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Pierce County, Washington

Pierce County, Washington
Map of Washington highlighting Pierce County
Location in the state of Washington
Map of the United States highlighting Washington
Washington's location in the U.S.
Founded December 22, 1852
Named for Franklin Pierce
Seat Tacoma
Largest city Tacoma
 • Total 1,806 sq mi (4,678 km2)
 • Land 1,670 sq mi (4,325 km2)
 • Water 137 sq mi (355 km2), 7.6%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 831,928
 • Density 498/sq mi (192/km²)
Congressional districts 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
Website .us.wa.pierce.cowww
Mt. Rainier from Ricksecker Point, 1932
Tacoma—seat of Pierce County
Mount Rainier hazard map

Pierce County is a county in the U.S. state of Washington. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 795,225,[1] making it the second-most populous county in Washington behind King County. The county seat and largest city is Tacoma.[2] Formed out of Thurston County on December 22, 1852, by the legislature of Oregon Territory,[3][4] it was named for U.S. President Franklin Pierce.

Pierce County is included in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

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 1
    • Geographic features 1.1
    • Adjacent counties 1.2
    • National protected areas 1.3
  • Demographics 2
  • Government 3
  • Politics 4
  • Economy 5
  • Education 6
    • Higher education 6.1
    • Library system 6.2
  • Transportation 7
    • Major highways 7.1
    • Ferry routes 7.2
  • Arts and culture 8
  • Crime 9
  • Communities 10
    • Cities 10.1
    • Towns 10.2
    • Census-designated places 10.3
    • Unincorporated communities 10.4
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,806 square miles (4,680 km2), of which 1,670 square miles (4,300 km2) is land and 137 square miles (350 km2) (7.6%) is water.[5] The highest natural point in Washington, Mount Rainier at 14,410 feet (4,392 m), is located in Pierce County.

Geographic features

Pierce County also contains the Clearwater Wilderness area.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


As of the census[11] 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 the 2000 census.

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.


Pierce County has adopted and is governed by a Charter. This is allowed by section 4 of Article XI of the Washington constitution. The Pierce County Executive, currently Pat McCarthy (D), heads the county's executive branch. The Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan (NP), Auditor Julie Anderson (NP), Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist (D), and Sheriff Paul A. Pastor (NP) are also countywide elected executive positions.

The Pierce County Council is the elected legislative body for Pierce County and consists of seven members elected by district. The council is vested with all law-making power granted by its charter and by the State of Washington, sets county policy through the adoption of ordinances and resolutions, approves the annual budget and directs the use of county funds. The seven members of the County Council are elected from each of seven contiguous and equally populated districts, with each councilmember representing approximately 114,000 county residents. Each county councilmember is elected to serve a four-year term.

Beneath the Washington Supreme Court and the Washington Court of Appeals, judicial power rests first in the Pierce County Superior Court, which is divided into 22 departments - each headed by an elected judge, as well as a clerk of the superior court and eight superior court commissioners. Below that is the Pierce County District Court - with eight elected judges, the Tacoma Municipal Court - with three elected judges, and the Pierce County Juvenile Court. Tacoma houses the Pierce County Courthouse.

The people of Pierce County voted on November 5, 1918 to create a Port District. The Port of Tacoma is Pierce County's only Port District. It is governed Port of Tacoma Commission - five Port Commissioners, who are elected at-large countywide and serve four-year terms. The Port of Tacoma owns six container terminals, one grain terminal and an auto import terminal; all of which are leased out to foreign and domestic corporations to operate. In addition, the port owns and operates two breakbulk cargo terminals.

Many charter amendments have been on the ballot in the last five years, but sequential numbering does not carryover from year-to-year.


Presidential Election Results
Year Democratic Republican
2012 54.4% 186,430 43.3% 148,467
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 four U.S. congressional districts:[12]


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

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[13] acres of Pierce County farmland. Despite the loss of farmland, Pierce County continues to produce about 50% of the United States' rhubarb.[14]


The following is a list of all sixteen public school districts in Pierce County, Washington:

Private schools include the Cascade Christian Schools group, Life Christian School and Academy, Bellarmine, Annie Wright Schools and Charles Wright Academy. Libraries include the Pierce County Library System, the Tacoma Library System, and the Puyallup Public Library.

Higher education

Tacoma Community College was established in 1965 and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. 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 half a million students have attended TCC since its opening.

Other institutions include Pierce College, University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, Central Washington University Extension centers, and University of Washington Tacoma.

Library system

The Pierce County Library is the fourth largest library system in the state.[15] There are currently 18 branches, including:

The Pierce County Library System currently employs 268 people, and serves 555,000 citizens throughout 1,773 square miles. Established in 1944, it has been in use for 70 years. The library system serves all of all of Pierce County, including all of unincorporated Pierce County, as well as all annexed cities and towns.[15] There are currently 1,269,709 materials (books, videos, etc.) in the system, and 76,112 online or downloadable media items.[16]


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. Sound Transit also runs Sounder, the regional commuter railroad through Pierce County, with stops in: Sumner, Puyallup, Tacoma, South Tacoma, and Lakewood. Amtrak also travels through the county with a stop in Tacoma. Also, Intercity Transit provides transportation between Tacoma, Lakewood, and Thurston County.

Major highways

Ferry routes

Arts and culture

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:, Exit 133,, and are among the most popular.

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.


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.[17]




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Preserving Farmland and Farmers: Pierce County Agriculture Pierce County Farm Advisory Commission
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ Mulick, Stacey; Meth battle sees new fronts; The News Tribune (Tacoma); February 19, 2007.


  • Pierce County, Washington@USCB United States Census Bureau

External links

  • Pierce County government

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