Washington became the 42nd state to enter the Union on November 11, 1889. Located in the Northwest corner of the United States' lower 48 states, it is bordered by British Columbia, Canada to the North; Idaho to the East; Oregon to the South; and the Pacific Ocean to the West. It reaches from sea level to the towering heights of Mt. Rainier (14,410 feet/4392 meters), the fifth tallest mountain in the country. The Cascade Mountain Range serves as a divider between the western and eastern portions of the state. Whidbey Island, the second longest island in the country, is located in Washington's Puget Sound. Three of the country's 100 most heavily populated cities are located in Washington as well: Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. As of 1990, Washington ranked 18th in terms of highest state populations.
When Oregon considered becoming a state, settlers worked to come up with a name for the remaining area of Oregon Territory. The original plan was to name it Columbia, after the Columbia River, an important route in the territory. When this suggestion was turned down by the politicians in the District of Columbia (they were afraid of confusion), settlers chose to name the territory in honor of the United States' first president, George Washington. Characteristic of this state's humor, there is now a town of George, Washington.
Events in Washington's recorded history note it as the location from which Lewis and Clark first viewed the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. It also served as a key location for miners during the Gold Rush era. Many Native American people have held great influence in the ever-changing role of Washington State. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 also placed a spotlight on this region.
Major industries include logging, apples, fishing, aeronautics, agriculture, computer hardware and software, and tourism.
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