Washington State Overview

Washington state general data

  • Time zone: 9 hours less than Italy
  • Capital: Olympia
  • Main towns: Bellevue, Everett, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma.
  • Area: 184.666 km²
  • Population: 7,500,000 inhabitants approximately.
  • Population density: 40,6 residents / km²
  • State abbreviation: WA
  • Entry into the United States: It joins the United States on November 11, 1889, it is the 42nd state to join the union.

The state of Washington is very diverse from a topographical point of view, due to its rugged coastline and its interior, made up of different physical units. In fact, this territory of the northeastern United States has 280 km of coastline on the Pacific Ocean but with more than 3,000 km exposed to the action of the sea through canals and estuaries. The average elevation of the state of Washington is 519m, with the highest point on the top of Mount Rainier, 4,392m above sea level. The state can be divided into seven major physical zones: the Olympic Peninsula, the plains of the Puget Estuary, the Willapa Hills, the Cascade Range, the Okanogan Highlands, the Columbia Basin and the Blue Mountains. The Olympic Peninsula is located in the northwest of the state, surrounded by the San Juan di Fuca Strait, the Puget Estuary and the Pacific Ocean. This peninsula rises from a narrow coastal plain to a height of 2,324 m, (Mount Olympus), located in the wilderness of the north. The Olympic mountains are formed by snow-capped peaks surrounded by forests, in many places inaccessible, with narrow and deep valleys, where the effect of glaciers has formed waterfalls, lakes and alpine meadows. This pristine territory is part of the protected area of ​​the Olympic National Park. The Puget Estuary is an arm of the Pacific Ocean that penetrates the western region of the state territory. It begins in the San Juan di Fuca strait and has an approximate extension of 200 km and an average width of 64 km. Inside there are more than three hundred islands, including that of Whidbey. Due to its characteristics, it hosts numerous ports, including Seattle and Everett, the latter chosen by the Navy as one of the centers of the Pacific fleet. The land surrounding the channel, between the Olympic mountains and the Cascade range, is a plain of glacial origin. The Willapa Hills region lies south of the Puget Estuary in the southwestern part of the state and is bounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. It is a territory of gentle hills that rise from west to east up to the limits of the chain of waterfalls. In this area there are valleys, few grasslands and numerous small lakes surrounded by forests.

The Cascade Range is the backbone of the state of Washington as it runs from south to north, where it extends along the entire border with Canada. This volcanic chain has six main peaks: Mount Baker, 3,276m, Mount Shuksan, 2,755m, Mount Glacier, 3,181m, Mount Rainier, 4,392m, Mount Adams, 3,751m, and Mount Saint Helens, 2,948m, which erupted in 1980 and caused 60 deaths. This chain forms a natural barrier, limiting communications, as there are only five natural passages to communicate from within the state with the coast. The Okanogan Highlands lie north of the Cascade range and are limited by the state of Idaho and the Spokane and Columbia Rivers. It is a mountainous region, with valleys and some hills. The Columbia Basin region lies south of the Okanogan Highlands, and east and west of the Columbia River. It is a plateau that rises, from 150 m above sea level, on the banks of the river, up to just over 600 m. The land is generally flat, arid even if there are some hilly areas. South of the Columbia basin rise the Blue Mountains that extend from the state of Oregon, towards the south-east, and which have a maximum height in the Washington territory of 2,134 m above sea level.

The Columbia River is the main river in this state, navigable by large ships to Vancouver. It enters Washington state from Canada, in the northwest, and after traversing the central part of the state it forms most of the border between Oregon and Washington. Its main tributaries are the Snake, Spokane, Wenatchee, Pend Oreille, Methow, Lewis, Cowlitz and Yakima rivers. Other rivers that flow in Washington state, many of them navigable for much of their course, are the Chehalis, Nisqually, Nooksack, Snohomish, and Skagit. Most of Washington state’s natural lakes are of glacial origin. Among them, Lake Chelan and Lake Washington.

Flora and fauna – The wet western part of the state is dominated by forests of various species of fir, red cedar and other conifers, as well as deciduous plants such as alders, birches and maples. Subalpine fir and other hardwood varieties are found at higher altitudes, while pine is common beyond the Cascade range.

The fauna is very rich, and includes large mammals such as brown bears, moose, deer and pumas, and some smaller ones, such as martens, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Rivers and lakes abound with trout and sturgeon; the coastal waters of salmon, small sharks, crabs and other crustaceans.

The climate of the state of Washington varies significantly from east to west, due to the orography and the action of the sea. Thus, the climate on the coast is considerably milder than in places located at the same latitude, due to the effect of the hot current of Japan. The eastern region, however, does not benefit from this factor due to the barrier of the Cascade range. Thus, the average annual temperatures fluctuate between 11 ° C on the coast and 4 ° C on the Idaho border. Average temperatures vary by region, between -4 ° C and 5 ° C in January, and 19 ° C and 21 ° C in July. As for the rainfall regime, they always vary according to the area, with annual averages between 200 mm and 500 mm, although an exceptional microclimate is found in the western area of ​​the Olympic Peninsula, where an annual rainfall of almost 4,000 mm is recorded, making this point the wettest area in the continental United States. Snowfalls are frequent on the western side of the Cascade range, with points where there are annual averages of more than 5,000 mm.

Washington State Overview