About the Northwest
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There is a region of the North American continent known as the "Northwest", or more affectionately as the "Great Northwest". These terms are used primarily as a geographic designation, but of course have cultural connotations as well; revealing something of people's attitudes to themselves, and to the land.
The term "Northwest" is used loosely. Take note of local usage and you will see the Northwest could encompass any combination of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, and Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in the United States.
Arguably, the heart of the Northwest embraces the states of Washington and Oregon. In reference to these two, and sometimes also British Columbia, you are likely to hear the term "Pacific Northwest". This is a more specific definition of the Northwest that (usually, but not always!) includes only the states and province bordering the Pacific Ocean.
If you look at the above map of the north American continent, which is minus the political boundaries that divide it into Canada and the United States of America, and minus the provincial and state boundaries within these two nations, you might get an indication of the geographical features which distinguish this part of the world. The Northwest region is bound by the Pacific Ocean to the west, passes over the "Rockies" and extends east to the "Great Plains". The northern and southern extremities of this region might be identified as somewhere around the 51st parallel before reaching the subarctic zone of British Columbia, and somewhere around the 40th parallel before reaching the mild climate zone of northern California.
The Northwest also has an identity as a bioregion, a unity of soil, watershed, climate, native plants, animals, and people. The Pacific Northwest bioregion, also known as "Cascadia", is defined as the watersheds of rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean through North America's temperate rain forest zone. Twenty of the 40 largest rivers on the continent are included in these waters. In this definition, the Northwest extends from northern California to southern Alaska, and from the coast to the continental divide, taking in Washington, most of Oregon and Idaho and part of Montana.
For the purposes of Go Northwest!, we define the Northwest as being the coastal province and states of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, and the land bound states of Montana and Idaho. Yet still, this landscape is not so easily contained! You will find the scope of Go Northwest! sneaks over the latter two borders into Wyoming via Yellowstone National Park and Bighorn Canyon. We also extend over the British Columbian border into Alberta, to include Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. Finally, we also follow the bounds of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park which encompasses the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, and the Glacier National Park in Montana.
If the above has given you the impression that a definition of the northwest is not very fixed, then you are arriving at an understanding of how the northwest is also a region defined by the imagination. The Northwest has connotations of the "Wild West", the classic definition being everything on the map to the left of the 100th meridian. "Northwest" portion of the "West" is a name and an imaginative place which, historically, traveled with the westward exploration and settlement of the United States. During the 1700s and early 1800s, places like what we know today as Chicago and the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota were commonly thought of as the "northwest"!
Nowadays that name, with its connotations of wild landscapes and new horizons, has alighted upon the area described above. It is this continuing promise of opportunity and discovery which today sees the Northwest containing some of the fastest growing metropolitan regions of North America. We hope you come and find out for yourself what draws so many north-westwards!
Culture and Economy
More insights about the Northwest region on Go Northwest!
And another definition of the Pacific Northwest, with map.
Best selection of books on the Northwest.
Pacific Northwest Haunts by Joe Teeples. This ghostly field guide lists over 270 haunted locations in the Pacific Northwest that ghost hunters can easily visit. Includes street addresses, photographs, and historical information about the spirits and areas involved in spectral hauntings. Order now...
Where To Find Hundreds Of Spectacular Waterfalls In Washington, Oregon, And Idaho by Gregory Alan Plumb. At-a-glance table for selecting waterfalls by scenic rating, form, how to access, best season to go and defining characteristics. To help you select, each waterfall is keyed for accessibility by car, on foot, or by canoe or raft and rated for magnitude and aesthetic value. Order now...
Fodor's Pacific Northwest: with Oregon, Washington and Vancouver, 20th Edition. Written by local experts, this guide has the latest information with expansive insights, illustrations, recommendations, advice and trip planning tools, such as easy to read maps, to plan your exciting adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Order now...
Hidden Pacific Northwest: Including Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, Victoria, and Coastal British Columbia by Eric Lucas. The ultimate guide with information on over 300 hiking trails, 700 campgrounds, and 200 beaches, parks, and wilderness areas. The book reviews a wide range of unique accommodations, including boutique hotels in Seattle, stone-and-wood lodges in the Cascades, and seaside B&Bs. Order now...
Best Pacific Northwest Trips by Lonely Planet. This guide offers itineraries, theme icons, easy-to-use maps along with driving times and tips for 8 different trips including the Whistle Stop Brewery Tour, 48 hours in Seattle and the International Selkirk Loop. Order now...
Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest: Tracking and Identifying Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates by David Moskowitz. This book includes illustrated descriptions for more than 180 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, northern California, Idaho, and western Montana plus maps. Order now...
Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest: A Romantic Travel Guide by Teri Citterman. Hundreds of detailed reviews cover the coziest inns, resorts, B&Bs, hotels, and restaurants in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, with all-new "lip" rankings that rate each spot's kiss-ability. Order now...
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