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Pierce County, Washington facts for kids

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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.
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Country  United States
State  Washington
Founded December 22, 1852
Named for Franklin Pierce
Seat Tacoma
Largest city Tacoma
 • Total 1,806 sq mi (4,680 km2)
 • Land 1,670 sq mi (4,300 km2)
 • Water 137 sq mi (350 km2)  7.6%%
 • Total 795,225
 • Estimate 
 • Density 525/sq mi (203/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional districts 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th
Mt. Rainier, 1932
Mt. Rainier from Ricksecker Point, 1932
Tacoma skyline and I-705 from the East 34th Street Bridge
Tacoma—seat of Pierce County
Mount Rainier Hazard Map-en
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, 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. Formed out of Thurston County on December 22, 1852, by the legislature of Oregon Territory, 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.


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. 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


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,115
1870 1,409 26.4%
1880 3,319 135.6%
1890 50,940 1,434.8%
1900 55,515 9.0%
1910 120,812 117.6%
1920 144,127 19.3%
1930 163,842 13.7%
1940 182,081 11.1%
1950 275,876 51.5%
1960 321,590 16.6%
1970 411,027 27.8%
1980 485,643 18.2%
1990 586,203 20.7%
2000 700,820 19.6%
2010 795,225 13.5%
2020 (est.) 913,890 14.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 795,225 people, 299,918 households, and 202,174 families residing in the county. 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). 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. 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.

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.

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.


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

  • I-5.svg Interstate 5
  • I-705.svg Interstate 705
  • WA-16.svg State Route 16 (Tacoma Narrows Bridge)
  • WA-99.svg State Route 99
  • WA-167.svg State Route 167
  • WA-410.svg State Route 410
  • WA-512.svg State Route 512

Ferry routes

  • Steilacoom-Anderson Island Ferry

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. LeMay-America’s Car Museum opened in 2012 in Tacoma. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, founded in 1983 in Tacoma, houses the worlds largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents.

There are several good city guides to the arts and culture scene: Travel Tacoma + Pierce County, 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 Washington State Fair, held every September in Puyallup. The Washington State Fair is nationally accredited and recognized.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


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

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


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

  • Dieringer School District
  • Bethel School District
  • Carbonado School District
  • Clover Park School District
  • Eatonville School District
  • Fife School District
  • Franklin Pierce School District
  • Orting School District
  • Peninsula School District
  • Puyallup School District
  • Steilacoom Historical School District
  • Sumner-Bonney Lake School District
  • Tacoma Public Schools
  • University Place School District
  • White River School District
  • Yelm School District

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

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

The Pierce County Library is the fourth largest library system in the state. 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. 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. Total 2016 general fund revenue is estimated at $29,709,541.

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