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Washington County, Arkansas facts for kids

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Washington County
County of Washington
Historic Washington County Courthouse, Fayetteville
Official seal of Washington County
Map of Arkansas highlighting Washington County
Location within the U.S. state of Arkansas
Map of the United States highlighting Arkansas
Arkansas's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Arkansas
Founded October 17, 1828
Named for George Washington
Seat Fayetteville
Largest city Fayetteville
 • Total 951.72 sq mi (2,464.9 km2)
 • Land 945.43 sq mi (2,448.7 km2)
 • Water 6.29 sq mi (16.3 km2)  0.6%%
 • Total 245,871
 • Density 258.3438/sq mi (99.7471/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
72701, 72703, 72704, 72717, 72727, 72729, 72730, 72738, 72744, 72749, 72753, 72761, 72762, 72764, 72769, 72773, 72774, 72959
Area code 479
Congressional district 3rd

Washington County is a regional economic, educational, and cultural hub in the Northwest Arkansas region. Created as Arkansas's 17th county on November 30, 1848, Washington County has 13 incorporated municipalities, including Fayetteville, the county seat, and Springdale. The county is also the site of small towns, bedroom communities, and unincorporated places. The county is named for George Washington, the first President of the United States.

Located within the Ozark Mountains, the county is roughly divided into two halves: the rolling Springfield Plateau and the steeper, forested Boston Mountains. It contains three segments of the Ozark National Forest, two state parks, two Wildlife Management Areas, the Garrett Hollow Natural Area, and dozens of city parks. Other historical features such as Civil War battlefields, log cabins, one-room school houses, community centers, and museums describe the history and culture of Washington County.

Washington County occupies 951.72 square miles (243,220 ha) and contained a population of 245,871 people in 89,249 households as of the 2020 Census, ranking it 4th in size and 3rd in population among the state's 75 counties. The economy is largely based on the business/management, education, sales, office/administration, and poultry production industries. Poverty rates, median household income, and unemployment rates best state averages, but lag national trends. Politically, Washington County has transitioned from reliably Democratic to steadily Republican in national and state elections since the mid-20th century, with local offices following suit toward the end of the 20th century.

Washington County has long had a reputation for education in the state. The University of Arkansas, the largest four-year college in the state, was established in Fayetteville in 1871. A Washington County campus of the Northwest Arkansas Community College was opened in 2019. Today, Washington County contains eight public school districts, including two of the largest districts in the state (Springdale Public Schools and Fayetteville Public Schools) and two private schools.


Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park
The site of the Civil War battle at Prairie Grove is now a state park.

Washington County began as part of the Cherokee Territory, following an 1817 treaty. The area was next known as Lovely County, and one year later Washington County was created after another Cherokee treaty. The court house was centrally located in the city of Washington, modern-day Fayetteville (renamed to avoid confusion with Washington, Arkansas in South Arkansas). The Lee Creek Valley in southern Washington County contained many of the county's early settlements, including Cane Hill and Evansville.

Arkansas College and Cane Hill College were both founded in Washington County within a day of each other in 1834, with the University of Arkansas being founded in Fayetteville in 1871. The county witnessed major battles during the American Civil War, including the Battle of Fayetteville, the Battle of Prairie Grove, and the Battle of Cane Hill. The county then was sparsely settled and many residents were pro-Union, since slaves were few, plantations almost nonexistent, and news came via White River travelers, not from the southern part of the state. A Butterfield Overland Mail route was established through the county in 1858, causing more families to settle there.

The economy of Washington County was based on apples in the late 19th century. A mixture of wet weather, altitude, and loamy soils provided a good environment for apple orchards. First planted in areas around Lincoln, Evansville, and Cane Hill in the 1830s, apple orchards began all across the county. The United States Census reported a crop of 614,924 bushels of apples produced by the county in 1900, the highest in the state. Several varieties of apple were discovered in the area including Shannon Pippin, Wilson June, and most notably the Arkansas Black. The Ben Davis became the apple of choice in the area for sale and shipment across the region. Corn became the dominant crop, outselling apples by almost $500,000 in 1900.

Arkansas Industrial University was founded in the growing community of Fayetteville in 1871 after William McIlroy a donated farmland for the site. The university changed its name in 1899 to the University of Arkansas. Railroads came to Washington County after the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway (Frisco) decided to build a line to Texas through Fort Smith. Two possible routes were proposed, one passing through Prairie Grove, the other through Fayetteville. Many Fayetteville residents and farmers sold or donated land for the right of way to influence the choice. They were successful and in 1881 the first passenger train arrived at Fayetteville. The county continued to grow with more churches and schools after the railroad's completion. Rural parts of the county began losing population in the 1920s during the Great Depression, when high taxes forcing residents to move to Fayetteville or west to Oklahoma. The rural areas later became the Ozark National Forest and Devil's Den State Park.


Cane Hill College Building
Cane Hill College was founded in Cane Hill one day after Arkansas College in Fayetteville. It was in operation from 1834 to 1891.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 952 square miles (2,470 km2), of which 942 square miles (2,440 km2) is land and 10 square miles (26 km2) (1.1%) is water. It is the fourth-largest county by area in Arkansas. The county is in the Boston Mountains, a subdivision of the Ozark Mountains. Devil's Den State Park in southern Washington County is known for its picturesque views and mountain vistas. Washington County also contains Lake Wedington, located in scenic country west of Fayetteville on Wedington Drive.


Washington County sits on a basement of Precambrian granite and rhyolite, as most of the continental interior of the United States does. Much of the county's geologic history must be inferred from nearby Oklahoma and Missouri research, due to the steepness of the more recently formed mountains that did not form in the neighboring states. This igneous material was eroded until the Paleozoic, when oceans covered the now-low-lying area. These oceans came and retreated for 300 million years, depositing various different sedements during that time. This created fossiliferous limestone and ripple marked-sandstone, both present throughout the north part of the county as evidence of ancient oceans.

Sediments were deposited from the Devonian, Mississippian, and Pennsylvanian periods. During this deposition period, the county had a climate similar to that of the present-day Bahamas, as the equator was north of Washington County. The Devonian brought mostly shales, the Mississippian brought the limestones and chert visible in the bluffs. This chert is present throughout most of the county. The county is also home to the Boone Formation (red soils), white limestones, the Wedington Sandstone, the Bastesville Sandstone, the Pitkin formation (ocean-fossil limestone), and the Fayetteville Shale.

Settlers were attracted to the area by its numerous streams, used to power gristmills, sandstones and clays for use in construction, lime-sweetened soil, and chert for road construction.

Today, Washington County consists of two main formations, the Boston Mountains and the Springfield Plateau. During the late Pennsylvanian, sediments were deposited on top of the Springfield Plateau. The area was uplifted during the Ouachita orogeny and subsequent erosion formed the rugged Boston Mountains. Erosion of these sediments causes the Boston Mountains to be carved steeply in the south, while in the north of the county, the Boston Mountain sediments are almost entirely eroded, exposing the older rocks of the Springfield Plateau.

Adjacent counties

National protected area


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 2,182
1840 7,148 227.6%
1850 9,970 39.5%
1860 14,673 47.2%
1870 17,266 17.7%
1880 23,844 38.1%
1890 32,024 34.3%
1900 34,256 7.0%
1910 33,889 −1.1%
1920 35,468 4.7%
1930 39,255 10.7%
1940 41,114 4.7%
1950 49,979 21.6%
1960 55,797 11.6%
1970 77,370 38.7%
1980 100,494 29.9%
1990 113,409 12.9%
2000 157,715 39.1%
2010 203,065 28.8%
2020 245,871 21.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2019 2020

2020 Census

Washington County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 160,566 65.3%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 8,330 3.39%
Native American 2,443 0.99%
Asian 5,631 2.29%
Pacific Islander 8,734 3.55%
Other/Mixed 15,412 6.27%
Hispanic or Latino 44,755 18.2%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 245,871 people, 89,249 households, and 56,596 families residing in the county.

2010 Census

Circle frame-1.svg

Racial/Ethnic Makeup of Washington County treating Hispanics as a Separate Category (2010)      White Non-Hispanic (74.1%)     Black Non-Hispanic (2.9%)     Native American Non-Hispanic (1.1%)     Asian Non-Hispanic (2.2%)     Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic (2.0%)     Other Non-Hispanic (0.1%)     Two or more races Non-Hispanic (2.2%)     Hispanic Any Race (15.5%)

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 203,065 people, 76,389 households, and 48,059 families residing in the county. The population density was 213 people per square mile (82/km2). There were 87,808 housing units at an average density of 92 per square mile (36/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 79.9% White, 3.0% Black or African American, 1.2% Native American, 2.2% Asian, 2.0% Pacific Islander, 8.9% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. 15.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 76,389 households, out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 27.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 25.4% under the age of 18, 14.9% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 99.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,303, and the median income for a family was $52,300. Males had a median income of $37,430 versus $28,990 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,421. About 12.1% of families and 17.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.




Unincorporated communities


Washington County Arkansas 2010 Township Map large
Townships in Washington County, Arkansas as of 2010

Townships in Arkansas are the divisions of a county. Each township includes unincorporated areas and some may have incorporated towns or cities within part of their space. Townships have limited purposes in modern times. However, they are of value for historical purposes in terms of genealogical research. Each town or city is within one or more townships in an Arkansas county based on census maps. The townships of Washington County are listed below. In Washington County, each incorporated town/city is at least partially located within its namesake township.


Major highways

I-540 near Winslow, Arkansas
Interstate 49 enters the Boston Mountains in south Washington County

Washington County has contained the Ozark Trail, Trail of Tears, and the Butterfield Overland Mail route. Today, Interstate 49 serves as the county's main thoroughfare, and connects the University of Arkansas with Fort Smith and Interstate 40 to the south and other NWA cities to the north. Future plans call for Interstate 49 to be extended to ultimately connect New Orleans, Louisiana with Kansas City, Missouri through Washington County.

  • I-49 (AR 1957).svg Interstate 49
  • US 62 (1961).svg U.S. Route 62
  • US 71 (1961).svg U.S. Route 71
  • US 412 (AR).svg U.S. Route 412
  • US 71B.svg U.S. Route 71B
  • Arkansas 16.svg Highway 16
  • Arkansas 45.svg Highway 45
  • Arkansas 59.svg Highway 59
  • Arkansas 74.svg Highway 74
  • Arkansas 112.svg Highway 112
  • Arkansas 156.svg Highway 156
  • Arkansas 170.svg Highway 170
  • Arkansas 180.svg Highway 180
  • Arkansas 220.svg Highway 220
  • Arkansas 244.svg Highway 244
  • Arkansas 265.svg Highway 265
  • Arkansas 303.svg Highway 303


The Arkansas Department of Health is responsible for the regulation and oversight of public water systems throughout the state. Washington County contains twelve community water systems, including two of the largest distribution systems in the state: the City of Fayetteville (retail population served of 94,000) and Springdale Water Utilities (SWU, 87,618) Both water systems purchase all potable water from Beaver Water District. Many of the smaller cities in Washington County purchase water from Fayetteville, SWU, Benton-Washington Regional Public Water Authority (PWA, colloquially "Two-Ton") or Washington Water Authority (WWA), including Elkins, Lincoln, Tontitown, West Fork, and Winslow.

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