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List of counties in Washington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Counties of Washington
LocationState of Washington
Populations2,247 (Garfield) – 2,233,163 (King)
Areas175 square miles (450 km2) (San Juan) – 5,268 square miles (13,640 km2) (Okanogan)
GovernmentCounty government
Subdivisionscities, towns, townships, Indian reservations
Population density map of Washington
Population density map of Washington

There are 39 counties in the U.S. state of Washington. The Provisional Government of Oregon established Vancouver and Lewis Counties in 1845 in unorganized Oregon Country, extending from the Columbia River north to 54°40′ North latitude. After the region was organized within the Oregon Territory with the current northern border of 49°N, Vancouver County was renamed Clarke, and six more counties were created out of Lewis County before the organization of Washington Territory in 1853; 28 were formed during Washington's territorial period, two of which only existed briefly. The final five were established in the 22 years after Washington was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889.[1][2]

Article XI of the Washington State Constitution addresses the organization of counties. New counties must have a population of at least 2,000 and no county can be reduced to a population below 4,000 due to partitioning to create a new county.[3] To alter the area of a county, the state constitution requires a petition of the "majority of the voters" in that area. A number of county partition proposals in the 1990s interpreted this as a majority of people who voted, until a 1998 ruling by the Washington Supreme Court clarified that they would need a majority of registered voters.[4] No changes to counties have been made since the formation of Pend Oreille County in 1911, except when the small area of Cliffdell was moved from Kittitas to Yakima County.[5]

The default form of county government is the non-charter commission, with three to five elected commissioners serving as both the legislature and executive. Seven counties have adopted charters providing for home rule distinct from state law: King, Clallam, Whatcom, Snohomish, Pierce, San Juan, and Clark. Of these, King, Whatcom, Snohomish, and Pierce, four major counties on Puget Sound, elect a county executive. Councils in other three charter counties appoint a manager to administer the government.[6]

Voters may also elect a clerk, treasurer, sheriff, assessor, coroner, auditor (or recorder), and prosecuting attorney.[6] Elections are nonpartisan in noncharter counties, but charter counties may choose to make some positions partisan, though all elections are by top-two primary.

Counties are not subdivided into minor civil divisions like townships; local government is only by incorporated cities and towns, and services in unincorporated areas are provided by the county. There are 242 census county divisions for statistical purposes only.[7]

King County, home to the state's largest city, Seattle, holds about 30% of Washington's population (7,535,591 in 2018) and has the highest population density with more than 1,000 people per square mile (400/km2). Garfield County is both the least populated (2,247) and densely populated (3.1/mi2). Two counties, San Juan and Island, are composed only of islands, the only such counties outside New York and Hawaii.

Seventeen counties have Native American-derived names, including nine names of tribes whose land settlers would occupy. Another seventeen were named for political figures, but only five of which had lived in the region. The last five are named for geographic places.

The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code, used by the United States government to uniquely identify counties, is provided with each entry. The FIPS code links in the table point to U. S. Census data pages for each county. Washington's postal abbreviation is WA and its FIPS state code is 53.


FIPS code[8] County seat[9] Est.[9] Formed from[10][11] Etymology[11][12] Population (2018)[13] Area[9] Map
Adams County 001 Ritzville 1883 Whitman County John Adams (1735–1826), 2nd U.S. President 19,759 1,925 sq mi
(4,986 km2)
State map highlighting Adams County
Asotin County 003 Asotin 1883 Garfield County The Nez Percé name for Eel Creek 22,610 636 sq mi
(1,647 km2)
State map highlighting Asotin County
Benton County 005 Prosser 1905 Yakima and Klickitat Counties Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858), a U.S. Senator from Missouri 201,877 1,703 sq mi
(4,411 km2)
State map highlighting Benton County
Chelan County 007 Wenatchee 1899 Okanogan and Kittitas Counties A Native American word meaning "deep water", referring to Lake Chelan 77,036 2,922 sq mi
(7,568 km2)
State map highlighting Chelan County
Clallam County 009 Port Angeles 1854 Jefferson County A Klallam word meaning "brave people" or "the strong people" 76,737 1,745 sq mi
(4,520 km2)
State map highlighting Clallam County
Clark County 011 Vancouver 1845 Original county William Clark (1770–1838), the co-captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 481,857 628 sq mi
(1,627 km2)
State map highlighting Clark County
Columbia County 013 Dayton 1875 Walla Walla County The Columbia River 4,059 869 sq mi
(2,251 km2)
State map highlighting Columbia County
Cowlitz County 015 Kelso 1854 Original county Cowlitz, an Indian tribe 108,987 1,139 sq mi
(2,950 km2)
State map highlighting Cowlitz County
Douglas County 017 Waterville 1883 Lincoln County Stephen A. Douglas (1813–1861), U.S. Senator from Illinois 42,907 1,821 sq mi
(4,716 km2)
State map highlighting Douglas County
Ferry County 019 Republic 1899 Stevens County Elisha P. Ferry (1825–1895), 1st Governor of Washington State 7,649 2,204 sq mi
(5,708 km2)
State map highlighting Ferry County
Franklin County 021 Pasco 1883 Whitman County Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), writer, orator, inventor, and U.S. Founding Father 94,347 1,242 sq mi
(3,217 km2)
State map highlighting Franklin County
Garfield County 023 Pomeroy 1881 Columbia County James A. Garfield (1831–1881), 20th U.S. President 2,247 710 sq mi
(1,839 km2)
State map highlighting Garfield County
Grant County 025 Ephrata 1909 Douglas County Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), 18th U.S. President 97,331 2,681 sq mi
(6,944 km2)
State map highlighting Grant County
Grays Harbor County 027 Montesano 1854 Thurston County Grays Harbor, a body of water named after explorer and merchant Robert Gray (1755–1806) 73,901 1,917 sq mi
(4,965 km2)
State map highlighting Grays Harbor County
Island County 029 Coupeville 1852 Thurston County Consists solely of islands, including Whidbey and Camano islands 84,460 209 sq mi
(541 km2)
State map highlighting Island County
Jefferson County 031 Port Townsend 1852 Thurston County Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), 3rd U.S. President and principal author of the Declaration of Independence 31,729 1,809 sq mi
(4,685 km2)
State map highlighting Jefferson County
King County 033 Seattle 1852 Thurston County William R. King (1786–1853), U.S. Vice President under Franklin Pierce; officially renamed in 2005 after civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) 2,233,163 2,126 sq mi
(5,506 km2)
State map highlighting King County
Kitsap County 035 Port Orchard 1857 King and Jefferson Counties Chief Kitsap (d. 1860), leader of the Suquamish tribe 269,805 396 sq mi
(1,026 km2)
State map highlighting Kitsap County
Kittitas County 037 Ellensburg 1883 Yakima County Yakama word of uncertain meaning, with popular translations ranging from "white chalk" to "land of the plenty" 47,364 2,297 sq mi
(5,949 km2)
State map highlighting Kittitas County
Klickitat County 039 Goldendale 1859 Walla Walla County Klickitat tribe, also meaning "robber" and "beyond" 22,107 1,872 sq mi
(4,848 km2)
State map highlighting Klickitat County
Lewis County 041 Chehalis 1845 Vancouver County Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809), the co-captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 79,604 2,408 sq mi
(6,237 km2)
State map highlighting Lewis County
Lincoln County 043 Davenport 1883 Whitman County Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), 16th U.S. President 10,740 2,311 sq mi
(5,985 km2)
State map highlighting Lincoln County
Mason County 045 Shelton 1854 King County Charles H. Mason (1830–1859), 1st Secretary of Washington Territory 65,507 961 sq mi
(2,489 km2)
State map highlighting Mason County
Okanogan County 047 Okanogan 1888 Stevens County A Salish word meaning "rendezvous" 42,132 5,268 sq mi
(13,644 km2)
State map highlighting Okanogan County
Pacific County 049 South Bend 1851 Lewis County The Pacific Ocean 22,036 975 sq mi
(2,525 km2)
State map highlighting Pacific County
Pend Oreille County 051 Newport 1911 Stevens County The Pend d'Oreille tribe, named by French traders for their "ear bobs" 13,602 1,400 sq mi
(3,626 km2)
State map highlighting Pend Oreille County
Pierce County 053 Tacoma 1852 Thurston County Franklin Pierce (1804–1869), 14th U.S. President 891,299 1,676 sq mi
(4,341 km2)
State map highlighting Pierce County
San Juan County 055 Friday Harbor 1873 Whatcom County San Juan Islands, itself derived from Juan Vicente de Güemes 17,128 175 sq mi
(453 km2)
State map highlighting San Juan County
Skagit County 057 Mount Vernon 1883 Whatcom County The Skagit tribe 128,206 1,735 sq mi
(4,494 km2)
State map highlighting Skagit County
Skamania County 059 Stevenson 1854 Clark County A Chinookan word meaning "swift water" 11,924 1,656 sq mi
(4,289 km2)
State map highlighting Skamania County
Snohomish County 061 Everett 1861 Island and King Counties The Snohomish tribe, word origin disputed 814,901 2,090 sq mi
(5,413 km2)
State map highlighting Snohomish County
Spokane County 063 Spokane 1879 a Stevens County The Spokane tribe, meaning "people of the sun" 514,631 1,764 sq mi
(4,569 km2)
State map highlighting Spokane County
Stevens County 065 Colville 1863 Walla Walla County Isaac Stevens (1818–1862), 1st Governor of the Washington Territory 45,260 2,478 sq mi
(6,418 km2)
State map highlighting Stevens County
Thurston County 067 Olympia 1852 Lewis County Samuel Thurston (1815–1851), the Oregon Territory's first delegate to U.S. Congress 286,419 727 sq mi
(1,883 km2)
State map highlighting Thurston County
Wahkiakum County 069 Cathlamet 1854 Cowlitz County Wakaiakam, chief of the Kathlamet tribe 4,426 264 sq mi
(684 km2)
State map highlighting Wahkiakum County
Walla Walla County 071 Walla Walla 1854 Skamania County The Walla Walla tribe, and also a Nez Percé name for running water 60,922 1,270 sq mi
(3,289 km2)
State map highlighting Walla Walla County
Whatcom County 073 Bellingham 1854 Island County Whatcom, chief of the Nooksack tribe and named for a Nooksack word meaning "noisy water" 225,685 2,120 sq mi
(5,491 km2)
State map highlighting Whatcom County
Whitman County 075 Colfax 1871 Stevens County Marcus Whitman (1802–1847), a Methodist missionary 49,791 2,159 sq mi
(5,592 km2)
State map highlighting Whitman County
Yakima County 077 Yakima 1865 Ferguson County (defunct) The Yakama tribe, meaning "runaway [waters]" or "big belly" 251,446 4,296 sq mi
(11,127 km2)
State map highlighting Yakima County

Former county names

Former counties

Proposed counties

  • The representatives at the Cowlitz Convention of 1851 discussed a proposal to form Columbia Territory, which included a number of new counties in what later became Washington. The next session of the Oregon Territorial Legislature created only one of counties: Thurston County (which was originally proposed as Simmons County).[26][27]
  • Buchanan County was proposed in 1856 as a division of Clark County.[28]
  • Other proposed counties during Washington's statehood have included (with proposal dates): Big Bend (1891), Palouse (1891 and 1903), Sherman (1891), Washington (1891), McKinley (1903), Steptoe (1903), Coulee (1905).[29]


  • ^a A first attempt to organize Spokane County in 1858 failed. It was re-organized in 1859 but then annexed into Stevens County in 1864 before finally reappearing in 1879.[30]


  1. ^ "WA: Consolidated Chronology". The Newberry Library. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  2. ^ Smith 1913, p. 1 (As noted on p. 15, Pend Oreille County was not included in this tally because it was organized after the article was first published in 1909.)
  3. ^ Article XI, Section 3 ("New Counties") of the Washington State Constitution
  4. ^ Hal Spencer (February 6, 1998). "New counties dealt major blow". The Spokesman-Review. AP. p. B8.
    "Cedar County Committee v. Munro (No. 64958-8)". FindLaw. February 5, 1998.
  5. ^ "Area Transferred". Longview Daily News. 1970-09-22. p. 3. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  6. ^ a b "MRSC - County Forms of Government". Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  7. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Washington". The United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  8. ^ "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
  9. ^ a b c National Association of Counties. "NACo - Find A County". Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  10. ^ "Atlas of Historical County Boundaries: Washington". The Newberry Library. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  11. ^ Phillips, James W. (1971). Washington State Place Names. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95158-3. OCLC 1052713900 – via The Internet Archive.
  12. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Washington". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  13. ^ Ott, Jen (July 1, 2008). "Chehalis -- Thumbnail History". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  14. ^ "Chapter 77 (S.B. 297), Changing Name of Chehalis County". Session Laws of the State of Washington. 1915. p. 250.
  15. ^ Wilma, David (April 19, 2006). "Washington Territorial Legislature creates Sawamish (Mason) County on April 15, 1854". Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  16. ^ Wilma, David (July 27, 2006). "Slaughter County is renamed Kitsap County on July 13, 1857". Retrieved 2012-03-16.
  17. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 7–8
  18. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 1–2
  19. ^ Holman 1910, pp. 3–5
  20. ^ Hanable, William S. (February 4, 2004). "Clark County — Thumbnail History".
  21. ^ a b c "Washington: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries". The Newberry Library. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  22. ^ Becker, Paula (September 20, 2005). "Ferguson County is established on January 23, 1863". Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  23. ^ "Milestones for Washington State History -- Part 2: 1851 to 1900". March 6, 2003. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  24. ^ Smith 1913, p. 11
  25. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 3–4
  26. ^ Meany 1922, pp. 11–12
  27. ^ Smith 1913, p. 7
  28. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 13–14
  29. ^ Smith 1913, p. 9


External links

This page was last edited on 18 February 2020, at 22:27
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