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Eastern Washington and the Columbia Basin

For travel information purposes we have divided the state into more than simply geographic regions. However, in fact, Washington can be divided into 3 geographic regions: the Washington's Cascade Mountains running down the center of the state, Seattle/King County Basin and the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas on the west, and the Rocky Mountain Gateway in the interior.

Puget Sound Basin is the economic and demographic nucleus of Washington. It contains the Seattle Metropolitan Area and further south, the state capital of Olympia. North of Puget Sound lie the Emerald Coast and the San Juan Islands. The San Juans, which are accessible by ferry, are known for their unspoiled beauty and their wildlife, particularly orcas. On the west lies the Olympic Peninsula, whose rain forests see as much as 150 inches of annual precipitation. Olympic National Park is remote and difficult to access, but it is heaven for backcountry enthusiasts willing to make the effort. The peninsula is sparsely populated save for coastal cities such as Port Townsend.

The Cascade Mountains are a young range whose volcanoes are still active. Mount St Helens, in the south of the state, lost 1,300 feet in height when it blew its top on May 18, 1980. Mount Rainier, the tallest peak in the Cascades, is officially dormant but may explode one day in a similar manner; nevertheless most scientists believe that the two million annual visitors to Mount Rainier National Park with be safe for at least another 5 centuries.

The Columbia Plateau is a major agricultural region. It recieves less rainfall than the rest of the state, but there is adequate water from the rivers which run through it to irrigate the crops. The dry climate also proves attractive to residents from western Washington looking for a respite during the long rainy season.