Pierce County, Washington
Map of Washington highlighting Pierce County
Location in the state of Washington (state)
Map of the U.S. highlighting Washington
Washington's location in the U.S.
Founded December 22, 1852
Seat Tacoma
Largest city Tacoma
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

1,806 sq mi (4,678 km²)
1,679 sq mi (4,349 km²)
128 sq mi (332 km²), 7.06%
 - (2010)
 - Density

473/sq mi (182.8/km²)
Website www.co.pierce.wa.us

Mt. Rainier from Ricksecker Point, 1932

Tacoma - Seat of Pierce County

Mount Rainier hazard map

Pierce County is the second most populous county in the U.S. state of Washington. Formed out of Thurston County on December 22, 1852, by the legislature of Oregon Territory[1][2] , it was named for U.S. President Franklin Pierce. As of 2010 Census, the population was 795,225. The county seat is Tacoma, on Commencement Bay, which is also the county's largest city.

Pierce County is notable for being home to the Mount Rainier volcano, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range. Its most recent recorded eruption was between 1820 and 1854. There is no imminent risk of eruption, but geologists expect that the volcano will erupt again. If this should happen, parts of Pierce County and the Puyallup Valley would be at risk from lahars, lava, or pyroclastic flows. The Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System was established in 1998 to assist in the evacuation of the Puyallup River valley in case of eruption.

Geography[edit | edit source]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,806 square miles (4,679 km²), of which 1,679 square miles (4,348 km²) is land and 128 square miles (330 km²) (7.06%) is water. The highest natural point in Washington, Mount Rainier at 14,410 feet (4,392 m), is located in Pierce County.

Geographic features[edit | edit source]

Pierce County also contains the Clearwater Wilderness area.

Major highways[edit | edit source]

Adjacent counties[edit | edit source]

National protected areas[edit | edit source]

Ferry routes[edit | edit source]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 1,115
1870 1,409 26.4%
1880 3,319 135.6%
1890 50,940 1,434.8%
1900 55,515 9.0%
1910 120,812 117.6%
1920 144,127 19.3%
1930 163,842 13.7%
1940 182,081 11.1%
1950 275,876 51.5%
1960 321,590 16.6%
1970 411,027 27.8%
1980 485,643 18.2%
1990 586,203 20.7%
2000 700,820 19.6%
2010 795,225 13.5%

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 700,820 people, 260,800 households, and 180,212 families residing in the county. The population density was 417 people per square mile (161/km²). There were 277,060 housing units at an average density of 165 per square mile (64/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 78.39% White, 6.95% Black or African American, 1.42% Native American, 5.08% Asian, 0.85% Pacific Islander, 2.20% from other races, and 5.11% from two or more races. 5.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.1% were of German, 8.6% Irish, 8.2% English, 6.3% United States or American and 6.2% Norwegian ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 260,800 households out of which 35.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.80% were married couples living together, 11.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.90% were non-families. 24.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the county, the population was spread out with 27.20% under the age of 18, 9.80% from 18 to 24, 31.30% from 25 to 44, 21.50% from 45 to 64, and 10.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 98.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $45,204, and the median income for a family was $52,098. Males had a median income of $38,510 versus $28,580 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,948. About 7.50% of families and 10.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.20% of those under age 18 and 7.20% of those age 65 or over.

Politics[edit | edit source]

Presidential Election Results
Year Democrat Republican
2008 54.9% 181,824 42.8% 141,673
2004 50.5% 158,231 48.1% 150,783
2000 51.4% 138,249 44.1% 118,431
1996 50.6% 120,893 37.4% 89,295
1992 42.4% 102,243 32.1% 77,410
1988 49.7% 96,688 48.4% 94,167

Residents of Pierce County, Washington, live in one of three U.S. congressional districts:[4]

Census-recognized communities[edit | edit source]

Other communities[edit | edit source]

Arts and culture[edit | edit source]

Pierce County boasts a thriving arts and culture community. Arts organizations within Pierce County include:the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Grand Cinema, Lakewood Playhouse, Museum of Glass, Northwest Sinfonietta, Speakeasy Arts Cooperative, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma Little Theater, Tacoma Concert Band, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma Opera, Tacoma Philharmonic, Tacoma Symphony, Dance Theater Northwest, Washington State History Museum and others. Wintergrass[1], a yearly festival that takes place over several days in February every year, was honored in 2005 as "Bluegrass Festival of the year in 2005". (It was moved to Bellevue starting in 2010.) The City of Tacoma celebrates "Art at Work" month every November to encourage participation and support for the arts community in that city. ArtsFund, a regional United Arts Fund, has been supporting the arts community in Pierce County since 1969.

There are several good city guides to the arts and culture scene: TacomaMama.com, Exit 133, TakePartInArt.org, and FeedTacoma.com are among the most popular.

Education[edit | edit source]

Public school districts in Pierce County include Tacoma Public Schools, Auburn-Dieringer School District, Bethel School District, Carbonado School District, Clover Park School District, Eatonville School District, Fife School District, Franklin Pierce School District, Orting School District, Peninsula School District, Puyallup School District, Steilacoom Historical Schools District, Sumner School District, University Place School District, White River School District, and Yelm School District (map of districts: [2]). Private schools include the Cascade Christian Schools group, Life Christian School and Academy, Bellarmine, and Charles Wright Academy. Libraries include the Pierce County Library System, the Tacoma Library System, and the Puyallup Public Library.

Higher education[edit | edit source]

Tacoma Community College was established in 1965 and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. It is one of 34 Washington community and technical colleges. It is supported through state funds and resources from the Tacoma Community College Foundation. Over 15,000 students enroll at TCC annually (2006–2007). Nearly 1/2 million students have attended TCC since its opening. About 40% of TCC students plan to transfer to universities.

Other institutions include Pierce Community College, University of Puget Sound (UPS), Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), Central Washington University Extension centers (CWU), and University of Washington-Tacoma (UW-T).

Government of Pierce County[edit | edit source]

Pierce County has adopted and is governed by a Charter. This is allowed by section 4 of Article XI of the Washington constitution. Its legislative branch of government consists of a seven member partisan council, led by Chairman Roger Bush (R-District 3); its judicial branch by 23 departments of the Superior Court; and its executive branch by five separate offices:
+ 1 Executive Pat McCarthy
+ 2 Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam
+ 3 Auditor Julie Anderson
+ 4 Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist
+ 5 Sheriff Paul Pastor, Jr. (non-partisan)
Many charter amendments have been on the ballot in the last five years, but sequential numbering does not carryover from year-to-year.

Other[edit | edit source]

Joint Base Lewis-McChord contributes more than 42,000 military and civilian jobs to the local economy.

The Port of Tacoma is the sixth busiest container port in North America, and one of the 25 busiest in the world, and it plays an important part in the local economy. This deep-water port covers 2,400 acres (9.7 km²) and offers a combination of facilities and services including 34 deepwater berths, two million square feet (190,000 m²) of warehouse and office space, and 131 acres (530,000 m²) of industrial yard. One economic impact study showed that more the 28,000 jobs in Pierce County are related to the Port activities.

Pierce County's official transportation provider is Pierce Transit. It provides buses, paratransit, and rideshare vehicles. The regional Sound Transit runs a light rail line through downtown Tacoma, and provides several regional express buses. Also, Intercity Transit provides transportation between Tacoma, Lakewood, and Thurston County.

Every year in April, the Pierce County Daffodil Festival and Parade is held. Established in 1934, it is one of the regions prominent attractions. It is also home to the Puyallup Fair, held every September. The Puyallup Fair is nationally accredited and recognized.

Pierce County agriculture has been an instrumental part of the local economy for almost 150 years. However, in the last half century much of the county's farmland has been transformed into residential areas. Pierce County has taken aggressive steps to reverse this trend; the county recently created the Pierce County Farm Advisory Commission. This advisory board helps local farmers with the interpretation of land use regulations as well as the promotion of local produce. The creation of the Pierce County Farm Advisory Commission will hopefully save the remaining 48,000[5] acres of Pierce County farmland. Despite the loss of farmland, Pierce County continues to produce about 50% of the United States' rhubarb.[6]

As of 2006, 38% of the methamphetamine labs (138 sites) cleaned up by the Washington Department of Ecology were in Pierce County. This reduction from a high of 589 labs in 2001 comes in part to a new law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine and in part due to tougher prison sentences for methamphetamine producers.[7]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 47°03′N 122°07′W / 47.05, -122.11

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