When I first became intrigued with the idea of Cascadia, it derived out of my fascination with maps. I love maps and always have. Now that I think about, that’s probably why geography was my favorite subject in elementary school. But I digress; the notion of a culturally and nationally distinguishable Pacific Northwest peaked my interest. I needed to know exactly where it was. How far did it spread? Where were its boundaries?
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve drawn out Cascadia on a map of North America in the past five years. It’s been my favorite thing to do when I’m bored. As sad as that sounds out of context, I’m grateful my curiosity got the best of me. I’ve learned a lot about what Cascadia really is and how it’s defined. And, now that I’ve explored this idea, I sometimes find it odd and silly that this question is still up in the air among self-proclaimed supporters of Cascadia.
So, let’s settle this question once and for all. Shall we?
The Problem with Subjectivity
The most common point of friction I see and hear when it comes to resolving the question over Cascadia’s borders is that many people see Cascadia solely as a cultural or political phenomenon; one-sided and partisan. Some see Cascadia as being a narrowly-defined area along the I-5 corridor; from Eugene up to Vancouver, from the Cascades out to the Pacific Coast. Others envision a much grander area spreading east into the Prairies, north up to Arctic, and south to the Great Basin and the California valleys.
I get where these visions are coming from. Really, I do. At one point, I had my own subjective idea of what Cascadia should be and how far it should reach. But this vision was (and any comparable vision is) extremely naïve and subjective.
I can’t speak for anyone else who has or has had similar dreams for Cascadia. But there was one day while I was happily playing with my maps that I suddenly realized what I was doing. I was neglecting what makes Cascadia “Cascadian” in all that identity encompasses. I was ignoring the facts of bioregionalism and geography that were staring me in the face. In trying to subjectively define the borders of Cascadia, my justifications were no better than the diplomats who forced imperialism on our continent by drawing arbitrary lines on their maps to define the political borders we live with today.
I was forgetting the single most important thing we all need to recognize and accept if we’re ever to unite as one people and one region: Cascadia is a bioregion.
Cascadia and its borders are defined by its nature, and its nature helps define our society in turn; that’s the essence of bioregionalism. We don’t get to pick Cascadia’s borders. Cascadia wasn’t forged out of the minds of humans. Cascadia was forged out of the Pacific Ocean, mountains, and rivers, born out of an environment of evergreen trees, rain, and plateaus. Cascadia exists as it does and it’s pleading for our attention.
The Map of Cascadia
Cascadia is a bioregion. What are the borders of Cascadia’s bioregion? Thankfully, we don’t have to figure that out ourselves. Someone has already done all of the work for us in mapping out Cascadia in the most extraordinary detail.
Over the past 40 years, professor and cartographer David McCloskey has traveled throughout Cascadia in its entirety. He completed a life-long project in finishing the definitive map of Cascadia just last year. Up until this time, the geography of Cascadia had largely been ignored and neglected in favor of focusing on the United States or Canada.
McCloskey’s map not only details patterns of Cascadian geology and dendrology; it clearly defines the bioregional borders of Cascadia. Cascadia stretches as far north as Mount Logan and the Alaskan panhandle, and as far south as Cape Mendocino in California, the Oregon high desert leading to the Great Basin, and the mountains bordering the Snake River Valley. Cascadia stretches as far east as the Great Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and as far west as Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island, and the Pacific Ocean.
It’s simple and self-evident: Cascadia is its bioregion. Everything within these borders is Cascadian, including us. This land and its environment fundamentally define who we are as a people beyond any human-centered criteria we can come up with on our own. These are our boundaries. This is our home. Let’s embrace it!
If you’re interested in the map of Cascadia and want one for yourself, visit the Cascadia Institute today. There, you’ll find more information about the geography of Cascadia and how to purchase your very own map. I’m biased, but I highly recommend getting one. I have a copy hanging prominently on my wall and it’s a great conversation starter for company beyond just being a stunningly beautiful map.
Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today: