Pacific Coast Business Directory

Washington Territory Area and Resources

The Territory of Washington, organized in 1853, lies between 45° 33' and 49° of latitude, and between 110° 56' and 124° 43' west longitude, it is bounded north by the Straits of Fuca and British Columbia, east by Idaho, south by Oregon, and west by the Pacific Ocean. The area is estimated at 70,000 square miles, and it is divided into twenty-three counties, as follows: Chehalis, Clallam, Clarke, Cowlitz, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Klikitat, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skamania, Snohomish, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, Whatcom, Whitman and Yakima. Capital, Olympia. Chief towns: Cascades, Kalama, Port Townsend, Tacoma, Tenino, Seattle, Steilacoom, Vancouver, Walla Walla and Wallula. The population is estimated at about 40,000.

Washington possesses many grand and distinctive features in its topography and climate: in its lofty mountains, fertile valleys and broad plains; in its noble rivers, numerous harbors, deep bays and great extent of shore lines; in its limitless resources of forests and fisheries, and in its mines of gold and coal and other minerals. Standing as the northwestern bastion of the Republic, and bearing its most honored name, it may worthily claim a high position in the nation, and careful attention at the present, as the brightness of its future is most apparent. Notwithstanding its high latitude, forming, as it does, one of the northern tier of States, the climate is remarkably equable and pleasant, and the extremes of heat and cold are unknown. Prominent among its geographical features are the Columbia River, one of the largest on the continent, the Cascade Mountains, with their lofty peaks, and Puget Sound with its extended ramification of waters, deep channels, and many harbors. The Columbia entering the Territory from the north, flows in a sinuous course southerly over four hundred miles, when receiving the Snake River, it turns westerly and for three hundred miles forms the dividing line between Washington and Oregon. This great river has a width of five miles at its mouth, and is navigable for large ships from the sea to the Cascades, a distance of 115 miles. At the mouth is Cape Disappointment, in latitude 46° 10' 35" and longitude 124° 2' as located by the Coast Survey. A changeable bar at the mouth, at times renders the entrance difficult, but once inside a harbor is everywhere.

From Cape Disappointment the coast trends north, slightly west, and twenty-one miles distant is the entrance to Shoalwater Bay, an extensive sheet of shallow water, as its name implies, of twenty-five miles in length and from three to nine in breadth. This affords a good harbor for light draught vessels, but the bar is, during moderately rough weather, difficult to cross. The Bay is distinguished for its oysters, from 80,000 to 100,000 bushels being exported annually. Other fish in vast quantities frequent the bay, chief among which are the salmon in infinite numbers, also shoals of herring, codfish and halibut. Several rivers enter it, which are navigable for some distance from their mouths. The principal of these are the Wilapah, Palux, Nasal, and Necomanche, each of these having a width of from a half to a mile and a half at their mouths. In the bay are Pine, Long and Round Islands, which, like the surrounding country, are densely covered with forests of spruce, fir, cedar, maple, ash, etc., of a gigantic growth. In the winter innumerable wild fowl visit the waters, as the black and white swan, geese, brant, and ducks of many varieties offering a most inviting field to the sportsman.

Grays Harbor lies from fifteen to twenty miles north of Shoalwater Bay, and is named in honor of Captain Gray, the discoverer of the Columbia River, and who was one of the earliest explorers and most correct delineator of this portion of the coast. This is a good harbor, with 25 feet of water on the bar, though changeable. The area of the bay is twelve by fifteen miles, but the greater part of it is bare at low water. The principal rivers entering it are, the Chehalis, Umtulup and Hokquiam, the first being navigable by light draught steamers a distance of sixty miles. North of Grays Harbor, and between it and the Straits of Fuca are no harbors, although landings are effected in many places.

Under latitude 48° 27' the shore breaks to the eastward, opening the broad Straits of Juan de Fuca, and leading to that maze of channels, canals, etc., known under the general name of Puget Sound. This great inland sea extends interior a distance of two hundred miles, and with its many islands and branching arms possesses a shore line of near 2,000 miles, offering excellent harbors in every part. The Straits of Fuca have a length of eighty-four miles, and a width of twelve miles. The depth is very great, and no bar is found at the mouth. From the eastern extremity the Canal de Haro and Rosario Strait lead northerly to the Gulf of Georgia, and Admiralty Inlet southerly to Puget Sound, Hood's Canal, Budd's Inlet, and other designated part of this Mediterranean of the north. The islands of the Sound are very numerous, San Juan, Orcas, and Whidby being the most important. The different arms of water are narrow and deep, leading far inland, and affording most convenient channels of commerce. The surrounding country is densely wooded with the finest forest trees of the world, and the trade in lumber is large.

The Territory is divided into two sections by the Cascade Range of mountains, which extend northward from Oregon. These are designated as Eastern, and Western Washington. The two sections, in almost every feature, resemble their comparts of Oregon. The Eastern is an elevated plateau, containing broad plains, several ranges of mountains, and is traversed from north to south by the main branch of the Columbia River. In the southeastern portion the Snake River, the great southern branch of the Columbia, enters the main river, and south of it is the extensive and fertile region known as Walla Walla. Throughout the eastern division are many fertile valleys susceptible of cultivation, but a vast extent is barren or only adapted to grazing. The Western division contains the Olympian, or Coast Range of mountains, the extensive valley lying between this and the Cascade Range, numerous navigable streams and Puget Sound.

The principal mountain ranges are the Olympian, Cascades, and spurs from the latter. Of the former Mount Olympus is the most prominent peak, having an elevation of 8,188 feet, and is a. most conspicuous object to mariners on the coast, as well as to people in the region of the Sound. The great peaks of the Cascade Range are: Mount St. Helens, 9,550; Mount Adams, 9,570; Mount Ranier, 12,360, and Mount Baker, 10,700 feet above the sea. These are grand and attractive objects, towering in symmetrical beauty, and their summits covered with perpetual snow. These were anciently volcanoes, and Mounts St. Helens and Baker have, on several occasions, given startling evidence of the fires raging within.

The climate of Washington varies with the locality, the coast being cool in summer and subject to heavy rains in winter; the temperature of western valleys being pleasant and very favorable for agriculture; and the eastern part is cold in winter, and warm in summer, with less rainfall than the western portion. At Cape Flattery the rainfall is very heavy, being as much as one hundred and thirty-two inches in a year. At Olympia the maximum is ninety inches, and tha minimum fifteen. At Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington, the average fall is eighteen inches. About Puget Sound the temperature is usually mild and without excessive heat or cold. The thermometer only on rare occasions showing 100', the maximum of the summer months generally being below 90°, and ranging to 40° as the minimum. In winter the average maximum is about 50° and the minimum about 20°. The small grains grow well, bat corn flourishes only in favored localities. Only light snows fall in the valleys, and it is never cold enough to form thick, solid ice. On the higher elevations and in Eastern Washington, the cold is much more severe, but in no section does it reach the extremes of the New England States or New York, being more like the region of the Ohio River.

The rivers of Washington are like her other physical features, grand and attractive. The Pen d'Oreille, or Clarke's Fork, flowing from the Rocky Mountains, crosses the northeastern portion of the Territory; the Spokane enters from the east, and the Palouse and Snake rivers are in the southeast. The Okanagan, another large river, crosses the northern border, in longitude 120° 30', and empties into the Columbia; and the Yakima, formed of many branches rising on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, flows southeasterly to the great river.

West of the Cascades are several navigable streams, among which are the Cowlitz, a tributary of the Columbia; the Chehalis, emptying into Gray'? Harbor, and the Nisqually, Puyalup, Dwamish, Snohomish, Skagit and others, of Puget Sound. These many streams and bays, entering and crossing the Territory in every direction, give easy access to all sections. The navigation of the Columbia, however, is broken by several falls and rapids; but, notwithstanding this, few sections of the world of equal area are more favored with navigable streams than is Washington.

The resources of Washington are of the grandest character, and invite development by the easy access its bays, sounds and rivers afford; by the equability of the climate; by the demand for the products, and by the bright future that awaits a country of such natural wealth. The abundant game of the rivers, prairies and forests first attracted the hunters and fur-traders to make the land their home. Following these were farmers and stock-raisers, and the fertile soil of the region west of the Cascades, and the broad, grassy plains of the upper Columbia, gave ample fields for the most extended operations. The great forests were the most inviting to enterprise, and growing from the water's edge, where ships of the largest class may land, furnish a grand resource of wealth which seems almost inexhaustible. The forests of Washington cannot be surpassed in the world. They are composed of pine, fir, spruce, cedar, hemlock, maple, oak, ash and alder, from which the most perfect spars and ship timbers are obtained. From the abundance of these magnificent trees, and their contiguity to so many and such excellent harbors, it is confidently predicted that the region of Puget Sound will, at no distant day, become the great ship-building section of the world.

The land now covered by dense forest, is exceedingly fertile, and when cleared of its trees most productive farms are made. There are also quite large tracts of open land ready for the farmer. The chief agricultural sections are the valleys west of the Cascades, and the country in the vicinity of the junction of the Snake with the Columbia. The great plains of the Palouse, Spokane, Yakima and upper Columbia, comprising one-third of the Territory, are well adapted to grazing, particularly for sheep, and for this their capacity is unlimited.

Mines of great importance are added to the resources of this Territory. At Bellingham Bay, Seattle, and other localities, is coal of excellent quality, and inexhaustible in quantity, and gold is successfully mined on the bars and banks of the Columbia, and on other streams in the northeast. Few sections of the world show greater natural wealth than Washington, with its unequalled forests, fertile soil, productive mines, salubrious climate, and commercial advantages; and with the addition of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which is expected soon to cross it, its settlement and development must be rapid, and soon place it in the rank of the great States of the Union. 

Pacific Coast Business Directory | Washington Territory Index

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875.


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