"Heart of Cascadia" Washington State by Johnscarroll

Washington State Travel Guide: 8,076 reviews and 23,395 photos

Hidden Diversity

When most people think about Washington State, they first envision Seattle or the Space Needle, or Mount Rainier. That is understandable, since the Seattle area includes these two icons and is home to more than half of the state population. But, there is so much more.

Washington state is divided into ten distinct regions. Each varies by climate, population, political makeup, geography and productivity. The state is far more varied and diverse than most outsiders know.

Washington is the heart of a trans-national region known as Cascadia. Oregon and British Columbia are the two other segments of this geographic region. They all share similar climate and geographyic features. Washington is by far the most populous of the three.

There are more than 6 million people in the state. 3.2 million live in the Seattle/Tacoma area. That makes Seattle the 15th largest metro area in the US, just behind Phoenix and ahead of Minneapolis.

Generally, the ten regions of Washington can be divided into two groups: the wet side, and the dry side. Both are equally worthy of a tourist's attention.

The Wet Side (West)

This side is most famous because of Seattle and the presence of three National Parks along with one National Monument. The state capital (Olympia) is also located in the west.

The wet side is divided from the dry side by the Cascade Mountains. Generally, a marine climate predominates. Storm systems travel from the Pacific in an easterly direction, bringing cool moist air. The Cascade mountains drain precipitation from the clouds, thus Washington has a well deserved reputation for cloudy rainy weather. It's generally not known that summer in the west tends to be dry and sunny.

The volcanic Cascade range is home to two icons: Mt. Ranier and Mt. St. Helens. The sub regions on this side include Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, The Pacific Coast, the Islands, and the North Cascades.

Tree farms and logging (fir, cedar, alder) are the primary agricultural industries. Airplanes, wood products, and software are the largest manufacturing industries.

The Dry Side (East)

The largest population center in Eastern Washington is the city of Spokane - second largest city in the state. This area includes two major river systems: the Columbia and the Snake.

The climate on the east side is dry continental. It is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter when compared to the west. Rainfall can be as little as 8 inches per year in some areas. Forests have more pine and almost no cedar or fir. Large areas are covered by scrub dessert and weathered badlands.

The regions in the eastern section of Washington include: The Columbia Plateau, The Palouse (grain), the Rocky Mountain Gateway (pine forests/ranches), and the Okanogan/North Cascades.

Grains, fruit and vineyards are the largest agricultural products. Food processing and aluminium are industrial leaders here.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Diverse, large, unique
  • Cons:Population imballance leads to political fights between east/west
  • In a nutshell:Everything in one place
  • Intro Updated Aug 21, 2005
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