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List of counties in Washington

Counties of Washington
LocationState of Washington
Populations2,363 (Garfield) – 2,271,380 (King)
Areas175 square miles (450 km2) (San Juan) – 5,268 square miles (13,640 km2) (Okanogan)
  • cities, towns, townships, Indian reservations

The U.S. state of Washington has 39 counties. 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° north, Vancouver County was renamed Clark, 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 in 1970.[5]

King County, home to the state's largest city, Seattle, holds almost 30 percent of Washington's population (2,271,380 residents of 7,812,880 in 2023), and has the highest population density, with more than 1,000 people per square mile (400/km2). Garfield County is both the least populated (2,363) and least densely populated (3.3/sq mi [1.3/km2]). Two counties, San Juan and Island, are composed only of islands. The average county is 1,830 square miles (4,700 km2), with 200,330 people.

Seventeen counties have Native American–derived names, including nine names of tribes whose land settlers would occupy. Another seventeen were named for political figures, only five of whom had lived in the region. The last five are named for geographic places.[6]

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 FIPS state code is 53.


Population density map of Washington

Counties provide a broad scope of services, including court operation, parks and recreation, libraries, arts, social services, elections, waste collection, roads and transportation, zoning and permitting, as well as taxation.[7][8] The extent of these vary, and some are administered by municipalities. Counties are not subdivided into minor civil divisions like townships; sub-county local government is only by incorporated cities and towns, as well as by 29 Indian reservations, while unincorporated areas are governed only by the county. There are 242 census county divisions for statistical purposes only.[9]

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 the other three charter counties appoint a manager to administer the government.[10] Voters may also elect a clerk, treasurer, sheriff, assessor, coroner, auditor (or recorder), and prosecuting attorney. Elections are nonpartisan in non-charter counties, but charter counties may choose to make some positions partisan, though all elections are by top-two primary.[10]

List of counties

Counties of Washington
FIPS code County seat[11] Est.[11][12] Formed from[12][13] Etymology Population
Land area[11] Map
Adams County 001 Ritzville 1883 Whitman County John Adams (1735–1826), 2nd U.S. President[15] 20,820 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[16] 22,549 636 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[17] 215,219 1,700 sq mi
(4,403 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[18] 79,997 2,920 sq mi
(7,563 km2)
State map highlighting Chelan County
Clallam County 009 Port Angeles 1854 Jefferson County A Klallam word meaning "brave people" or "the strong people"[19] 77,616 1,738 sq mi
(4,501 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[19] 521,150 629 sq mi
(1,629 km2)
State map highlighting Clark County
Columbia County 013 Dayton 1875 Walla Walla County The Columbia River[19] 4,053 869 sq mi
(2,251 km2)
State map highlighting Columbia County
Cowlitz County 015 Kelso 1854 Lewis County Cowlitz, an Indian tribe[20] 112,864 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[21] 44,798 1,819 sq mi
(4,711 km2)
State map highlighting Douglas County
Ferry County 019 Republic 1899 Stevens County Elisha P. Ferry (1825–1895), 1st Governor of Washington[22] 7,497 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[23] 99,034 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[23] 2,363 710 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[24] 102,678 2,680 sq mi
(6,941 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)[24] 77,290 1,902 sq mi
(4,926 km2)
State map highlighting Grays Harbor County
Island County 029 Coupeville 1852 Thurston County Consists solely of islands, including Whidbey and Camano islands[25] 86,267 209 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[25] 33,714 1,804 sq mi
(4,672 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. (no relation) (1929–1968)[26] 2,271,380 2,115 sq mi
(5,478 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[27] 277,658 395 sq mi
(1,023 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"[27] 45,508 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"[27] 23,589 1,872 sq mi
(4,848 km2)
State map highlighting Klickitat County
Lewis County 041 Chehalis 1845 Clark County Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809), the co-captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition[28] 86,154 2,403 sq mi
(6,224 km2)
State map highlighting Lewis County
Lincoln County 043 Davenport 1883 Whitman County Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), 16th U.S. President[28] 11,738 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[29] 68,389 959 sq mi
(2,484 km2)
State map highlighting Mason County
Okanogan County 047 Okanogan 1888 Stevens County A Salish word meaning "rendezvous"[30] 43,712 5,268 sq mi
(13,644 km2)
State map highlighting Okanogan County
Pacific County 049 South Bend 1851 Lewis County The Pacific Ocean[31] 24,200 933 sq mi
(2,416 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"[32] 14,361 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[32] 928,696 1,670 sq mi
(4,325 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[33] 18,566 174 sq mi
(451 km2)
State map highlighting San Juan County
Skagit County 057 Mount Vernon 1883 Whatcom County The Skagit tribe[34] 131,417 1,731 sq mi
(4,483 km2)
State map highlighting Skagit County
Skamania County 059 Stevenson 1854 Clark County A Chinookan word meaning "swift water"[34] 12,640 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[35] 844,761 2,087 sq mi
(5,405 km2)
State map highlighting Snohomish County
Spokane County 063 Spokane 1879 Stevens County The Spokane tribe 551,455 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[36] 48,837 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[37] 299,003 722 sq mi
(1,870 km2)
State map highlighting Thurston County
Wahkiakum County 069 Cathlamet 1854 Cowlitz County Wakaiakam, chief of the Kathlamet tribe[38] 4,765 264 sq mi
(684 km2)
State map highlighting Wahkiakum County
Walla Walla County 071 Walla Walla 1854 Skamania County The Walla Walla tribe, also a Nez Percé name for running water[38] 61,568 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"[39] 231,919 2,107 sq mi
(5,457 km2)
State map highlighting Whatcom County
Whitman County 075 Colfax 1871 Stevens County Marcus Whitman (1802–1847), a Methodist missionary[40] 48,012 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"[41] 256,643 4,296 sq mi
(11,127 km2)
State map highlighting Yakima County

Former county names

Four counties changed their name between 1849 and 1925.

Former counties

During Washington's territorial period, Washington split off from an Oregon county, three counties were disestablished, and three split into separate territories.

  • Clackamas County, Oregon was established in 1844 and included the land south and east of the Columbia River until Washington Territory was formed in 1853, when the area was no longer organized as a county.[50]
  • Spokane County was established in Washington Territory in 1858 until it merged into Stevens County in 1864; it was reestablished in 1879.[51]
  • Missoula County was established in Washington Territory in 1860 until it split off with the Idaho Territory in 1863.[51]
  • Shoshone County, Idaho County, and Nez Perce County were established in Washington Territory in 1861, and Boise County in 1863, until they split off into the Idaho Territory in March 1863, leaving the current borders of Washington.[51]
  • Ferguson County, named for Washington legislator James L. Ferguson, was established on January 23, 1863, from Walla Walla County and dissolved on January 18, 1865. Yakima County was established in its place.[52][53]
  • Quillehuyte County was split from Jefferson and Clallam counties in 1868 and returned to those counties a year later before it could be organized.[54]

Proposed counties

Several counties were proposed prior to or during the existence of Washington Territory and nine counties were proposed within the first 16 years of Washington's statehood, but none were established.

  • 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 these counties: Thurston County (which was originally proposed as Simmons County).[55][56]
  • Buchanan County was proposed in 1856 as a division of Clark County.[57]
  • Proposed counties during Washington's early statehood included Big Bend (1891), Palouse (1891 and 1903), Sherman (1891), Washington (1891), Wenatchee (1893), McKinley (1903), Steptoe (1903), and Coulee (1905).[6]
  • Since the 1990s, there have been several proposals for county secession in Washington, largely from rural areas in the major counties of Western Washington. Cedar, Freedom, and Skykomish counties submitted petitions to secede from King and Snohomish counties in 1995 and 1996, with some support in the state legislature to put them to a public referendum.[4][58][59]

See also


  1. ^ "Washington: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries". Washington Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Newberry Library. Archived from the original on January 1, 2016. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  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". Washington State Constitution. Washington State Office of the Code Reviser. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Spencer, Hal (February 6, 1998). "New counties dealt major blow". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. p. B8. Retrieved March 31, 2020 – via
    Cedar County Committee v. Munro, 134 Wash. 2d 377 (Supreme Court of Washington 1998).
  5. ^ "Area Transferred". Longview Daily News. Associated Press. September 22, 1970. p. 3. Retrieved February 10, 2020 – via
  6. ^ a b Smith 1913, pp. 13–15
  7. ^ "Services". King County. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "County Services". Spokane County. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  9. ^ "Washington: Basic Information". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "County Forms of Government". Municipal Research and Services Center. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c National Association of Counties. "NACo – Find A County". Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Washington: Historical Borders". Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Newberry Library. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  13. ^ "County Population Totals: 2020-2023". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  14. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 4
  15. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 9
  16. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 14
  17. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 25
  18. ^ a b c Phillips 1971, pp. 27–30
  19. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 33
  20. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 41
  21. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 49
  22. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 52–53
  23. ^ a b Phillips 1971, p. 57
  24. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 66–67
  25. ^ Brodeur, Nicole (January 20, 2020). "Remembering fight to change county namesake". The Seattle Times. p. A1. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  26. ^ a b c Phillips 1971, pp. 72–73
  27. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 77–79
  28. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 87
  29. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 100
  30. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 105
  31. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 107–108
  32. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 124
  33. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 130–131
  34. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 133
  35. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 138
  36. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 144
  37. ^ a b Phillips 1971, pp. 153–154
  38. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 158
  39. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 159
  40. ^ Phillips 1971, p. 163
  41. ^ Ott, Jennifer (July 1, 2008). "Chehalis – Thumbnail History". HistoryLink. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  42. ^ "Chapter 77 (S.B. 297), Changing Name of Chehalis County". Session Laws of the State of Washington. 1915. p. 250. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  43. ^ Wilma, David (April 19, 2006). "Washington Territorial Legislature creates Sawamish (Mason) County on April 15, 1854". HistoryLink. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  44. ^ Wilma, David (July 27, 2006). "Slaughter County is renamed Kitsap County on July 13, 1857". HistoryLink. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  45. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 7–8
  46. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 1–2
  47. ^ Holman 1910, pp. 3–5
  48. ^ Hanable, William S. (February 4, 2004). "Clark County — Thumbnail History". HistoryLink. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  49. ^ "Oregon: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries". Oregon Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. Newberry Library. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  50. ^ a b c "Washington: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries". Newberry Library. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  51. ^ Becker, Paula (September 20, 2005). "Ferguson County is established on January 23, 1863". HistoryLink. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  52. ^ "Milestones for Washington State History – Part 2: 1851 to 1900". HistoryLink. March 6, 2003. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  53. ^ Smith 1913, p. 11
  54. ^ Smith 1913, pp. 3–4
  55. ^ Meany 1922, pp. 11–12
  56. ^ Smith 1913, p. 7
  57. ^ Robertson, Kipp (March 8, 2019). "Splitting King County? Citizens fought to secede in the 90s". KING 5 News. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  58. ^ Brooks, Diane (March 21, 1997). "House OKs Nov. vote on Skykomish County". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 3, 2020.


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List of counties in Washington
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