WASHINGTON, the Evergreen State

What to see

Columbia River Byway 14 - Bonneville Dam - Salmon fish ladders
Mount St Helens Volcanic eruption 1980
Seattle The Space Needle - Pier 59
Port Townsend City Tour
Eatonville Northwest Trek Wildlife Park
Elbe Mount Rainier
Everett Boeing
Toppenish Murals
Article the Boeing Corporation
Other pages other states | articles

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cover west pacific

This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: West Pacific

In the travel series View America, West Pacific covers California, Oregon and Washington. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 180 full-sized 600px-wide pictures.

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WASHINGTON is also called the Evergreen State because of its vast forests, and it is the only state that was named after a president. In 1889 Washington joined the U.S. as the 42nd state. Its capital is Olympia and its largest city is Seattle.

The state has a surface of 182,000 km2 and it is forested for 51%. The population is approximately six million, with a density of 35 per km2, and half of the population lives in metropolitan Seattle. There are more than 20 reservations with the Yakama, the Pend d'Oreille (Kalispel), Spokane and Makah Indians.

In the eastern part of Washington grows the Ponderosa or yellow pine, and another remarkable tree is the Douglas Fir, a whopper of a tree, 200 feet (60 m) high and 10 feet (3 m) thick!

The Columbia River provides most of the American hydroelectric power, thanks to several dams such as the Bonneville dam, the Grand Coulee, the Chief Joseph and the Dallas. The state's territory was at first largely inhabited by trappers, but later developed agriculture and forestry. Washington is the largest apple producer in the US, it leads the nation in salmon production, and it is the second timber producer after Oregon. The most important industry is aircraft manufacturing (Boeing was founded in Seattle in 1916) and aerospace.

Mount Rainier (14,400 feet or 4,392 m) is the state's highest mountain. The volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens (8,366 feet or 2,550 m) in 1980 was so powerful that 1,310 feet (400 m) of mountain peak were simply obliterated, and its ashes were scattered as far as Idaho and Montana!

Seattle is (in)famously known as a very rainy place, with a yearly average downpour of 37 inch (940 mm)! Washington's main points of interest are snowy mountains, forests, rivers, lakes and beaches.

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the Columbia River

Scenic Byway 14

The Columbia River forms the border between Oregon and Washington. Highway 14, located on the Washington side, is a striking Scenic Byway, that will lead you along beautiful and vast panoramas. This road is actually part of the Oregon Trail, which around 1850 brought more than 300,000 settlers from Missouri to Portland. The distance of 2,000 miles was then covered by wagon and on foot, and went right through the mountains.

the Columbia River 1 the Columbia River 2

the Bonneville Dam

The Bonneville Dam was built in 1933 by order of President Franklin Roosevelt, and it was completed in 1937. This work of art was intended to tame the Columbia River and become a major supplier of hydroelectric power, but it was also destined to create new jobs during the Great Depression.

The construction of the dam was an extraordinary feat. Three thousand laborers worked at it for four years, the highway needed to be completely rerouted, and three quarters of the city of Bonneville needed to be moved. Initially, Roosevelt's political opponents mockingly called the entire project "the president's White Elephant", but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1945, suddenly there was not enough power available for the war industry. Then the Bonneville turbines no longer worked at 50 percent, but rather at 105 percent to generate sufficient electricity!

All the additional energy needed for the massive military war effort, such as producing aluminum for new aircraft and the production of one Liberty ship per day, was made possible only through the Bonneville Dam's enormous generating capacity. In 1974 a second hydroelectric plant was added, and the dam now generates more than one gigawatt of clean energy. At the same time additional locks were built, the Cascade Locks, which were better suited to the size of modern ships.

Fish Ladders

But there is also an additional and interesting aspect about this dam. Already by 1937 ecological attention was given to the salmon, that swim upstream the Columbia River to spawn, after which they again descend to the ocean. The construction of the dam posed a problem to this yearly trek, but it was elegantly solved by the construction of Fish Ladders.

These "Ladders" are a set of concrete stairs and artificial water drains, which allow the salmon to swim upstream, right through the dam! And it is most interesting to watch the salmon actually use these ladders. For their convenience, directions have been added in "salmon language". Just kidding!...

the Bonneville Dam 1

the Bonneville Dam 2

Bonneville Dam : fishladders 1 Bonneville Dam : fishladders 2

Mount St Helens

The eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18 May 1980 was the largest volcanic eruption in modern American history. Before its eruption Mount St Helens was the fifth highest mountain in the state, with an altitude of 9,677 feet (2,950 m). The direct cause of the eruption was an earthquake under the volcano at a depth of 4,920 feet (1,500 m), with a magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale.

After the eruption only 8,364 feet (2,549 m) of the mountain remained, and 1,313 feet (400 m) were simply vaporized. Clouds of ash and smoke billowed 80,000 feet (24.3 km) into the atmosphere, and deposited ash in as much as 11 other states!

Mount St Helens 1 : in 1980 Mount St Helens 2 : in 1982
Mount St Helens 3 Mount St Helens 4


the Space Needle

The urban attraction of Seattle is the Space Needle. This tower was especially built in 1962 to participate in a World Exhibition, but afterwards it just remained there, as these things tend to do...

The Needle is 607 feet (185 m) high, and it is topped by a restaurant that rotates over 360 degrees. The tower also has a viewing platform at 520 feet (158 m) of altitude. Both the restaurant and the viewing platform offer magnificent views over the Seattle Skyline and the surrounding mountains of the Cascade Range, including majestic Mount Rainier. Redmond, the home base of software giant Microsoft, is located just outside the center.

Seattle : the Space Needle 1
Seattle : the Space Needle 2


Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park is a 723 acre (293 ha) wildlife park located near Eatonville. In the 1930's David and Connie Hellyer bought very large surfaces of land for their vacation home from several sawmills at the real bargain price of around $ 4.50 per acre. The reason for this was that most of the area had been cleared, and that a heavy fire had completely destroyed the rest.

In 1971 they donated 725 acres of land to Metro Parks Tacoma to be set aside as a wildlife preserve, and the park opened in 1975. Its primary feature is a tram tour which takes visitors through a 435 acre (176 ha) free-range area. In the park you'll find elk, buffalos, long horn mountain sheep, brown bears, grizzly bears, wolves, red fox and white-tailed deer. But also coyotes, lynx and mountain lions, but these are somewhat less visible.

 Worthwest Trek Wildlife Park 1  Worthwest Trek Wildlife Park 2
 Worthwest Trek Wildlife Park 3  Worthwest Trek Wildlife Park 4


Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park, located along highway 706, is obviously famous for the highest mountain in Washington, with an altitude of 14,410 feet (4,392 m). In 1792 this mountain was named by the British Admiral George Vancouver after his aide, Peter Regnier, whose name was later "anglicized".

Mount Rainier is also known as the Great Pyramid of the United States, because no other mountain is greater in mass, number of glaciers or circumference! According to geologists, the mountain was initially even 2,000 feet higher, but it lost its peak during a volcanic eruption. Now it sports a crater that is 3 miles (4.82 km) in diameter, partly filled with 3 lava peaks.

The Visitor Center is located at an altitude of 5,415 feet (1,650 m), and the road climbs and winds and turns and twists! If traffic is light, one can reach the Visitor Center in just under one hour. The road runs through the dense forest like a green tunnel, and sometimes it gets so dark, that the automatic lights come on. Narada Falls is located at 4,920 feet (1,500 m) of altitude, a beautiful 190 feet (57 m) high waterfall, albeit in two parts.

Mount Rainier park is very large, and it is extremely popular with nature lovers, mountain climbers, hikers and weekend campers.

Mount Rainier 1 Mount Rainier 2
Mount Rainier 3 Mount Rainier 4


The Boeing Company

In Everett, the Boeing plant assembles the 700-series aircraft and the new 787 Dreamliner. The Boeing Corporation offers guided tours to the plant. The security is extremely strict, and during the visit no cameras, cell phones or even bags are allowed.

The guided tour lasts about 70 minutes, and it starts with a documentary movie. This film is a compilation of images about the foundation of Boeing in 1916, the different models of aircraft that have been built, and the cooperation with NASA for the space program. A second movie, in (very...) fast view, shows exactly how a Boeing 747 is pieced together. Maybe the technically inclined can repeat the process at home, in their basement...

The next item on the agenda is a visit to the giant Assembly Hall where the planes are assembled. This is the largest building in the world, measured by volume, at 472 million cubic feet (13 million m3) and covers 98 acres (400,000 m2). A most interesting visit!

Everett : Boeing Company 1 Everett : Boeing Company 2
Boeing Assembly Hall 1 Boeing Assembly Hall 2



The city of Toppenish is renowned for its murals. In 1989 a neighborhood committee decided to do something about the appalling look of the city, and they opted for large murals that could be painted on the facades of old buildings. What actually started as a publicity stunt, the Mural-in-a-Day, soon developed into an annual event.

Other facades were addressed too, although most of them were painted in more than one day. By now there are more than 65 large murals, and every year the neighborhood committee sponsors a new painting, without any help or funding from the city or the state. There are definitely true gems among the paintings, and the exploration of the city is more than interesting.

Toppenish : murals 1 Toppenish : murals 2
Toppenish : murals 3 Toppenish : murals 4
Toppenish : murals 5 Toppenish : murals 6
Toppenish : murals 7 Toppenish : murals 8

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