many of the nation's heavy bombers
, ports in Seattle, Bremerton
, and Tacoma were available for the manufacture of warships. Seattle was the point of departure for many soldiers in the Pacific, a number of whom were quartered at Discovery 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
Mount St. Helens eruption, 1980
Washington's population was 7,705,281 in the 2020 census
a 14.6 percent increase since the 2010 Census
In 2018, the state ranked 13th overall in population, and was the third most populous, after California and Texas, west of the Mississippi River.
Washington has the largest Pacific Northwest population, followed by Oregon, then Idaho. The Washington State Office of Financial Management reported the state population at 7,656,200 as of April 1, 2020.
As of the 2010 Census, the population of Washington was 6,724,540. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area population was 3,439,809 in the 2010 Census, half the state total.
Washington's proportion of residents under age five was 6.7%, and 25.7% under 18, and 11.2% 65 or older.
The racial composition of Washington's population as of 2016 was:
Race and Hispanic origin of Washington by county, showing race by color, and then breaking down non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin by color tone. County population shown by size and by label. The same data on the map below shows non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin first, and then breaks that down by race using color tone.
The same race and origin data as above, but Hispanic origin is grouped first, then by race. The first emphasizes the racial diversity of people of Hispanic origin, while the second grouping gives a clearer indication of total Hispanic population.
Washington race and Hispanic origin (2017)
Washington Historical Racial Composition
In 2011, 44.3 percent of Washington's population younger than age 1 were minorities.
Note: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
Live births by single race or ethnicity of the mother
Since 2016, data for births of White Hispanic
origin are not collected, but included in one Hispanic
group; persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Areas of concentration
Washington population density map
While the population of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest is relatively scarce overall, they are mostly concentrated in the South End
and Central District
areas of Seattle, and in inner Tacoma.
The black community of Seattle consisted of one individual in 1858, Manuel Lopes
, and grew to a population of 406 by 1900.
It developed substantially during and after World War II when wartime industries and the U.S. Armed Forces
employed and recruited tens of thousands of African Americans from the Southeastern United States
. They moved west in the second wave of the Great Migration
left a high influence in West Coast rock music
in the 1960s, including Seattle native Jimi Hendrix
, a pioneer in hard rock, who was of African American and Cherokee
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are mostly concentrated in the Seattle−Tacoma metropolitan area of the state. Seattle, Bellevue
, and Redmond
, which are all within King County, have sizable Chinese communities (including Taiwanese
), as well as significant Indian
communities. The Chinatown-International District
in Seattle has a historical Chinese population dating back to the 1860s, who mainly emigrated from Guangdong
Province in southern China, and is home to a diverse East and Southeast Asian community. Koreans
are heavily concentrated in the suburban cities of Federal Way
to the south, and in Lynnwood
to the north. Tacoma is home to thousands of Cambodians
, and has one of the largest Cambodian-American communities in the United States, along with Long Beach, California
, and Lowell, Massachusetts
populations of Washington are mostly concentrated within the Seattle metropolitan area.
Washington state has the second highest percentage of Pacific Islander people in the mainland U.S. (behind Utah
); the Seattle-Tacoma area is home to more than 15,000 people of Samoan
ancestry, who mainly reside in southeast Seattle, Tacoma, Federal Way, and in SeaTac
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
. They were reported to at least date as far back as the 1800s.
But it was in the late 20th century, that large-scale Mexican immigration and other Latinos settled in the southern suburbs of Seattle, with limited concentrations in King, Pierce
, and Snohomish Counties
during the region's real estate construction booms in the 1980s and 1990s.
Additionally, Washington has a large Ethiopian
community, with many Eritrean
residents as well.
Both emerged in the late 1960s, and developed since 1980.
An estimated 30,000 Somali
immigrants reside in the Seattle area.
Cities and towns
Top 10 non-English languages spoken in Washington
In 2010, 82.51% (5,060,313) of Washington residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language
, while 7.79% (477,566) spoke Spanish, 1.19% (72,552) Chinese (which includes Cantonese
), 0.94% (57,895) Vietnamese, 0.84% (51,301) Tagalog
, 0.83% (50,757) Korean, 0.80% (49,282) Russian, and 0.55% (33,744) German. In total, 17.49% (1,073,002) of Washington's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language
other than English.
Major religious affiliations of the people of Washington are:
Like other West Coast
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 one of the highest in the United States.
Washington has a relatively strong economy, with a total gross state product
of $612,996.5 billion in 2019, placing it 5th in the nation and growing by 6.5 percent per year—the fastest rate in the United States.
The minimum wage
as of January 1, 2021 was $13.69 an hour, the second highest of any state or district in the country behind Washington D.C at $14.00 an hour. Significant business within the state include the design and manufacture of aircraft (Boeing
), computer software development (Microsoft
, Nintendo of America
production, lumber and wood products (Weyerhaeuser
), mining, beverages (Starbucks
, Jones Soda
), real estate (John L. Scott
, Colliers International
, Windermere Real Estate
, Kidder Mathews), retail (Nordstrom
, Eddie Bauer
, Car Toys
), and tourism (Alaska Airlines
, Expedia, Inc.
). A Fortune
magazine survey of the top 20 Most Admired Companies in the U.S. has four Washington-based companies: Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Costco.
At over 80 percent the state has significant amounts of hydroelectric power generation. Also, significant amounts of trade with Asia pass through the ports of the Puget Sound, leading to a number six ranking of U.S. ports (ranking combines twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) moved and infrastructure index).
With the passage of Initiative 1183, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) ended its monopoly of all-state liquor store and liquor distribution operations on June 1, 2012.
Among Washington's resident billionaires are, as of March 2021, both the first and the second wealthiest people in the world: Jeff Bezos
of Amazon, with a net worth
of $176.6 billion,
and Bill Gates
of Microsoft, at of $124.3 billion.
As of April 2014, other Washington state billionaires included Microsoft's Paul Allen
, Steve Ballmer
, and Charles Simonyi
, and Craig McCaw
of McCaw Cellular Communications
, James Jannard
, and Howard Schultz
As of December 2020, the state's unemployment rate is 7 percent.
Washington's state base sales tax
is 6.5%, which is combined with a local sales tax that varies by locality. 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 7.5% and 10%.
As of March 2017, the combined sales tax rate in Seattle and Tacoma was 10.1%.
The cities of Lynnwood and Mill Creek have the highest sale tax rate in the state at 10.5%.
These taxes apply to services as well as products.
Most foods are exempt from sales tax. However, prepared foods, dietary supplements
, and soft drinks
An excise tax
applies to certain 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% 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
are subject to tax, unless specifically exempted by law. Most personal property owned by individuals is exempt from tax. 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
, 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 de-coupled from the federal estate tax laws, and therefore, the state imposes its own estate tax.
Washington is a leading agricultural state. The following figures are from the Washington State Department of Agriculture
and the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington Field Office. For 2018, the total value of Washington's agricultural products was $10.6 billion. 
In 2014, Washington ranked first in the nation in production of red raspberries
(90.5 percent of total U.S. production), hops
(79.3 percent), spearmint
oil (75 percent), wrinkled seed peas
(70.4 percent), apples (71.1 percent), sweet cherries
(62.3 percent), pears (45.6 percent), Concord grapes
(55.1 percent), carrots
for processing (30.6 percent), and green peas for processing (32.4 percent).
Washington also ranked second in the nation in production of fall potatoes (a quarter of the nation's production), nectarines
, asparagus, all raspberries, grapes (all varieties taken together), sweet corn for processing (a quarter of the nation's production), and summer onions (a fifth of the nation's production). Washington also ranked third in the nation in production of dried peas, lentil, onions, and peppermint oil.
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
, and Grant
counties), and the Yakima region (comprising Yakima
, and Kittitas
Washington produces seven principal varieties of apples which are exported to more than sixty countries.
Washington ranks second in the United States
in the production of wine, behind only California
By 2006, the state had over 31,000 acres (130 km2
) of vineyards
, a harvest
of 120,000 short tons (109,000 t) of grapes, and exports going to more than forty countries around the world from the state's 600 wineries
. While there are some viticultural
activities in the cooler, wetter western half
of the state, almost all (99%) of wine grape production takes place in the desert-like eastern half
The rain shadow
of the Cascade Range leaves the Columbia River Basin
with around 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rain fall, making irrigation
and water rights
of paramount interest to the Washington wine industry. Viticulture in the state is also influenced by long sunlight hours (on average, two more hours a day than in California during the growing season
) and consistent temperatures.
This section needs expansion
. You can help by adding to it
. (December 2017)
As of December 2014, there are 124 broadband providers offering service to Washington state; 93 percent of consumers have access to broadband speeds of 25/3Mbit/s or more.
From 2009–2014, the Washington State Broadband Project was awarded $7.3 million in federal grants, but the program was discontinued in 2014.
For infrastructure, another $166 million has been awarded since 2011 for broadband infrastructure projects in Washington state.
U.S. News & World Report
ranked Washington 2nd nationally for household internet access, and 6th for online download speed, based on data from 2014 and 2015.
Washington has the largest ferry
system in the United States.
There are extensive waterways around Washington's largest cities, 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, completing close to 147,000 sailings each year. 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
. Among its most famous bridges is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
, which collapsed in 1940 and was rebuilt. Washington has a number of seaports on the Pacific Ocean
, including Seattle
, Grays Harbor, Olympia
, and Port Angeles
The Cascade Mountain Range also impedes transportation. Washington operates and maintains roads over seven[vague]
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 stay open through the winter. The North Cascades Highway, State Route 20
, closes every year due to snowfall and avalanches in the area of Washington Pass
. The Cayuse
passes east of Mount Rainier also close in winter.
Washington passenger rail stations
Washington is crossed by a number of freight railroads
, and Amtrak's passenger Cascade route
between Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, BC is the eighth busiest Amtrak service in the U.S. Seattle's King Street Station
, the busiest station in Washington, and 15th busiest in the U.S.,
serves as the terminus for the two long distance Amtrak routes in Washington, the Empire Builder
to Chicago and the Coast Starlight
to Los Angeles. The Sounder commuter rail
service operates in Seattle and its surrounding cities, between Everett
. The intercity network includes the Cascade Tunnel
, the longest railroad tunnel in the United States, which is part of the Stevens Pass
route on the BNSF Northern Transcom.
Sound Transit Link light rail
currently operates in the Seattle area at a length of 20 miles (32 km), and in Tacoma
at a length of 1.6 miles (2.6 km). The entire system has a funded expansion plan that will expand light rail to a total of 116 miles by 2041. Seattle also has a 3.8-mile (6.1 km) streetcar network
with two lines and plans to expand further by 2025. Bus systems exist across the state, the busiest being King County Metro
, located in Seattle and King County, with just above 122 million riders in 2017.
Residents of Vancouver have resisted proposals to extend Portland's mass transit system into Washington.
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 State Department of Ecology
showed toxic chemicals banned decades ago 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 from 45 sites. The toxic substances included PCBs
, two chlorinated pesticides, DDE
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 State Department of Health
advises the public not to eat mountain whitefish
from the Wenatchee River
downstream to where the river joins the Columbia, due to unhealthy levels of PCBs. Study results also showed 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.
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
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 lead to a variety of excess ecological and technological issues.
Government and politics
Washington's executive branch
is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. The current statewide elected officials are:
The Washington Supreme Court
is the highest court in the state. Nine justices serve on the bench and are elected statewide.
Presidential and Gubernatorial results 1952-2020
of the popular vote by county, 2016 presidential election
The state is typically 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
Due to Western Washington's large population, Democrats usually fare better statewide. The Seattle metropolitan combined statistical area
, home to almost two-thirds of Washington's population, generally delivers stronger Democratic margins than most other parts of Western Washington. This is especially true of King County, home to Seattle and almost a third of the state's population.
Washington 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 pick-up in the house for Republicans, who picked up seven of Washington's nine House seats.
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.
is held by Democrat Jay Inslee
, who was elected to his first term in the 2012 gubernatorial election
and, after the 2020 election, became the first incumbent in more than 40 years to be elected for a third term. In 2013 and 2014, both houses of the Washington State Legislature
(the Washington Senate
and the Washington House of Representatives
) were controlled by Democrats. The state senate was under Republican control, due to two Democrats' joining Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus
. After the 2014 elections, the Democrats retained control of the House, while Republicans took a majority in the Senate without the need for a coalition. In November 2017, a special election gave Democrats a one seat majority in the Senate and complete control over state government. Since then, in the 2018 election, the Democrats have only expanded their majorities.
No state has gone longer without a Republican governor than Washington
. Democrats have controlled the Washington Governor's Mansion
for 36 years; the last Republican Governor was John Spellman
, who left office in 1985. Washington has not voted for a Republican senator, governor, or presidential candidate since 1994, tying Delaware for the longest streak in the country.
Washington uses the non-partisan blanket primary
system after the approval of Initiative 872
All candidates run on the same ballot during primary elections and the top two candidates advance to the general election in November, regardless of party affiliation. This has resulted in several same-party general election match-ups.
In November 2009, Washington voters approved full domestic partnerships via Referendum 71
, marking the first time voters in any state expanded recognition of same-sex relationships at the ballot box. Three years later, in November 2012, same-sex marriage
was affirmed via Referendum 74
, making Washington one of only three states to have approved same-sex marriage by popular vote.
Also in November 2012, Washington was one of the first two states to approve the legal sale and possession of cannabis
for both recreational and medical use with Initiative 502
. Although marijuana is still illegal under U.S. federal law, persons 21 and older in Washington state can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form, or any combination of all three, and can legally consume marijuana and marijuana-infused products.
In November 2016, voters approved Initiative 1433, which among other things requires employers to guarantee paid sick leave
to most workers. On January 1, 2018, the law went into effect, with Washington becoming the seventh state with paid sick leave requirements.
With the passage of Initiative 1639
in the 2018 elections, Washington adopted stricter gun laws.
Washington enacted a measure in May 2019 in favor of sanctuary cities
, similar to California and Oregon laws which are among the strongest statewide mandates in the nation.
In 2019 the legislature passed the Clean Energy Transformation Act, which requires all electricity sales to be from zero-carbon sources by 2045 and net-zero by 2030.
Elementary and secondary education
High school juniors
in Washington have the option of using the state's Running Start
program. Begun by the state legislature
in 1990, it allows students to attend institutions of higher education at public expense, simultaneously earning high school and college credit.
There are more than 40 institutions of higher education in Washington. The state has major research universities, technical schools, religious schools, and private career colleges. Colleges and universities include the University of Washington
, Seattle University
, Washington State University
, Western Washington University
, Eastern Washington University
, Central Washington University
, Saint Martin's University
, Pacific Lutheran University
, Gonzaga University
, University of Puget Sound
, The Evergreen State College
, and Whitman College
The state of Washington reformed its health care system in 1993 through the Washington Health Services Act. The legislation required individuals to obtain health insurance or face penalties, and required employers to provide insurance to employees. In addition, health insurance companies were required to sell policies to all individuals, regardless of pre-existing conditions, and cover basic benefits.
The act was mostly repealed in 1995 before it could go into full effect.
Major professional teams
Minor professional and amateur teams
College sports teams
Symbols, honors, and names
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 State
The state's nickname, "The Evergreen State",
was proposed in 1890 by Charles T. Conover of Seattle. 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.
Although the nickname is widely used by the state, appearing on vehicle license plates
for instance, it has not been officially adopted.
The publicly funded Evergreen State College
in Olympia also takes its name from this nickname.
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
The state folk song
is "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On
" by Woody Guthrie
. The unofficial, but popularly accepted, state rock song is Louie Louie
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
. The state land mammal
is the Olympic marmot
The state seal
(featured in the state flag as well) was inspired by the unfinished portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
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