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Geography of Washington State

by Vishul Malik

The evergreen state of Washington is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, plateaus and rivers.

General features :  The US state of Washington is the only American state to be named after a president. It is located in the Pacific Northwest region. It shares its borders with Canadian province of British Columbia in the north, Oregon in the south, Idaho in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. It is the eighteenth-largest state in the union.

The landscape of the state can be divided into six geographic land areas :

  • Olympic Mountains : The Olympic Mountains are located in the northwest corner of Washington. It is bordered by the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the north and Pacific Ocean in the west. Most of the land area lies within the borders of Olympic National Park.
  • Coast Range : Coast Range is situated to the south of the Olympic Mountains, in the southwest corner of Washington. Willapa Hills is one of the notable features of the Coast Range in Washington.
  • Puget Sound Lowlands : Puget Sound Lowlands lies to the east of the Olympic Mountains and the west of the Cascade Mountains. It also includes the land along the Chehalis River which runs to the Pacific Ocean. Around 75% of the population lives in the Puget Sound Lowlands. The Strait of Juan de Fuca connects Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Cascade Mountains :  The highest point in the state, Mount Ramier, is located in the Cascade Mountains. It lies to the east of the Puget Sound Lowlands. This area has several volcanic peaks, most of them inactive. Forest covers the lower slopes of the mountains.
  • Columbia Plateau :  The Columbia Plateau or the Columbia Basin is located in the central and southern Washington. It lies to the south and the east of the great bend in the Columbia River. It is part of the largest lava plateau in the world. “Coulees” and “Scablands” are some of the unique features of the plateau.
  • Rocky Mountains :  The Rocky Mountains in Washington are called the Columbia Mountains and consist of ridges and valleys cut by the Columbia River. It is a source of natural resources such as copper, lead, gold, limestone, zinc and silver.


Geographical Facts About Washington

Area 71,303 square miles
Land Area 66,528 square miles
Water Area 4,721 square miles
Highest point Mt Rainier, 14,410 feet above sea-level
Lowest point Pacific Ocean in the west
Highest temperature 118 degrees Fahrenheit
Lowest temperature -48 degrees Fahrenheit
Geographic Center Located in Chelan Country, 10 miles WSW of Wenatchee


Climate of Washington :

The Climate of the state varies from west to east. Primary factors that determine the climate of the state are 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. The western region of the state has humid and mild climate, while the east of the Cascade Range has cool, dry climate.

The average annual temperature varies from 51 degrees Fahrenheit on the Pacific coast to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the northeast. The western region of the Olympic Peninsula receives more than 160 inches of rainfall annually while the western slopes of Cascade Range see very heavy snowfall annually.

Mountains :

Mountain Rainier is the highest peak in the state of Washington.

Other prominent mountains in the state area:

  • Mount Adams
  • Mount Baker
  • Silver Star Mountain
  • Mount Redoubt
  • Mount Stuart
  • Jack Mountain
  • Glacier Peak.

Lakes :

Major lakes in the state of Washington are Diablo Lake, Lake Franklin, D. Roosevelt and Lake Washington. Lake Washington is the second largest lake in the state.

Rivers :

Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. It rises in the Rocky Mountains and flows into the US state of Washington.

Other major rivers in the state are :

  • Snake River
  • Yakima River
  • Sumas River
  • Nooksack River
  • Skagit River

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