Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest from outer space.
This visualization shows a sequence of Landsat-based data in the Pacific Northwest.

The Pacific Northwest (in the United States, commonly abbreviated as PNW), sometimes referred to as Cascadia, is a geographic region in western North America bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and (loosely) by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Though no agreed boundary exists, a common conception includes the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Broader conceptions reach north into Alaska and Yukon, south into far northern California and east to the Continental Divide, thus including Idaho, Western Montana, and western Wyoming. Narrower conceptions may be limited to the northwestern US or to the coastal areas west of the Cascade and Coast mountains. The variety of definitions can be attributed to partially overlapping commonalities of the region's history, geography, society, and other factors.

The Northwest Coast is the coastal region of the Pacific Northwest and the Northwest Plateau (also commonly known as "the Interior" in British Columbia [1] and the Inland Empire in the United States) is the inland region. The term "Pacific Northwest" should not be confused with the Northwest Territory (also known as the Great Northwest, a historical term in the United States) or the Northwest Territories of Canada.

The region's largest metropolitan areas are Greater Seattle, Washington, with 3.7 million people; [2] Greater Portland, Oregon, with 2.5 million people. [3] Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, with 2.4 million people; [4]

A key aspect of the Pacific Northwest is the US–Canada international border, which the United States and the United Kingdom established at a time when the region's inhabitants were composed mostly of indigenous peoples. The border — in two sections, along the 49th parallel south of British Columbia and the Alaska Panhandle west of northern British Columbia — has had a powerful effect on the region. According to Canadian historian Ken Coates, the border has not merely influenced the Pacific Northwest—rather, "the region's history and character have been determined by the boundary." [5]


There are multiple definitions of the Pacific Northwest, none definitive. This map shows three possibilities. The shaded area shows the historical Oregon Country, and the green line shows the Cascadia bioregion. [6] A third definition is the labeled states and provinces of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.

Definitions of the Pacific Northwest region vary, and there is no commonly agreed-upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. [7] [8] A common conception of the Pacific Northwest includes the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. [5]

Broader definitions of the region may include the U.S. state of Alaska, [5] [9]:8 the Canadian territory of Yukon, [5] the northwestern portion of the state of California, [6] and may reach east to the Rocky Mountains. [5] Definitions based on the historic Oregon Country reach east to the Continental Divide, thus including nearly all of Idaho and parts of western Montana and western Wyoming. Sometimes the Pacific Northwest is defined as being the Northwestern United States, wholly in the United States. Often these definitions are made by government agencies whose scope is limited to the United States. [10] Some definitions include, in addition to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia, Southeast Alaska, western Montana, the coast of northern California and a small part of northwestern Wyoming. [11]

Other Languages