Washington (state)

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Capital city: Olympia
State motto: Alki
( Chinook : Someday )
Surface: 184,665 km²
Resident: 6,724,540 (2010 census) (36 U / km²)
Member since: November 11, 1889
Time zone: Pacific: UTC − 8 / −7
The highest point: 4392 m ( Mount Rainier )
Average Height: 520 m
Deepest point: 0 m ( Pacific coast )
Governor : Jay Inslee ( D )
Post  / Office /  ISO WA / / US WA
Washington State Map
Washington State Map

Washington ( English pronunciation  [ ˈwɒʃɪŋtən ] ) is a federal state of the United States of America . It is located in the northwestern United States on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, north of Oregon , west of Idaho and south of British Columbia in Canada . Please click to listen!Play

Measured by its area, Washington ranks 18th among the US states with 184,665 square kilometers, measured by its population of 6,724,540 inhabitants in 13th place (as of 2010). Most of the population is concentrated around Puget Sound , an approximately 150 km long, island-rich and widely branched bay in the west of the state, on which the capital Olympia and by far the largest city Seattle are located.

The state was named after the first US President, George Washington , and was incorporated into the United States as the 42nd state in 1889. Due to the variety of conifers, the state is nicknamed Evergreen State ( German  Evergreen State ).

In order to delimit the state from the capital of the USA, Washington, DC , which is also named after George Washington and is located on the east coast, the name Washington State is often used for the state .



Washington is bordered by the Pacific to the west, the states of Oregon to the south, Idaho to the east, and British Columbia ( Canada ) to the north. The border with Canada in this case runs up on the Canadian island of Vancouver Iceland and the Strait of Juan de Fuca along the 49th latitude (defined in the Oregon Treaty ). The southern border to neighboring Oregon runs largely along the Columbia , in the east the southern border then runs along the 46th parallel. The eastern border of the state is partly based on a river course: The border with Idaho was set in the extreme southeast of the state on the Snake River . North of the confluence with the Clearwater River, the boundary was defined as the meridian running north from this confluence of the Snake and Clearwater. This meridian is not - as is often assumed - exactly the 117th degree of longitude , but is about three kilometers further to the west.

Washington is characterized by the sharp contrast between the mountain and coastal regions in the west and the dry areas in the east of the state. The coastal location and natural harbors offer excellent opportunities for overseas trade on the Pacific Ocean , with Canada and with Alaska . The high forests on the Olympic Peninsula are among the rainiest areas on earth. 52% of the state's land area is covered by coniferous forests (conifers, cedars). To the east of the Cascade Mountains lie the country's semi-deserts, which are entirely devoid of any significant vegetation. Mount Rainier , a dormant volcano , is the highest mountain in the state at 4,392 m.


The Columbia in the area of ​​the Columbia River Gorge

The west of the state is shaped by the Puget Sound , a widely branched and island-rich bay that extends about 150 kilometers into the state. Puget Sound is connected to the Pacific Ocean by the Strait of Juan de Fuca . There are numerous islands in the bay, including Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island . The San Juan Islands are also often assigned to the Puget Sound. Much smaller bays in the southwest of the state are Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor .

All of Washington’s rivers drain into the Pacific Ocean. The most important is the Columbia , which flows through Washington for a length of about 1100 km. It rises in the Canadian neighboring province of British Columbia. Within Washington, it initially flows south and drains the entire east of Washington via its tributaries, including the neighboring state of Idaho and parts of Oregon and Montana. The main tributaries of Columbia are the Pend Oreille River , Spokane River , Okanogan River , Methow River , Wenatchee River , Yakima River , Snake River , Lewis River and Cowlitz River . The Columbia is the only river that breaks the Cascade Range . The gorge, the Columbia River Gorge , was declared the first US National Scenic Area in 1986 . On its last 480 kilometers, the Columbia forms the border with Oregon. There are numerous islands in the lower course of the river, including Tenasillahe Island and Puget Island .

A few smaller rivers drain the western part of the state. These include the Skagit River , Snoqualmie River , Puyallup River and the Nisqually River , which flow into the Puget Sound, as well as the Quinault River , Chehalis River and Willapa River , which flow directly into the Pacific.

The Columbia and its tributaries are suitable for generating hydropower. The artificial lakes created by dams include Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake , Rufus Woods Lake , Ross Lake , Lake Bonneville , Moses Lake and Reef Lake . The largest natural lake in the state is Lake Chelan, 81 km long and up to 453 m deep . The second largest lake is Lake Washington near Seattle. The state belongs to the Greater Pacific Northwest region .


Mount Rainier from 60 kilometers away Tacoma from
Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980

The up to 4400 meter high cascade chain is the defining mountain range of Washington. It is of volcanic origin and runs through the state from north to south. The mountain range has a significant influence on the climate and thus the flora and fauna of the areas east of the cascade range compared to the areas west of it. Even among the indigenous people, the different environments in connection with the spatial separation by the mountain range led to a development of very different lifestyles ( inland Salish and coastal Salish ). Today, for example, the mountains are still seen as a kind of dividing line in connection with elections; While the Democrats are traditionally favored in the West , Republican Party politicians east of the Cascade Chain have better chances.

The highest mountain in the mountain range and thus the highest mountain in Washington is Mount Rainier volcano with a height of 4,392 meters . The next higher mountains are all still considered active volcanoes. These include Mount Baker , Glacier Peak , Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams . The last eruption of a volcano in Washington dates back to 1980, when 57 people died in the eruption of Mount St. Helens despite the establishment of a safety zone. The eruption had already been announced two months earlier and is now one of the best-researched eruptions of all. An area of ​​445 square kilometers was placed under protection as Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in 1982, among other things for research into the long-term effects . Other protected areas in the Cascade Range are Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park as well as numerous smaller protected areas such as wilderness areas , national forests and state parks .

The third national park in Washington and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in the far west of the state. Together with the Willapa Hills further south, the Olympic Mountains are part of the coastal mountain range on the North American Pacific coast . The Olympic Mountains reach heights of up to 2428 meters ( Mount Olympus ), making them the second highest mountain range in Washington. Apart from Hawaii, the area is considered to be the wettest in the United States. In contrast, the Willapa Hills reach much lower heights. At 941 meters at the top ( Boistfort Peak ), they are the lowest section of the Pacific Coast Mountains.

Other mountains are the Blue Mountains in the extreme southeast with heights of up to 2100 meters as well as the Selkirk Mountains (up to 1800 meters) in the east and the Kettle River Range (up to 2175 meters) in the northeast of the state.


Population development
Census resident ± in%
1850 1201 -
1860 11,594 865.4%
1870 23,955 106.6%
1880 75.116 213.6%
1890 357.232 375.6%
1900 518.103 45%
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%
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%
before 1900



The state of Washington has 6,724,540 inhabitants (Census 2010), which puts Washington in 13th place among the US states. There are 2,645,396 households.

Age and gender structure

The age structure of Washington is made up as follows:

  • Under 5 years: 412,374 (6.5%)
  • Older than 18 years: 4,845,756 (76.1%)
  • From 65 years: 737,776 (11.6%)

The median age is 36.8 years. 49.8% of the population is male and 50.2% is female.


According to a 2001 survey, 25% of Washington residents do not identify themselves as belonging to any religious group. This was the highest of any state. The largest religious groups were Catholics (20%), unspecified Christian denominations (11%), Baptists (6%), Lutherans (6%) and Methodists (4%).


18.0% of the population are of German descent and thus represent the largest group. This is followed by the Irish (10.8%) and English (10.4%) groups. Hispanics with 12.2% and Asians with 8.2% of the population are even more numerous than those of Norwegian origin (5.4%). The proportion of African Americans is 4.1%, well below the national average. 1.9% are Native Americans and 0.7% of the population is descended from residents of the Pacific Islands (such as Hawaii). (As of 2014)

Biggest cities

Distribution of residents in the state

The population of Washington is very unevenly distributed, much of it is concentrated in the west around the Puget Sound . 608,660 people live in Seattle , the economic and cultural center of the state (Census 2010) and in the metropolitan area with 3,439,815 inhabitants about half of the population of Washington. With Tacoma (198,397 inhabitants), Bellevue (122,363 inhabitants), Everett (103,019 inhabitants), Kent (92,411 inhabitants) and Renton (90,927 inhabitants), five of the ten largest cities in the state belong to the metropolitan area of ​​Seattle . The capital Olympia (population 46,478) is located south of the Seattle metropolitan area .

The most important city in the east of the state and capital of the so-called " Inland Empire " is Spokane , with 208,016 inhabitants the second largest city in Washington. The Spokane Valley (89,755 inhabitants), which was founded in 2003 from various previously dependent communities, belongs to the greater Spokane area .

In the south of the state, at the confluence of the Yakima River , Snake River and Columbia River , are the Tri-Cities , consisting of Kennewick , Pasco and Richland , which together have 181,568 inhabitants.

In the southwest, on the Columbia River across from Portland (Oregon) is Vancouver (161,849 inhabitants).


In 1775 the coastal area of ​​Washington was explored by Spaniards under the leadership of Bruno de Hezeta. In 1792 the American circumnavigator Robert Gray sailed the Columbia River. In 1810, Canadian fur traders established Spokane House, the first permanent white settlement in what is now Washington State. In 1811 the Americans founded Fort Okanogan under the leadership of Johann Jakob Astor . In 1836 a settlement was established near Walla Walla . In 1846 the Washington area came under the ownership of the United States through the division of the British-American Oregon Condominium . The Washington Territory was established in 1853 - within today's boundaries since 1863. In 1855 gold was found in the northeast. After several wars with the Indians - the war with the Nez Percé in 1877 is known - Washington joined the Union in 1889 as the 42nd state.


Capitol in the capital Olympia

The governor of Washington ruled for four years. In addition to a Senate with 49 seats, there is a House of Representatives with 98 seats. Politically, Washington is divided into two parts: West of the cascade chain, especially in and around Seattle, the Democrats are dominant. In the rural east around Spokane, on the other hand, the Republicans dominate. Washington is even more attached to the Democrats than Oregon and can hardly be considered a swing state .

In November 2012, a majority of a referendum voted to legalize the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana in small quantities ( Washington Initiative 502 ). Washington is thus the first state in the USA, alongside Colorado, to allow cannabis as a stimulant.


Presidential election results
year Democrats republican
2020 57.9% 2,369,612 38.7% 1,584,651
2016 54.3% 1,742,718 38.1% 1,221,747
2012 56.2% 1,755,396 41.3% 1,290,670
2008 57.3% 1,750,848 40.3% 1,229,216
2004 52.8% 1,510,201 45.6% 1,304,894
2000 50.1% 1,247,652 44.6% 1,108,864
1996 49.8% 1,123,323 37.3% 840,712
1992 43.4% 993,037 32.0% 731,234
1988 50.1% 933,516 48.5% 903,835
1984 42.9% 807,352 55.8% 1,051,670
1980 37.3% 650,193 49.7% 865,244
1976 46.1% 717,323 50.0% 777,732
1972 38.6% 568,334 56.9% 837,135
1968 47.2% 616,037 45.1% 588,510

Washington sends two senators and ten MPs to the US Senate and the US House of Representatives . The Senate includes the two Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray ; in the 116th Congress House of Representatives , the Democrats have seven and the Republicans have three representatives.


The Democrats have consistently provided the state governor since 1985 . Acting governor is Jay Inslee , who replaced Christine Gregoire in January 2013 . In February 2014 he suspended the death penalty for his tenure (2013–2017) .

See also: List of Washington Governors and List of Vice-Governors of Washington

Administrative structure

Washington is divided into 39 counties . The largest county is Okanogan County in the north of the state with an area of ​​approximately 13,767 km². The smallest county is Wahkiakum County in the southwest of the state with an area of ​​approximately 743 km².


The state seal features George Washington, after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart . The outer ring contains the words "The Seal of the State of Washington" and the indication of the year 1889, in which Washington became a state. The seal was designed by the jeweler Charles Talcott in 1889.


sightseeing features

National parks and recreational reserves

Path through the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park
Pelton Peak , Yawning Glacier and Magic Mountain in North Cascades National Park

There are three national parks in Washington . The most visited is the Olympic National Park with around three million visitors a year. It is located in the far west of the state, on the Olympic Peninsula . The national park is known for its hiking opportunities along the coast, through the temperate rainforests and the Olympic Mountains, which are up to 2,428 meters high . The area was designated as a national park in 1938 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981 .

The oldest national park in Washington is Mount Rainier National Park, which was placed under protection in 1899 . It includes the Mount Rainier volcano , the highest mountain in the Cascade Range at 4,392 meters and its surroundings. About 1.1 million visitors are counted in Mount Rainier National Park each year.

Also in the cascade chain, on the border with Canada, is the North Cascades National Park , which was designated in 1968 . It comprises the high elevations around a chain of reservoirs created in the Skagit River valley , which are designated as Ross Lake National Recreation Area , a recreation area of ​​national importance . In the south, the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is another such recreation area. The national park is almost undeveloped, as a high mountain protection area for alpine flora and fauna and is only visited by a few mountaineers and hikers, about 19,000 times a year.

National Monuments

National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks

State parks

Washington has 139 state parks as of November 2008. The most-visited state park is Deception Pass State Park , with more than two million guests annually .


Professional sports in Washington are only practiced in the greater Seattle area. The Seattle Seahawks play in the National Football League , the Seattle Mariners in the Major League Baseball Association and in football, the Seattle Sounders play their games in Major League Soccer . Until 2008, the Seattle SuperSonics played in the National Basketball Association . From the 2021/22 season, the Seattle Kraken will be the 32nd team in the National Hockey League .

Economy and Infrastructure

Economic structure

By their silt - dunes embossed Palouse -Prärie in the southeast of the state is characterized by its very fertile loess soil from

Washington is one of the wealthiest states in the United States. The real gross domestic product per capita (English per capita real GDP) was USD 64,454 in 2016 (national average of the 50 US states: USD 57,118; national ranking: 10). The unemployment rate was 4.5% in November 2017 (national average: 4.1%). Washington had the third highest median household income of any state, at $ 75,418 in 2017.

The most important branch of the economy is the aerospace industry. The most important employer in the state and the largest export company in the USA is Boeing, with civil aircraft production in Seattle, Renton and Everett . The computer industry is of great importance. The market leader for software Microsoft is based in Redmond , a suburb of Seattle ; the online mail order company Amazon.com is based in Seattle itself. Another important Seattle company is the Starbucks coffee house chain .

Other important branches of industry are:

  • Aluminum, copper extraction
  • Cultivation of grain, potatoes, hops, fodder crops and fruits
  • chemical industry
  • Wood and paper industry
  • Nuclear Energy Research Center
  • Salmon fishing and breeding
  • Mechanical engineering and shipbuilding
  • Hydropower generation


The main state universities are the University of Washington and Washington State University . Other state colleges include Central Washington University , Eastern Washington University, and Western Washington University . The main private colleges are Seattle University and Gonzaga University . Other universities are included in the list of universities in Washington .

Web links

Commons : Washington  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/density.html
  2. Washington State Constitution, Article XXIV, SECTION 1 STATE BOUNDARIES . Available online at archive link ( Memento from December 24, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  3. US Census Bureau _ Census of Population and Housing . Retrieved February 28, 2011
  4. Excerpt from Census.gov . Retrieved February 28, 2011
  5. Excerpt from factfinder.census.gov.Retrieved February 28, 2011
  6. US Census Bureau
  7. American Religious Identification Survey , Keysar / Kosmin / Mayer. (The City University of New York)
  8. Alaska and Hawaii were the only ones not included in the study.
  9. ^ US Census Selected Social Characteristics
  10. Referendums on marijuana: Legalize it! The US states Colorado and Washington want to legalize the cultivation and possession of marijuana (Spiegel-online)
  11. ^ David Leip: Dave Leip's Atlas of US Presidential Elections. Retrieved January 25, 2021 .
  12. http://www.bild.de/news/ausland/todesstrafe/todesstrafe-washington-34646460.bild.html
  13. List of State Parks
  14. ^ US Department of Commerce, BEA, Bureau of Economic Analysis: Bureau of Economic Analysis. Retrieved August 27, 2017 (American English).
  15. ^ Unemployment Rates for States. Retrieved January 17, 2018 .
  16. Median household income by state 2017 | Statistic. Accessed December 11, 2018 .
  17. aero.de - Boeing increases 737 production rate

Coordinates: 47 ° 30 ′  N , 120 ° 30 ′  W