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Washington Colleges

Washington Colleges

 

The State of Washington has geographic characteristics similar to Oregon’s, in the sense that the state is divided by a mountain range with two very different climate zones on either side.  The Cascade Range lies east of the Washington coast, their principal peaks being Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helen.  The western portion of the state is where most of the population and industrial development is found.  Seattle and Tacoma are along this coast which is largely defined by Puget Sound and the three hundred islands that lie within it.  Because of the juxtaposition of mountain range to coast, the moist air coming off the Pacific generates substantial precipitation: enough, in fact, to make western Washington one of the wettest places in the United States.

 

The higher elevations on the west side of the Cascades receive up to 150 inches of precipitation per year.  One of the results of this moisture is the extensive forest lands that make Washington a primary timber state.  East of the Cascades are extensive stretches of arid land.  Those are broken up by the Yakima and other river valleys which provide irrigated agricultural areas. 

 

The Columbia River crosses through the state, entering from British Columbia and swinging south and west, intersecting with the Snake and the Yakima along the way.  The distribution of river valleys define where the state’s interior agriculture areas lie.  The coastal lands are very productive agricultural areas where they remain undeveloped.

 

Seattle and Tacoma are the state’s financial and industrial centers.  The port of Seattle is a major west coast commercial port and the commercial fishery in Washington is an important economic contributor.  Manufactured products include jet aircraft and missiles and, of course, anything that Microsoft turns out.  Electronics and biotechnology are also anchors in the state’s economic mix. 

 

Rainy weather aside, the Seattle area is beautiful.  Green year round, the coastal areas are characterized by gentle hills scattered through the coastal plain.  Puget Sound is served by a ferry system with twenty eight routes, enabling many residents to live on the islands.  For years, Seattle has been the beneficiary of the digital revolution led by Microsoft and its PC partners.  There are scores of Washington-based software and digital hardware companies and startups continue to spin off regardless of the relentless swings in the fortunes of this “new economy.”

 

To the east, Spokane is the commercial hub for Washington’s substantial inland agricultural development: the state is the nation’s number one producer of apples, sweet cherries and pears. Spokane’s location also makes it the distribution hub for products from parts of British Columbia, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

 

The University of Washington in Seattle is one of the best west coast public universities; however tuition for out of state students starts at about $20,000.  Other schools include Gonzaga   and Washington State University in Pullman, in the state’s southeastern corner.  Seattle and its environs continue to be vibrant centers of high tech development.  The area is no longer cheap to live in, but it does not yet match Silicon Valley in cost-of-living.  There is a reason that the Puget Sound and the Cascades are major tourist attractions.  It is a beautiful place to live; it is also a place where a person has a fair chance to succeed.

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