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Wake County, North Carolina facts for kids

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Wake County
Wake County Courthouse
Wake County Courthouse
Official seal of Wake County
Map of North Carolina highlighting Wake County
Location within the U.S. state of North Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting North Carolina
North Carolina's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  North Carolina
Founded June 4, 1771
Named for Margaret Wake
Seat Raleigh
Largest city Raleigh
 • Total 857 sq mi (2,220 km2)
 • Land 835 sq mi (2,160 km2)
 • Water 22 sq mi (60 km2)  2.6%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,377.5/sq mi (531.9/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts 2nd, 13th

Wake County is located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. 2020 Census, the population was 1,129,410, making it North Carolina's most populous county as well as the most populous county in the Carolinas. From July 2005 to July 2006, Wake County was the 9th fastest-growing county in the United States, with the town of Cary and the city of Raleigh being the 8th and 15th fastest-growing cities, respectively.

Its county seat is Raleigh, which is also the state capital. Eleven other municipalities are in Wake County, the largest of which is Cary, the third largest city of the Research Triangle region and the seventh largest municipality in North Carolina.

It is governed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners, coterminous with the Wake County Public School System school district, with law enforcement provided by the Wake County Sheriff's Department. It is also part of the wider Triangle J Council of Governments which governs regional planning.


Early history

Present day Wake County was once part of the Tuscarora nation.

Wake County was formed in 1771 from parts of Cumberland County, Johnston County, and Orange County. The first courthouse was built at a village originally called Wake Courthouse, now known as Bloomsbury. In 1771, the first elections and court were held, and the first militia units were organized.

Wake County lost some of its territory through the formation of other counties. Parts were included in Franklin County in 1787, and in Durham County in both 1881 and 1911.

During the colonial period of North Carolina, the state capital was New Bern. For several years during and after the Revolutionary War there was no capital, and the General Assembly met in various locations. Fayetteville was the state capital from 1789 to 1793, when Raleigh became the permanent state capital. In 1792, a commission was appointed to select a site to build a permanent state capital. The commission members favored land owned by Colonel John Hinton across the Neuse River, but the night before the final vote the committee adjourned to the home of Joel Lane for an evening of food and spirits. The next day, the vote went in Lane's favor.

Lane named Wake County in honor of Margaret Wake, wife of colonial Governor William Tryon. Raleigh was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, and established in 1792 on 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) purchased from Lane. Raleigh had never set foot in North Carolina, but he had sponsored the establishment of the first English colony in North America on North Carolina's Roanoke Island in 1585. The city of Raleigh became both the state capital and the new seat of Wake County.

19th century

The Battle at Morrisville Station was fought April 13–15, 1865 in Morrisville, North Carolina during the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the last official battle of the Civil War between the armies of Major General William T. Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston. General Judson Kilpatrick, commanding officer of the Union cavalry advance, compelled Confederate forces under the command of Generals Wade Hampton III and Joseph Wheeler to withdraw in haste. They had been frantically trying to transport their remaining supplies and wounded by rail westward toward the final Confederate encampment in Greensboro, NC. Kilpatrick used artillery on the heights overlooking Morrisville Station and cavalry charges to push the Confederates out of the small village leaving many needed supplies behind. However, the trains were able to withdraw with wounded from the Battle of Bentonville and the Battle of Averasboro. Later, General Johnston sent a courier to the Federal encampments at Morrisville with a message for Major General Sherman requesting a conference to discuss an armistice. Several days later the two generals met at Bennett Place near Durham on April 17, 1865 to begin discussing the terms of what would become the largest surrender of the war.

20th century

In the 20th century, the average per capita income for the county was of $54,988, and the median income for a family was of $67.149. In the same period, the per capita income decreased from $44.472 to $31.579 especially for women. About 7.80% of the population was under the national poverty. In August 2014, the population hit 1,000,000 people.


Neuse River in Wake County, NC

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 857 square miles (2,220 km2), of which 835 square miles (2,160 km2) is land and 22 square miles (57 km2) (2.6%) is water.

Wake County is located in the northeast central region of North Carolina, where the North American Piedmont and Atlantic Coastal Plain regions meet. This area is known as the "fall line" because it marks the elevation inland at which waterfalls begin to appear in creeks and rivers. As a result, most of Wake County features gently rolling hills that slope eastward toward the state's flat coastal plain. Its central Piedmont location situates the county about three hours west of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, by car and four hours east of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Bodies of water that are located in Wake County include Lake Crabtree, Crabtree Creek, Lake Johnson, the Neuse River, and portions of Falls Lake and Jordan Lake.

Adjacent counties


Wake County enjoys a moderate subtropical climate, with moderate temperatures in the spring, fall, and winter. Summers are typically hot with high humidity. Winter highs generally range in the low 50s°F (10 to 13 °C) with lows in the low-to-mid 30s°F (−2 to 2 °C), although an occasional 60 °F (15 °C) or warmer winter day is not uncommon. Spring and fall days usually reach the low-to-mid 70s°F (low 20s°C), with lows at night in the lower 50s°F (10 to 14 °C). Summer daytime highs often reach the upper 80s to low 90s°F (29 to 35 °C). The rainiest months are July and August.

The county, at the National Weather Service in Raleigh, receives on average 7 inches (180 mm) of snow in the winter. Freezing rain and sleet occur most winters, and occasionally the area experiences a major damaging ice storm.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 10,192
1800 13,437 31.8%
1810 17,096 27.2%
1820 20,102 17.6%
1830 20,398 1.5%
1840 21,118 3.5%
1850 24,888 17.9%
1860 28,627 15.0%
1870 35,617 24.4%
1880 47,939 34.6%
1890 49,207 2.6%
1900 54,626 11.0%
1910 63,229 15.7%
1920 75,155 18.9%
1930 94,757 26.1%
1940 109,544 15.6%
1950 136,450 24.6%
1960 169,082 23.9%
1970 228,453 35.1%
1980 301,327 31.9%
1990 423,380 40.5%
2000 627,846 48.3%
2010 900,993 43.5%
2020 1,129,410 25.4%
2021 (est.) 1,150,204 27.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990

2020 census

Wake County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 645,020 57.11%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 204,535 18.11%
Native American 2,760 0.24%
Asian 96,665 8.56%
Pacific Islander 453 0.04%
Other/Mixed 51,736 4.58%
Hispanic or Latino 128,241 11.35%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 1,129,410 people, 419,361 households, and 279,243 families residing in the county.


As of the census of 2018, there were 1,092,776 people, 421,265 households, and 276,363 families residing in the county. The population density was 1308.72 people per square mile (505.91/km2). There were 458,953 housing units at an average density of 311 per square mile (120/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 59.40% White, 14.29% Black or African American, 9.24% Hispanic or Latin of any race, 12.84% Asian, 4.04% from other races, 3.13% from two or more races, 0.16% Native American, and 0.03% Pacific Islander.

There were 242,040 households, out of which 34.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.50% were married couples living together, 9.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.40% were non-families. 25.70% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 25.10% under the age of 18, 10.70% from 18 to 24, 36.50% from 25 to 44, 20.40% from 45 to 64, and 7.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $54,988, and the median income for a family was $67,149. Males had a median income of $44,472 versus $31,579 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,004. About 4.90% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.60% of those under age 18 and 8.90% of those age 65 or over.

In Wake County, 29% of the population is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, 22% are affiliated with the Catholic Church, 17% are affiliated with the United Methodist Church, 6% are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), and 27% are religiously affiliated with other denominations or religions, or are not religiously affiliated.


Wake County Protestant Churches

  • Hope Community Church (non-denominational) - four campuses located in Wake County. It is the second largest church in Wake County.
  • The Summit Church (Southern Baptist) - three campuses located in Wake County. It is the largest church in Wake County.

Wake County Catholic Churches

  • Doggett Center at North Carolina State University - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Lourdes Matha, Syro-Malabar Catholic Rite - Apex, North Carolina
  • Meredith College - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Mission : Blessed Teresa of Calcutta - Cary, North Carolina
  • Mission: Our Lady of the Rosary - Louisburg, North Carolina
  • Our Lady of La Vang - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Our Lady of Lourdes - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Sacred Heart Cathedral - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saint Andrew the Apostle - Apex, North Carolina
  • Saint Bernadette - Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
  • Saint Catherine of Siena - Wake Forest, North Carolina
  • Saint Eugene - Wendell, North Carolina
  • Saint Francis of Assisi - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saint Ha-Sang Paul Jung - New Hill, North Carolina
  • Saint Joseph - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saint Luke the Evangelist - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saint Mary Magdalene - Apex, North Carolina
  • Saint Mary, Mother of the Church - Garner, North Carolina
  • Saint Michael the Archangel - Cary, North Carolina
  • Saint Nicholas, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Rite - Raleigh-Wake Forest, North Carolina
  • Saint Raphael the Archangel - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saint Sharbel Mission, Maronite Rite - Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Saints Cyril and Methodius, Byzantine Rite - Cary, North Carolina
  • Saints Volodymyr and Olha, Ukrainian Catholic Rite - Garner, North Carolina
  • Virgin de Guadalupe, Catolica Oriental Ukrainian Catholic Rite - Raleigh-Wake Forest, North Carolina



Performing arts

The Walnut Creek Amphitheatre hosts major international touring acts. The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts complex houses the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, the Fletcher Opera Theater, the Kennedy Theatre, and the Meymandi Concert Hall. During the North Carolina State Fair, Dorton Arena hosts headline acts. Theater performances are also offered at the Raleigh Little Theatre, Theatre in the Park and Stewart Theater at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Applause! Cary Youth Theatre, Cary Players Community Theatre, Sertoma Amphiteatre at Bond Park, and Koka Booth Amphitheatre are located in Cary. Other theatre and performing arts locations include The Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex and Garner Historic Auditorium in Garner. Local colleges and universities add to the options available for viewing live performances.

Wake County is home to several professional arts organizations, including the North Carolina Symphony, the Opera Company of North Carolina, the North Carolina Theatre, and Carolina Ballet.

Visual arts

The North Carolina Museum of Art, occupying a large suburban campus on Blue Ridge Road near the State Fairgrounds, houses one of the premier public art collections between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. In addition to collections of American art, European art and ancient art, the museum recently has hosted major exhibitions featuring Auguste Rodin (in 2000) and Claude Monet (in 2006–07), each attracting more than 200,000 visitors. The museum is currently hosting a collection of works by Leonardo da Vinci and M.C. Escher. Unlike most public museums, the North Carolina Museum of Art acquired a large number of the works in its permanent collection through purchases with public funds. The museum's outdoor park is one of the largest such art parks in the country.



  • Air: Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is located in northwestern Wake county off I-40. The airport offers service to more than 35 domestic and international destinations. The airport currently serves more than 9 million passengers a year.
  • Wake County is served by Amtrak with facilities in Raleigh and Cary.
  • Local bus: The Triangle Transit Authority operates buses that serve the region and connect to municipal bus systems in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
  • Regional Rail – Plans are being made for a light rail system that would be built over the next 10 to 20 years.


Interstate routes

  • I-40 is the only major Interstate that runs through the county. It offers direct access to RDU, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh, and Garner. It has two spur routes in Wake County:
    • I-440 is the northern portion of the "Beltline" that encircles most of central Raleigh. The southern portion of the Beltline is I-40.
    • I-540 / NC 540 is a 66-mile (106 km) partially completed loop that currently connects the satellite towns of Knightdale, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, and Holly Springs. The completed portions are called the Northern Wake Expressway (I-540) in northern Wake County and the Western Wake Parkway (Toll NC 540) in western Wake County.

  • I-495 / Future I-87 The route will eventually connect I-440 to I-95 just east of Rocky Mount. It will be concurrent with U.S. 64 for its entire length, following the same roadway as currently exists. The segment from I-440 to I-540 is signed as I-495, while the segment to the east of I-540 is signed as "Future I-495". The highway is currently to Interstate standards only along the Knightdale Bypass, which runs from I-440 to the Business 64 exit between Knightdale and Wendell. East of this point, the road is a controlled access freeway, but does not meet interstate standards. The "future" designation will be removed as the road is eventually upgraded by improving the road's shoulders, which are currently too narrow to qualify for an Interstate Highway. There is no set timetable for these improvements. Interstate 87 will run along the same routing, however will be extended along US 64 and US 17 to Norfolk.

U.S. Routes

US 1
US 64
US 264
US 70
US 401

State Routes

NC 39
NC 42
NC 50
NC 54
NC 55
NC 96
NC 97
NC 98
NC 231


The "mountains-to-the-sea" North Carolina Bicycle Route 2 travels through Wake County, as does the Maine-to-Florida U.S. Bicycle Route 1. North Carolina Bicycle Route 5, the "Cape Fear run", connects Apex to the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Parks and recreation

State parks

Wake County is home to three state parks: Falls Lake State Recreation Area, William B. Umstead State Park, and the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area. Falls Lake Park is located in northern Wake County and contains the 12,000-acre (49 km2) Falls Lake and 26,000 acres (110 km2) of woodlands. Umstead Park is situated between Raleigh and Cary near RDU. Located right off I-40, it is divided into two sections, Crabtree Creek and Reedy Creek, and contains 5,579 acres (22.58 km2) of woodlands. Jordan Lake Park, which is partially located in Wake County near Apex, contains 13,940-acre (56.4 km2) Jordan Lake and 46,768 acres (189.26 km2) of woodlands. This park is known for being home to bald eagles.

County parks and recreation centers

There are 152 county parks, city parks, public swimming and public tennis facilities in Wake County. In addition, there are 53 community centers. Notable parks include Pullen Park and Yates Mill Park. The American Tobacco Trail is a 22-mile (35 km) rail trail project that is located in the Research Triangle Park region. Fifteen miles of the trail is located in Wake County and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections), and other non-motorized users.


Map of Wake County North Carolina With Municipal and Township Labels
Map of Wake County, North Carolina with municipal and township labels



Unincorporated communities


  • Bartons Creek
  • Buckhorn
  • Cary
  • Cedar Fork
  • Holly Springs
  • House Creek
  • Leesville
  • Little River
  • Marks Creek
  • Meredith
  • Middle Creek
  • Neuse
  • New Light
  • Panther Branch
  • Raleigh
  • St. Mary's
  • St. Matthew's
  • Swift Creek
  • Wake Forest
  • White Oak


Wake County's economy is heavily influenced by the Research Triangle Park (RTP), located between Durham and Raleigh. RTP is the country's largest industrial park and a primary center in the United States for high-tech and biotech research, as well as textile development. The park is home to more than 160 companies employing over 50,000 people. The largest employers in the Park include IBM (11,000 employees), GlaxoSmithKline (6,400 employees), and Cisco Systems (3,400 employees).

Wake County's industrial base includes electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; and pharmaceuticals. The agriculture industry is visible in rural areas of the county, with tobacco, cotton, wheat, soybeans, and corn being the most common products grown.

SAS Institute, one of the largest privately held software companies in the world, is located in Cary. Other major companies based in Wake County include Advance Auto Parts, A10 Networks, Verizon, 3Dsolve, Carquest, Butterball, Cotton Incorporated, Epic Games, Lord Corporation, Lenovo Group (U.S. headquarters), Tekelec, Red Hat, Golden Corral and Martin Marietta Materials.

In 2007, Forbes magazine listed Raleigh and Cary among the best cities to find jobs in the United States, as well as being the area ranked as the best place for business and careers. Also in 2007, CNN ranked the region as the third best area for job growth, the top region for technology workers, and ranked it as the fourth best place for young adult job seekers.

On April 26, 2021, Apple Inc. announced that they would build a $1 billion hub in the Wake County portion of the Research Triangle Park. It is expected to house a 1,000,000 square foot facility and hire more than 3,000 people with an minimum salary of $187,000 per year.



Hurricanes Home Ice
Carolina Hurricanes hockey game at the RBC Center, now (PNC Arena)

The National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes franchise moved to Raleigh in 1999 from their temporary home of Greensboro, after having departed Hartford, Connecticut, in 1997. Their home arena, the PNC Arena, also hosts concerts and other public events. The Hurricanes are the only major league (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) professional sports team in North Carolina to have won a championship, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, over the Edmonton Oilers.

North Carolina FC of the United Soccer League and the affiliated women's team North Carolina Courage of the National Women's Soccer League are located in Cary and play at the WakeMed Soccer Park. The Courage is the reigning NWSL Shield Winner and NWSL Champion, breaking the NWSL season record for most wins, points, and goals in the process.

The Carolina Mudcats are a minor league baseball team located in eastern Wake County. Their ballpark, Five County Stadium, is located in Zebulon.

The Research Triangle region has hosted the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Nationwide Tour Rex Hospital Open since 1994, with the current location of play at Raleigh's Wakefield Plantation.


North Carolina State University, which is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, plays their home basketball games at the PNC Arena and home football games at Carter–Finley Stadium.

Other institutions of higher learning that compete in competitive sports include St. Augustine's College (NCAA Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA)), Meredith College (NCAA Division III and USA South Athletic Conference), William Peace University (NCAA Division III, USA South Athletic Conference), Shaw University Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA)), and Wake Technical Community College (NJCAA).


The Raleigh Cú Chulainn, which includes a Hurling team and a Gaelic football team, is based in Wake County. The football team won the 2014 Men's Junior Championship in North American Gaelic Athletic Association competition.

The North Carolina Tigers, an Australian Rules football club in the United States Australian Football League (USAFL) and competing in the Eastern Australian Football League (EAFL), are based in Raleigh.

Wake County is also home to the Carolina Rollergirls, an all-women flat-track roller derby team that is a competing member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The Carolina Rollergirls compete at the North Carolina State Fairground's Dorton Arena.

Because of the area's many billiards rooms, Raleigh is home to one of the largest amateur league franchises for playing pool, the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill American Poolplayers Association. There are leagues available in eight-ball, nine-ball, and Masters formats for players of any skill level.

The USA Baseball National Training Complex is located in Cary.

Home of the Capital City Steelers three time national champions of Pop Warner Football.

Also featured in Raleigh/Durham is the Carolina Phoenix, Women's Professional Tackle Football team.


Higher education

NCSU Belltower
Memorial Bell Tower at North Carolina State University

Wake County is home to eight institutions of higher learning. They include Meredith College, North Carolina State University, Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Peace College, Saint Augustine's College, Shaw University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Wake Technical Community College.

The State Library of North Carolina is an institution which serves North Carolina libraries, state government employees, genealogists, and the citizens of North Carolina. There are two locations in Raleigh.

Primary and secondary education

Public education in Wake County is administered by the Wake County Public School System, the 15th largest public school district in the country with over 155,000 students. There are 27 high schools, 33 middle schools, 104 elementary schools, and eight specialized schools. In addition, nine charter schools and 31 private schools are located in the county.


The Wake County Public Library system operates 22 branches throughout the county. There are 11 facilities in Raleigh. Cary and Apex each have two facilities. Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Wake Forest, Zebulon, Knightdale and Wendell each have one library facility. The Wake County library system keeps books, periodicals, and audio books and has recently expanded the selection to include downloadable e-books.

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