Pierce County, Washington

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Pierce County
Old City Hall in Tacoma.
Flag of Pierce County
Official seal of Pierce County
Map of Washington highlighting Pierce County
Location within the U.S. state of Washington
Map of the United States highlighting Washington
Washington's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 47°03′N 122°07′W / 47.05°N 122.11°W / 47.05; -122.11
Country United States
State Washington
FoundedDecember 22, 1852
Named forFranklin Pierce
Largest cityTacoma
 • Total1,806 sq mi (4,680 km2)
 • Land1,670 sq mi (4,300 km2)
 • Water137 sq mi (350 km2)  7.6%%
 • Total795,225
 • Estimate 
 • Density525/sq mi (203/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional districts6th, 8th, 9th, 10th
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, and the 61st-most populous in the United States. 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 in the Seattle metropolitan area (formally the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA metropolitan statistical area).

Pierce County is home to Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain and a volcano 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.

There is a local movement to re-name the county Tahoma County, after a native name for Mt. Rainier.


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. Rainier is locally called Tahoma or Takhoma, both native names for the mountain.

Geographic features[edit]

Pierce County also contains the Clearwater Wilderness area.

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2020 (est.)913,890[6]14.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790–1960[8] 1900–1990[9]
1990–2000[10] 2010–2020

2000 census[edit]

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% American, and 6.2% Norwegian ancestry.

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.

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 795,225 people, 299,918 households, and 202,174 families residing in the county.[12] The population density was 476.3 inhabitants per square mile (183.9/km2). There were 325,375 housing units at an average density of 194.9 per square mile (75.3/km2).[13] The racial makeup of the county was 74.2% white, 6.8% black or African American, 6.0% Asian, 1.4% American Indian, 1.3% Pacific islander, 3.5% from other races, and 6.8% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 9.2% of the population.[12] In terms of ancestry, 20.5% were German, 13.1% were Irish, 10.7% were English, 6.3% were Norwegian, and 4.2% were American.[14]

Of the 299,918 households, 35.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 32.6% were non-families, and 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.09. The median age was 35.9 years.[12]

The median income for a household in the county was $57,869 and the median income for a family was $68,462. Males had a median income of $50,084 versus $38,696 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,446. About 8.1% of families and 11.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.0% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.[15]


The logo often used to depict county government services and departments

Pierce County has adopted and is governed by a Charter. This is allowed by section 4 of Article XI of the Washington State Constitution. The Pierce County Executive, currently Bruce Dammeier (R), heads the county's executive branch. The Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan, auditor Julie Anderson, Prosecuting Attorney Mary Robnett, and Sheriff Ed Troyer hold the 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 carry over from year-to-year.


Pierce County, like most Western Washington counties, is considered a reliably Democratic county. However, due to the large military presence, it is slightly less Democratic than the neighboring counties, particularly King County. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat since her husband Bill Clinton in 1992, to carry Pierce County with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Pierce County is split between four U.S. congressional districts:[17]

United States presidential election results for Pierce County, Washington[18]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 197,730 42.61% 249,506 53.76% 16,845 3.63%
2016 146,824 40.78% 172,538 47.92% 40,655 11.29%
2012 148,467 43.04% 186,430 54.05% 10,035 2.91%
2008 141,673 42.76% 181,824 54.88% 7,839 2.37%
2004 150,783 48.05% 158,231 50.43% 4,779 1.52%
2000 118,431 44.04% 138,249 51.41% 12,246 4.55%
1996 89,295 37.35% 120,893 50.57% 28,885 12.08%
1992 77,410 32.10% 102,243 42.40% 61,496 25.50%
1988 94,167 48.42% 96,688 49.72% 3,618 1.86%
1984 112,877 57.85% 79,498 40.75% 2,733 1.40%
1980 90,247 51.13% 64,444 36.51% 21,820 12.36%
1976 74,668 46.92% 78,238 49.16% 6,242 3.92%
1972 84,265 56.91% 56,933 38.45% 6,867 4.64%
1968 51,436 37.90% 72,670 53.54% 11,612 8.56%
1964 40,164 31.88% 84,566 67.13% 1,243 0.99%
1960 57,188 46.32% 64,292 52.07% 1,995 1.62%
1956 57,078 49.40% 57,728 49.96% 738 0.64%
1952 56,515 49.66% 56,132 49.32% 1,164 1.02%
1948 34,396 37.89% 50,674 55.82% 5,716 6.30%
1944 31,626 36.62% 53,269 61.68% 1,475 1.71%
1940 27,188 33.85% 51,670 64.34% 1,453 1.81%
1936 18,331 26.23% 48,988 70.09% 2,572 3.68%
1932 19,006 29.09% 38,451 58.86% 7,870 12.05%
1928 35,748 66.02% 17,402 32.14% 996 1.84%
1924 21,376 47.70% 4,232 9.44% 19,210 42.86%
1920 22,048 51.89% 8,259 19.44% 12,184 28.67%
1916 16,780 43.28% 18,940 48.85% 3,050 7.87%
1912 6,517 20.59% 6,855 21.65% 18,285 57.76%
1908 10,935 60.84% 4,936 27.46% 2,103 11.70%
1904 9,773 70.63% 2,351 16.99% 1,712 12.37%
1900 6,269 59.20% 3,702 34.96% 618 5.84%
1896 4,651 45.14% 5,570 54.06% 82 0.80%
1892 3,954 37.07% 3,621 33.95% 3,090 28.97%


The largest public employer in Piece County is Joint Base Lewis–McChord, which contributes about 60,000 military and civilian jobs.[19] The largest private employers are MultiCare Health System and CHI Franciscan Health, which operate the two largest hospitals in the county.[20]

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.[21] 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 attempt to save the remaining 48,000[22] acres of Pierce County farmland. Despite the loss of farmland, Pierce County continues to produce about 50% of the United States' rhubarb.[23]


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[edit]

The largest institutions of higher education are University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland. Both are religiously affiliated private universities.

Tacoma Community College in Tacoma and Pierce College in Steilacoom are public community colleges. Bates Technical College and Clover Park Technical College are public technical colleges.

Central Washington University has a branch campus in Steilacoom. University of Washington Tacoma is a branch campus of University of Washington.The Evergreen State College also has a campus in Tacoma.

Library system[edit]

The Pierce County Library is the fourth largest library system in the state.[24] There are currently 20 branches, including:

  • Administrative Center and Library
  • Anderson Island
  • Bonney Lake
  • Buckley
  • Dupont
  • Eatonville
  • Fife
  • Gig Harbor
  • Graham
  • Key Center
  • Lakewood
  • Milton/Edgewood
  • Orting
  • Parkland/Spanaway
  • South Hill
  • Steilacoom
  • Summit
  • Sumner
  • Tillicum
  • University Place

The Pierce County Library System currently employs 394 people, and serves 579,970 citizens throughout 1,773 square miles. Established in 1944, the library system serves all of unincorporated Pierce County, as well as annexed cities and towns of: Bonney Lake, Buckley, DuPont, Eatonville, Edgewood, Fife, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Milton, Orting, South Prairie, Steilacoom, Sumner, University Place and Wilkeson.[24] There are currently more than 1 million physical materials (books, videos, etc.) in the system, and more than 480,000 online or downloadable media items.[25] Total 2016 general fund revenue is estimated at $29,709,541.


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 is home to Pierce County Airport and Tacoma Narrows Airport, both are general aviation airports.

Pierce County's official transportation provider is Pierce Transit. It provides buses, paratransit, and rideshare vehicles. The regional Sound Transit runs the Tacoma Link light rail line through downtown Tacoma, and provides several regional express buses. Sound Transit also runs Sounder, the regional commuter railroad through Pierce County that stops in the following places: 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.

On December 18, 2017, an Amtrak train derailed in the county, at an overpass over southbound Interstate 5, hitting several vehicles. Thirteen of 14 rail cars derailed, killing three on board the train, and injuring dozens more on board and on the highway.[26]

Major highways[edit]

Ferry routes[edit]

Arts and culture[edit]

Pierce County boasts a thriving arts and culture community. Arts organizations within Pierce County include: the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts,[27] Grand Cinema,[28] Lakewood Playhouse, Museum of Glass,[29] Northwest Sinfonietta, Speakeasy Arts Cooperative,[30] Tacoma Art Museum,[31] Tacoma Little Theater, Tacoma Concert Band, Tacoma Musical Playhouse,[32] Tacoma Opera, Symphony Tacoma, Dance Theater Northwest, Washington State History Museum and others. WintergrassWintergrass Home, 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,[33] a regional United Arts Fund, has been supporting the arts community in Pierce County since 1969. LeMay-America’s Car Museum opened in 2012 in Tacoma. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, founded in 1983 in Tacoma, houses the world's largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents.

There are several good city guides to the arts and culture scene: Travel Tacoma + Pierce County,[34] Exit 133,[35] TakePartInArt.org,[36] and FeedTacoma.com[37] 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 Washington State Fair, held every September in Puyallup. The Washington State Fair is nationally accredited and recognized.


Pierce County became a hot bed for gangs, drugs and criminal activity starting in the mid to late 1980s. Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood was ravaged by gangs peddling crack-cocaine and the resulting gang violence. Due to increased police patrols and community watch programs, the neighborhood calmed down in the mid to late 2000s. However due to developing in certain areas, gentrification has sent gangs across the county. 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.[38]




Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ Reinartz, Kay. "History of King County Government 1853–2002" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 1, 2007. Retrieved December 29, 2007.
  4. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  5. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  6. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  7. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  9. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  10. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  13. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  14. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  15. ^ https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/99/Pierce-County-Council
  16. ^ "Democracy for Washington: Washington Congressional Districts Map". Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  17. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  18. ^ Johnson, Kirk (October 7, 2013). "In Military City, Government Reassurances Are Little Comfort". The New York Times. p. A14. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  19. ^ Cockrell, Debbie (November 30, 2018). "Health care, public sector dominate major employers list as real estate also fuels growth". The News Tribune. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  20. ^ http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/services/home/property/pals/other/pcfac.htm
  21. ^ "Preserving Farmland and Farmers: Pierce County Agriculture Pierce County Farm Advisory Commission" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 1, 2006. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  22. ^ "Pierce County Agriculture". Pierce County Washington. Archived from the original on July 31, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  23. ^ a b "Pierce County Library > Library History". www.piercecountylibrary.org. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  24. ^ "Pierce County Library > Fast Facts". www.piercecountylibrary.org. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  25. ^ Veronica Rocha; Brian Ries; Amanda Wills (December 18, 2017). "Amtrak train derails in Washington: Live updates". CNN. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  26. ^ "Energizing community through live performance - Tacoma Arts Live". www.tacomaartslive.org. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  27. ^ "Independent, International, and Local Films | Grand Cinema". www.grandcinema.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  28. ^ "Museum of Glass". Museum of Glass. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  29. ^ "Speakeasy Arts Cooperative". www.speakeasyartscooperative.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  30. ^ "Tacoma Art Museum". Tacoma Art Museum. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  31. ^ "TMP: Tacoma Musical Playhouse". www.tmp.org. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  32. ^ "ArtsFund | Donate to ArtsFund and help the King & Pierce County performing arts community build a rich culture in the arts". www.artsfund.org. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  33. ^ "Travel Tacoma & Pierce County | Trip Planning & Itineraries". www.traveltacoma.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  34. ^ http://www.exit133.com
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved March 29, 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ "FeedTacoma.com | Tacoma blogs, events calendar, news, restaurants, photos, discussion, videos, and more!". www.feedtacoma.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  37. ^ Mulick, Stacey; Meth battle sees new fronts Archived May 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine; The News Tribune (Tacoma); February 19, 2007.

External links[edit]

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