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Hotspots and Diversity in Washington

Olympic Mountains - The Olympic Mountains are contained in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Northwest Washington.  It is considered an 'island' ecosystem meaning that the isolation of the habitats created rare, endemic plant and animal species.  The rich diversity of life contributed to this area being selected as a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage site.

Puget Sound - Puget Sound is an inland marine complex of waterways that is located in Northwest Washington.  It connects to the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Geologically, it is a fjord system of flooded glacial valleys; a complex waterway with an intricate system of channels, inlets, estuaries, embayments and islands.

Puget Sound is home to at least three resident family groups (pods) of Killer Whales(orcas).  It is also filled with an enormous variety of fish, shellfish, birds, sea grasses and plankton .  

A large percent of Washington state residents live within the surrounding Puget Sound area.  As pollution increases from day-to-day living, the diverse ecosystems of the Sound are threatened.  Contamination from sewage, rainwater runoff and development are major contributors to the pollution. There are several groups working to save the Sound from pollution and eventual death:  Puget Sound Partnership, The Governor's Salmon Recovery Office, People for Puget Sound and others.


Wenatchee Mountains
- The Wenatchee Mountains are located in Central Washington.  They are a spur of the Cascade Range, lying in its rain shadow.  As a result, there are fewer trees which offers good wildflower displays and wide views of the area's mountains.  These mountains are home to the Wenatchee Checker-mallow which is an Endangered species and the Wenatchee Larkspur which is a Species of Concern.  Both plants are found only in the Wenatchee Mountains in approximately a 15-mile radius.

Camas Meadows Natural Area Preserve protects 75 percent of the global populations of the Checker-mallow and 40 percent of the global populations of the Larkspur.  Camas Meadows NAP is managed by the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources, Natural Areas Program.


Columbia River Gorge - The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) deep, the canyon stretches for over 80 miles (130 km) as the river winds westward through the Cascade Range forming the boundary between the states of  Washington to the north and Oregon to the south. Extending roughly from the confluence of the Columbia with the Deschutes River down to eastern reaches of the Portland metropolitan area, the gorge furnishes the only navigable route through the Cascades and the only water connection between the Columbia River Plateau and the Pacific Ocean.

The gorge holds federally protected status as a National Scenic Area and is a popular recreational destination.


Columbia Plateau - The Columbia Plateau is a geologic and geographic region that lies across parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It is a wide flood basalt plateau between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains, cut through by the Columbia River.

The area is home to many unique ecosystems:  Shrub-steppe, Palouse  Inland Sand Dunes and Channeled Scablands.  These ecosystems are in danger of disappearing as the region is dominated by agricultural activities.  Dryland farming, irrigated farming and livestock grazing have depleted both water resources and native plants.

One of the unique animal species of this area is the Striped Whipsnake.  Another rare animal is the Pygmy Rabbit.

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