The 10 Regions of Cascadia

satellite image pnw, pacific northwest, cascadia, oregon, washington, british columbia, vancouver island, puget sound, willamtte valley, columbia river

Cascadia is a distinct bioregion which separates itself from the rest of the United States and Canada. But that doesn’t mean all Cascadians are the same and all areas within Cascadia are identical. Cascadia has smaller distinguishable regions defined by geography and culture just like any other nation on Earth. Unlike the boundaries of  the bioregion, the borders of Cascadia’s regions are subjective and up for interpretation. There is no perfect or permanent way to map them out. However, there is little debate or doubt that these regions within Cascadia exist.

The most prominent example is the distinction between eastern Cascadia and western Cascadia with the Cascade Mountains acting as the dividing line between these two regions. Even for someone like me who believes the fundamental bonds between populations within Cascadia inherently tie us all together as one, I don’t deny that there are some noticeable cultural differences between a city on the east side like Spokane and a city on the west side like Seattle.

The question I have now is: where are all of Cascadia’s regions located? I’ve spent some time trying to identify them and have my own interpretation I’d like to share with you. This is more of a fun thought experiment than anything else.

Again, this is subjective; you may agree with this iteration and think it makes sense or you may have your own way of distinguishing Cascadia’s regions. The way I tried to approach this topic was by answering a hypothetical scenario: Cascadia is an independent country – what are its commonwealths/provinces/states/[insert your terminology here]?

Here’s my attempt at an answer. I give you the 10 regions of Cascadia.

*Please note the following maps contain existing state, provincial, and international border lines purely for reference and ease of understanding where, exactly, these regions are.

1. Cascade Plateau

Alternative Name: Columbia Plateau

Approximate Population: 1.96 Million

Largest City: Spokane

Other Notable Cities: Bend, Yakima

cascadia map, cascade plateau, columbia plateau, columbia river, spokane river, smith rock

2. Columbia Mountain

Alternative Name: Rocky Mountain

Approximate Population: 1.20 Million

Largest City: Kelowna

Other Notable Cities: Kamloops, Missoula

cascadia map, columbia mountain region, kelowna, kalispell, canadian rocky mountains

3. Fraser & Archipelago

Alternative Name: Northern Cascadia

Approximate Population: 0.33 Million

Largest City: Prince George

Other Notable Cities: Juneau, Prince Rupert

cascadia map, fraser plateau, southeast alaska, alaskan archipelago, prince george bc

4. Klamath Mountain

Alternative Name: West Jefferson

Approximate Population: 0.86 Million

Largest City: Medford

Other Notable Cities: Eureka, Grants Pass

cascadia map, klamath mountains, medford oregon, state of jefferson

5. Olympic Peninsula

Alternative Name: N/A

Approximate Population: 1.09 Million

Largest City: Vancouver (WA)

Other Notable Cities: Olympia, Port Angeles

cascadia map, olympic peninsula, southwest washington state, hurricane ridge, ho rainforest

6. Puget Sound

Alternative Name: N/A

Approximate Population: 4.79 Million

Largest City: Seattle

Other Notable Cities: Bellevue, Tacoma

cascadia map, puget sound, seattle, mount rainier, bainbridge island

7. Salish Coast

Alternative Name: Fraser Delta

Approximate Population: 3.02 Million

Largest City: Vancouver (BC)

Other Notable Cities: Abbotsford, Bellingham

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8. Snake River

Alternative Name: Southeast Cascadia

Approximate Population: 1.37 Million

Largest City: Boise

Other Notable Cities: Idaho Falls, Pocatello

cascadia map, snake river valley, snake river plain, boise idaho

9. Vancouver Island

Alternative Name: N/A

Approximate Population: 0.74 Million

Largest City: Victoria

Other Notable Cities: Courtenay, Nanaimo

cascadia map, vancouver island, victoria bc

 10. Willamette Valley

Alternative Name: N/A

Approximate Population: 2.95 Million

Largest City: Portland

Other Notable Cities: Eugene, Salem

cascadia map, willamette valley, portland oregon, mount hood, oregon coast

Total Approximate Population: 18.3 Million

Interested in learning more about Cascadia? You can buy your copy of Towards Cascadia today:

What Are The Borders of Cascadia?

Snake River Valley

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.

Map of Cascadia, Cascadia Map

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: