Tri-Cities, Washington

Nickname(s): Wine Country, Atomic Town

Location of the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland Metropolitan Statistical Area with the three cities highlighted
State Washington
County Benton, Franklin
Settled 1891
Elevation 550 ft (170 m)
Population (2010 results)
  City 193,567 (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland proper)
  Metro 253,340
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
  Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 99301, 99302, 99323, 99336, 99337, 99338, 99352, 99353, 99354
Area code(s) Area code 509

The Tri-Cities is a mid-sized metropolitan area in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Washington, consisting of three neighboring cities: Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. The cities are located at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers in the semi-arid region of Southeastern Washington. A fourth neighboring city, West Richland, and the nearby CDP of Burbank (Which is not part of the metropolitan area), are generally included as part of the Tri-City area and region, as are a handful of unincorporated communities. Each city borders either another city or one of the area's rivers, making the Tri-Cities seem like one uninterrupted mid-sized city.

The combined population of the three major cities was 193,567, whereas the population of the metropolitan area was 253,340 at the 2010 Census. As of April 1, 2016, the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division estimates the cities proper as having a population of 232,740 and the metropolitan area having a population of 279,170,[1] thus making it the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Washington, after Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane, and Vancouver.

The Tri-Cities Airport located in Pasco provides the region with commercial and private air service. Pasco is the seat of Franklin County, while the other cities are located in Benton County. Both counties are officially defined as the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland Metropolitan Statistical Area.

In 2010, Kiplinger rated the Tri-Cities among the Top 10 best places to raise a family, and CNN/Money ranked the Tri-Cities one of the top 10 best bets for gains in housing value, due to its relatively stable economic conditions since the early 2000s.

Area history


Central Richland as seen from Badger Mountain

Pasco was the first of the Tri-Cities to be incorporated, in 1891. Kennewick was incorporated in 1904, and Richland followed in 1910. West Richland was founded by dissatisfied residents of Richland, who wished to be home owners rather than renters of government-owned houses, after the arrival of Hanford. Despite attempts by Richland to annex the community, they remained separate and eventually became incorporated in 1955.

Early history

Pasco was the largest city in the Tri-Cities, mostly due to its railroad station. It also had the most land for easy irrigation and farming and was still the largest up until the founding of Hanford near Richland.

Farming was the basis of virtually every sector of the economy in the early years. Indeed, the area remained mostly rural well into the 1940s. It did not have a daily newspaper or radio station until the mid-1940s. Even today, agriculture is a big part of the Tri-Cities, Pasco in particular.

1940s – 1970s

After the founding of the Hanford Site in 1943, Richland became the largest city of the three overnight. Richland's Columbia High School adopted "Bombers" as its mascot (complete with mushroom cloud logo). In 1970, Kamiakin High School (in the neighboring city of Kennewick) was founded in response to the continued influx of people. The economy continued to grow, but not without some turbulence. Every time the federal government cut funding at Hanford, thousands of talented, credentialed people would suddenly become jobless and quickly leave for other jobs. During this time, other employers slowly made their way into the area, but they too would often be forced to cut jobs in the bad times. During the 1970s, Kennewick overtook Richland as the largest city (population-wise) of the three and has not surrendered the title since. The Columbia Center Mall was built on land newly incorporated into Kennewick, drawing growth to western Kennewick and south Richland.

1980s – 1990s

The Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a major national laboratory in Richland

Completion of the Interstate 182 Bridge in 1984 made Pasco much more accessible, fueling the growth of that city.[2] With the end of the Cold War, many in the area feared a shutdown of Hanford, followed by the Tri-Cities quickly becoming a ghost town. These fears were allayed after the United States Department of Energy switched the facility's purpose from the creation of nuclear weapons to the effective sealing and disposal of radioactive waste. During the 1990s, several major corporations entered the Tri-Cities, which helped to begin diversifying the economy apart from the Hanford sector. In 1995, a sixth public high school, Southridge High, was founded in south Kennewick.

2000s – present

The 2000s saw continued rapid growth as the Hanford site hired hundreds of workers to help with the cleanup effort. Additionally, the Tri-Cities saw a large influx of retirees from various areas of the Northwest. During this time, and the corresponding nationwide housing boom, all three cities flourished and grew significantly. Pasco became the fastest growing city in Washington (in terms of both percent increase and number of new residents). In 2005, the Census Bureau reported that Pasco's population had surpassed Richland's for the first time since pre-Hanford days.

Despite the economic recession of the late 2000s, the Tri-Cities area continued to maintain steady growth and a stable economic climate due in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which directed funding and jobs to the Hanford site and its various cleanup efforts.

Climate and geography

The view of Rattlesnake Mountain, a windswept treeless sub-alpine ridge 1,060 meters high, from the Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland.

The Tri-Cities are in a semi-arid climate,[3] receiving an average of 5 to 7 inches (130 to 180 mm) of precipitation every year. Winds periodically exceed 30 mph (48 km/h) when Chinook wind conditions exist. While there are an average 225 clear days every year, these are mainly between April 1 and November 1.[4] Temperatures range from as low as −10 °F (−23 °C) in the winter to as high as 110 °F (43 °C) in the summer, and even reached 113 °F (45 °C) in July 2006. The region receives a yearly average of seven inches of snow but has received as much as 50 inches.[5] Due to the semi-arid climate and subsequent large amounts of sand, a perpetual annoyance to residents is the amount of dust blown about by the frequent winds. Thanks to the aforementioned rivers, a large amount of cheap irrigation is available.

Washington is the most northwest of the lower 48 statesconsequently, the area is in the Pacific Standard Time Zone. The Tri-Cities makes up the largest metropolitan area in the southeastern quadrant of Washington. The large Cascade Mountain Range to the west contributes to the semi-arid climate, which is far drier than the famously wet western side of the state. See rain shadow for more information on this phenomenon. The region's climate results in a shrub-steppe ecosystem[6] which has 18 endemic plant species.[3] Just west of Richland, the Fitzner/Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve was established to study the unique plants and animals found in the local shrub steppe ecosystem. It is the largest tract of shrub-steppe ecosystem remaining in the U.S. state of Washington.[7]

Aurora Borealis as seen approximately 25 miles north of Pasco, WA in May 2013

The Tri-Cities area offers many star gazing opportunities. Limited city lights and an absence of photopollution in the area allow for unadulterated naked eye and telescopic astronomy depending on the time, weather and season. The Tri-City Astronomy Club partners with LIGO to sponsor free LIGO Star Parties, which are open to the public and held at the Hanford Observatory. Prominent hiking locations, such as Badger Mountain, Candy Mountain and Jump Off Joe Butte, provide an expansive view of the Tri-Cities area—opportunities to see the sunrises and sets and study celestial bodies and stellar astronomy. The aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be visible near Tri-Cities certain times of the year.[8][9]


Colleges and universities

Current higher education opportunities in the Tri-Cities include:

In 2005, the State of Washington approved the transition of the existing Washington State University branch campus in Richland from a two-year to a four-year campus. In the fall of 2007 the campus admitted its first undergraduate students. Offering a wide range of programs, the campus focuses heavily on biotechnology, computer science, and engineering, due to the nearby Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hanford Site. The university is beginning to acquire a significant number of quality teachers and offers a fairly broad range of majors, including English, history, and other liberal arts and sciences.

Columbia Basin College also offers higher education opportunities for residents of the Tri-Cities, as well as the Columbia Basin from Mattawa, Washington, which is 50 miles (80 km) away, to Umatilla, Oregon, 30 miles (48 km) away.

The University of Phoenix also has a satellite campus in Kennewick, serving local online students.[10]

Primary and secondary schools

Each city provides its own schooling services through their respective school districtsKennewick's, Pasco's, and Richland's.

Public High Schools:

Kennewick School District

Pasco School District

Richland School District

Finley School District

The area also boasts two regional high schools, Tri-Tech and Delta High. Tri-Tech is a technical/vocational high school in the Kennewick School District that is attended by students from all over the Tri-Cities area. Just a few of the technical programs included in the curriculum are television/video production, automotive, and dental. Delta High is a science and technology focused high school located in Pasco. It is sponsored by Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland's school districts, Battelle, Washington State University Tri-Cities, and Columbia Basin College.

There are also several private and faith-based schools in the area.

Private Schools:


Early Hanford

Since the 1940s, the Hanford site has employed a majority of residents. The United States government built a top-secret facility to produce and separate plutonium for nuclear weapons, and decided on an area just north of then-tiny Richland. The government built temporary quarters for the more than 45,000 workers and built permanent homes and infrastructure for other personnel in Richland. The city had an overnight population explosion, yet virtually no one knew what the purpose of Hanford was until the destruction of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, by an atomic weapon containing Hanford-produced plutonium. After World War II Hanford continued work on creating material for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, Hanford, the site of severe nuclear contamination, changed its mission from plutonium production to environmental cleanup and restoration.[12]

Modern Hanford

The Hanford site is one of the largest cleanup projects in the United States, costing over $1.4 million per day[13] to turn over 53 million US gallons (200 Ml) of nuclear waste into glass through a process called vitrification.[14] The process is proving to be one of the most dangerous in the world,[15] but is essential to staving off nuclear contamination of the nearby Columbia River.[16] Original estimates were $2.8 billion over five years to clean up the waste,[17] though estimates quickly grew in the early 1990s to $50 billion with a completion date of 30 years.[18] Costs are now projected at $112 billion with an estimated completion date of 2065.[19] Over 18 percent of all jobs in the Benton Franklin County area are nuclear-related, research-related, or engineering.[20]

Columbia Generating Station

The Columbia Generating station operates ten miles outside of Richland and is the only nuclear power station in the Pacific Northwest. It uses a boiling water reactor with a type 5 layout[21] and was relicensed 10 years to operate until 2043.[22] After nine years of construction, the plant began operating after a long and costly construction process that resulted in the largest municipal failure in U.S. history.[23] Originally operated and owned by the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS), the coalition changed its name to Energy Northwest in 1998 because of the negative association with the original name (commonly pronounced "Whoops" in place of WPPSS).[23] WPPSS defaulted on $2.25 billion in bonds resulting in payments that exceeded $12,000 per customer, an amount which was finally paid out in 1992 (10 years later).[23][24][25] The plant currently supplies 8.9 percent of the state’s power[21] and has several safeguards to protect against seismic, natural, or terrorist threats.[26]


The Tri-Cities economy has historically been based on farming and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. From Pasco's incorporation in 1891 to present day, the Tri-Cities have had a large degree of farming thanks to irrigation by the three nearby rivers. Wheat is the most commonly grown product; however, large amounts of apples, corn, grapes are also grown, along with potatoes, and other products including asparagus. Cherries are also grown in the region.

Photo taken along Clark Rd in Pasco, WA.

Grapes grown in the region are essential to the wine industry. Wineries draw a large population of tourists. With 160 wineries in the Columbia Valley,[27] this industry accounts for $1 billion annually in Benton County alone.[28] Many wineries such as Goose Ridge Estate Winery, Preston Premium Wines, and Tagaris Winery are open for wine tasting and special events. Often referred to as The Heart of Washington Wine Country,[27] local and Tri-City wineries provide luxurious tours and give you the option of enrolling in their wine club membership.

The Tri-Cities’ unique climate allows the region to have a broad and sustainable agricultural economy. Local industries provide employment for thousands of people in the Tri-Cities area. Some of the top 20 employers in agriculture include ConAgra, Tyson Foods, and Broetje Orchards.[29] Agriculture makes up 9.5% of employment in Tri-Cities[30] and local businesses combined employ thousands of people. In 2012, the state of Washington was rated #1 in the nation when it comes to growing apples, hops, spearmint oil, sweet cherries, pears, concord grapes and processing carrots.[30] The Mid-Columbia region including the Tri-Cities grows most of these crops. The region's climate and irrigation from nearby rivers, like the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers, allow farmers to produce an abundant amount of corn, hay, wheat and potatoes. In Washington there are 39,500 farms; 1,630 of these farms are located in Benton County and 891 are located in Franklin County.[30] Many farms can be seen from major highways and interstates.

Local cuisine

The Spudnut Shop located in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland

The Tri-Cities offers a wide range of locally owned and operated restaurants. These restaurants show the variety of cuisine offered to visitors and residents of the area. The Spudnut Shop, for example, located in downtown Richland, was opened in 1948 and has been family-run ever since. The Travel Channel featured The Spudnut Shop and their donuts “made from potato flour and then deep-fried to perfection.”[31] Carmine's, also a family owned restaurant in the region, serves Italian food in a historic home that was constructed in downtown Kennewick in 1929.[32] Another addition to these local restaurants is Monterosso's Italian Restaurant which serves lunch and dinner in an antique railroad dining car.

Wine and breweries

In sharp contrast to Seattle, the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, and the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, the Columbia Valley enjoys long, warm, summer days, and crisp cool nights. The dry weather combined with rich volcanic soils and controlled irrigation produce near-perfect conditions for premium wine grapes.

The wide range of varietals grown throughout the region includes the noble Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, among others. Unlike large established vineyards in other parts of the United States and Europe, the growers and winemakers of Washington will often devote personal attention to visitors, offering tastings and discussing their craft.

With more than 160 wineries within an hour’s drive, the Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland is truly at the heart of the Columbia Valley which includes the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, Horse Heaven Hills, and Wahluke Slope appellations (areas with a distinctive growing climate that influences wine production). It is easy to conceive that Columbia Valley wineries would produce high-end, premium wines since the Tri-Cities area lies on the same latitude as the world-famous Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France. The region’s wonderful weather combines with the Columbia Valley’s volcanic soil, producing hot summer days and crisp, cool evening breezes which naturally stress the vines, creating conditions for making great wine.

The Tri-Cities region offers a multitude of wineries and microbreweries that attract crowds of tourists and visitors to the area. Some of the local microbreweries include: Ice Harbor Brewery Company, Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery, and White Bluff Brewing.

Ice Harbor Brewery

Ice Harbor Brewery Company was founded in 1996 and has two locations in the Tri-Cities metropolitan area, one ain downtown Kennewick and one on Clover Island. In 2010, Ice Harbor received a bronze award for their Sternwheeler Stout, Runaway Red Ale, Indian Pale Ale (IPA) and a Silver Award for their Tangerine “ExBEERience” Hefeweizen at the Washington Beer Awards competition.[33] Atomic Ale Brew Pub & Eatery located at 1015 Lee Blvd in Richland serves as Tri-Cities oldest brewpub and was opened in 1997.[34] White Bluffs Brewery located at 2000 Logston Blvd. in, Richland, WA was established in 2010. White Bluffs Brewery prides itself in using local ingredients, including hops grown in the Yakima Valley. [35]

Farmers markets

The Market at the Parkway in Richland, WA is bustling with vendors and customers every Friday from June through October. Local artists provide musical entertainment and crafts, and businesses along the parkway open their doors to support the market and interact with customers that frequent the area. Fresh produce, specialty foods, arts and crafts can all be found at the Richland farmers market.[36]

The Pasco Farmers Market, celebrating 25 years in 2013, takes place every Wednesday and Saturday morning beginning in May through the end of October. This market consists primarily of fresh produce from well-known vendors.[37] The market website provides a list of seasonal produce, so customers can know what to look for and when.

The Southridge Farmers Market, located in Kennewick, takes place on Thursday evenings and is a great alternative to the other morning markets with many of the same vendors. This market runs annually June through October.[38]


The Tri-Cities is also home to SSC North America, who manufactures the SSC Aero that formerly held the title of fastest production car in the world.


Other major corporations that have facilities in (or are based in) the Tri-Cities include:

The Tri-Cities is also the setting of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.


Health systems



Mid-Columbia Libraries, an intercounty library system serving Benton, Franklin, and Adams Counties, is based in Kennewick, Washington, and operates five public branch libraries in the Tri-Cities, and seven branch libraries in the surrounding area. Customers of Mid-Columbia Libraries have access to nearly 400,000 books, movies, magazines, and downloadable eBooks and audiobooks; the library system spends over $1 million annually on new materials and has the highest expenditure per capita for materials of any public library in Southeastern Washington.[41] Richland Public Library is a single library operated by the City of Richland and is not part of the much larger library system.

Public libraries in the Tri-Cities include:

Other libraries in the Tri-Cities include:



Interstates and major highways

Local transit

Ben Franklin Transit provides public bus service throughout the Tri-Cities as well as TransPlus Night and Sunday limited capacity curb-to-curb service for $3 each way.[42]

Passenger rail



Due to the dry climate, hot summers, and mild winters, the Tri-Cities offers a variety of outdoor actitivies.


The area is home to 10 golf courses which can be played nearly year-round.


The Tri-Cities metropolitan area offers a plethora of scenic locations for outdoor trail running. Most of the competitive runs throughout the year are detailed and promoted on the Three Rivers Road Runners Club website. The 3RRR club founded and continues to sponsor three of the area’s oldest held foot races. They are:

These events and many others occur annually to help promote fitness and outdoor activities in the Tri-Cities community.

Trail system

The Tri-Cities is linked by a system of 67 miles (108 km) of paved pedestrian and bike trails that run through the various cities and along the rivers. The 23-mile (37 km) Sacagawea Heritage Trail forms a loop that crosses two bridges and runs along the Columbia River through both Kennewick and Pasco. Sacagawea Heritage Trail also connects with the Richland Riverfront Trail, a marked hiking trail that focuses on the state of Washington's contribution to the nuclear history of the United States.[43]


The confluence of the Snake, Yakima, and Columbia rivers provides ample opportunity for boating, fishing, and swimming. Free boat launches can be found throughout all of the cities.


The Tri-Cities is home to seven river-front parks and various other parks and playgrounds. Three skate parks are located in the area; two in Kennewick and one in Richland.

Highlands Grange Park is a Kennewick city owned Public Park between 14th and 19th streets off of Union in Kennewick.[44] This park covers 26 acres (11 ha), serving the surrounding new and old communities of approximately 13,000 citizens.

A view of Highlands Grange Park in October 2013

According to the City of Kennewick Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Plan 2013–2018, this park requires 6 acres (2.4 ha) of expansion due to the larger than expected community growth of the area. The Southridge Sports and Events Complex helps provide park service for the adjacent Grange neighborhoods.

Part of the path in the Rose Garden portion of the Demonstration Garden in October 2013

This picturesque park features plenty of recreation, including a playground structure, basketball courts, a soccer/softball field, tennis courts, a roller hockey rink, a water feature, and 8/10 mile walk through a demonstration garden. Additionally, there are two picnic shelters for hosting public events and 79 parking spaces (not including the neighboring Kennewick branch of Mid-Columbia Libraries).[45]

The park’s most notable features include the demonstration garden and the water feature. The water feature provides summertime entertainment for local children inviting them to play amidst the colorful metal palm trees that shower water. The demonstration garden is Highland Grange Park’s primary attraction and community draw, representing a visual festival of roses and other flowers tended to by master gardeners from Washington State University.[46] This park is commonly used for public events, ranging from weddings in the demonstration garden to weekend BBQs under the picnic shelters.[47] The park also touts the adjacent Highlands Grande building available for reservations and indoor events.[48]


Jeanette Taylor skate-park
Jeanette Taylor skate-park
Jeanette Taylor skate-park

Tri-Cities has a thriving skate scene, with three skate parks: one in Kennewick and two situated in Richland. Jeanette Taylor Park, pictured here, is the number three ranked stated skate-park in Washington. Completed in 2005, this 22,100-square-foot (2,050 m2) park features street elements, an 8-foot (2.4 m) bowl off of a snake run, and a half-pipe/bowl that is 10 feet (3.0 m) deep.[49] The Jeanette Taylor skate park frequently hosts contests, events, and competitions, including the Skatefest on May 16, 2014.[50]

Sports teams

The Tri-Cities is home to one minor league baseball team, the Tri-City Dust Devils, and one major junior hockey club, the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.

The first of these teams to join the Tri-City area was the Tri-City Americans. The franchise relocated to the Tri-Cities initially as the New Westminster Bruins and later changed its name to the “Americans” in 1988.[51] The Americans have advanced to the WHL finals one time in their tenure in the Tri-Cities, where they lost to the Calgary Hitmen 4-1 during the 2009–10 season. The Americans currently play at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Washington.

The Tri-City Dust Devils are a Single A, short-season minor league baseball team that is an affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Dust Devils came to the Tri-Cities in 2001, relocating from Portland and changing the team’s name from the Portland Rockies to the Tri-City Dust Devils. The Dust Devils took over as the primary tenants of Gesa Stadium, which previously housed the Tri-City Posse. The Dust Devils have been the Northwest League East Division Champions three times in their history in the Tri-Cities, namely 2007, 2009 and 2011.[52]

From 2005 to 2016, there was also professional indoor football team called the Tri-Cities Fever. “The Fever” came to the Tri-Cities in 2005 as an expansion team for the National Indoor Football League. Since then, the Fever switched to the AF2 in 2007, and then to the Indoor Football League in 2009.[53] The Fever, housed in the Toyota Center in Kennewick, have won one division title and one league championship. The Fever won the Indoor Bowl in 2005 as a member of the NIFL, and in 2012 they were the Intense Division champions in the IFL where they ultimately lost the United Bowl Championship game to the Sioux Falls Storm. During the 2012 season, the Fever were awarded the 2012 IFL Franchise of the Year.[53] In 2016, the Fever announced they would go dormant.


Columbia Center Mall Entrance

Apricot Lane Boutique, Bath & Body Works, Coach, and Victoria’s Secret highlight a group of over 150 shopping, dining, and entertainment options including a food court and a vibrant kid friendly play area. Recent additions include an attached open-air walking mall including Chico’s, LOFT, and some of the local community’s top dining areas like Mizu Sushi & Roll and Twig’s Bistro and Martini Bar also contribute to the all-in-one destination.[54]


The Richland Players Theater located at 608 The Pkwy, Richland, WA 99352.
Interior of the Bechtel Planetarium, Pasco


Major annual events in the Tri-Cities are varied and occur throughout the year:

A boat racing in the Columbia Cup during the Tri-Cities Follies

The Columbia Cup Hydroplane race, • The Miss Tri-cities Beauty Pageant, • The Grand Prix West Hydro Race, • The Fluor Gold Tournament, • The Over the River Air show, • A vintage hydroplane show, • A Kids Zone full of activities for children. The main event at the Tri-Cities Water Follies is the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, one of six Unlimited Hydroplane races in the American Power Boat circuit. Through a unique propulsion system, the boats skip along the water only briefly making contact at speeds up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h). Visitors to the area have the option to venture into the pit and see the hydros up close.

Live tattooing at the 2013 Three Rivers Tattoo Convention

Culture and demographics


Historically, the culture in Tri-Cities has been dominantly associated with Hanford and with a parallel agriculture emphasis. While these aspects of the Tri-Cities culture are locked place in Tri-Cities history, the culture is evolving to incorporate urbanization characteristics by embracing its small business roots that stemmed from Hanford. This culture progression is happening through a generational change in demographics, which is the result of being one of the fastest growing population bases in the northwest.[63]

A movement by local businesses and community members to reveal the growing desire to adapt Tri-Cities to its emerging urban placement within the northwest has been progressing[64] and is beginning to yield results[65] towards creating a more vibrant urban culture in the region. The region’s history of Hanford is shifting through ongoing growth in the region’s wine industry and food processing, which is being joined by the growth in the region’s health care industry.[66] The accompanying shift in culture is diversifying the economy and has created an economic base for outside developers and industries to see the Tri-Cities growth as a legitimate region for investment opportunities, since the Tri-Cities is one of the last urbanely undeveloped cities in the northwest. Along with numerous other regional communities, the culture in Tri-Cities is moving in the direction of craft foods (breweries,[67] distilleries,[68][69] mobile eateries,[70] coffee), progressing fine arts[71] and an emphasis on outdoor recreation with natural preservation.[72]


Historical metro population.

Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2015279,11610.2%


As of April 1, 2014, the population of Kennewick was estimated at 77,700[1] according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division.

As of the 2010 census, there were 73,917 people, and by census estimates of 2000, 20,786 households, and 14,176 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,384.9 people per square mile (920.9/km²). There were 22,043 housing units at an average density of 961.2 per square mile (371.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 82.93% White, 1.14% Black or African American, 0.93% Native American, 2.12% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 9.4% from other races, and 3.37% from two or more races. 15.55% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 20,786 households out of which 37.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.6 and the average family size was 3.15.

In the city the population was spread out with 29.6% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,213, and the median income for a family was $50,011. Males had a median income of $41,589 versus $26,022 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,152. About 9.7% of families and 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.8% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over.


As of April 1, 2014, the population of Pasco was estimated at 67,770,[1] according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division.

As of the census of 2010, there were 59,781 people, and according to the 2000 census results, 9,619 households, and 7,262 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,141.9 people per square mile (440.9/km²). There were 10,341 housing units at an average density of 368.2 per square mile (142.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 52.76% White, 3.22% African American, 0.77% Native American, 1.77% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 37.44% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 56.26% of the population.

There were 9,619 households out of which 45.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.7% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.5% were non-families. 20.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.30 and the average family size was 3.79.

In the city the population was spread out with 35.5% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 15.5% from 45 to 64, and 8.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,540, and the median income for a family was $37,342. Males had a median income of $29,016 versus $22,186 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,404. About 19.5% of families and 23.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.4% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.


As of April 1, 2014, the population of Richland was estimated at 52,090,[1] according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division.

As of the census of 2010, there were 48,058 people, and according to the 2000 census, 15,549 households, and 10,682 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,111.8 people per square mile (429.2/km²). There were 16,458 housing units at an average density of 472.7 per square mile (182.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.55% White, 1.37% African American, 0.76% Native American, 4.06% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 1.85% from other races, and 2.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 4.72% of the population.

There were 15,549 households out of which 34.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 27.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 25.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 96 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $53,092, and the median income for a family was $61,482. Males had a median income of $52,648 versus $30,472 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,494. About 5.7% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.8% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.

Based on per capita income, one of the more reliable measures of affluence, Richland ranks 83rd of 522 areas ranked in the state of Washington—the highest rank achieved in Benton County.



The Tri-Cities is a combined media market with Yakima.

Radio AM

Radio FM

Consolidation vs. staying "The Tri-Cities"

Over the years, the cities have had difficulty establishing and projecting an identity that would attract and sustain business, tourism, and growth beyond the Hanford-related business sector. Much of this stems from the fact that the individual cities each have populations less than 80,000, and do not have much of a presence on their own. Additionally, the cities must compete independently to draw business, tourism, and establish an identity. In an effort to address this concern, there have been repeated efforts to consolidate all four cities into one united incorporated area. The idea driving this movement is that one larger city would create the presence needed to draw increased attention and focus to the region. As noted above, if the Tri-Cities were to consolidate into one city, it would become the fourth largest in the state, behind Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. To date, motions to consolidate have repeatedly failed.[73]

Residents of West Richland and newcomers to the area often suggest that the area rename itself, since there are obviously four main cities in the Tri-Cities. This suggestion is usually shunned by residents of the other cities. "Quad-Cities" doesn't sound as good, the name is already associated with one specific Mississippi River community (though Tri-Cities is not exactly a unique name), West Richland has a far smaller presence compared to the three major cities, and there are other small cities in the area, as well. The name "Three Rivers" has recently come to be used more for the area (from the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers), yet is not unique, either.

West Richland is particularly struggling with a regional identity. It is often mistakenly considered to be just a part of Richland rather than an entirely separate community. It has considered renaming itself "Red Mountain" in an attempt to distinguish itself from Richland, as well as considering consolidating with the city of Richland. Additionally, the western half of the city of Pasco (locally referred to as West Pasco) has considered secession, in order to distinguish itself from the older, poorer part of town to the East. These considerations provide further complications with respect to consolidation and the "Tri-Cities" name.

Small town vs. big city

One of the current debates in the Tri-City area is whether to try to maintain a small-town feel or to embrace its growth and become a larger metropolitan area. One of the focal points of this debate is whether to allow the surrounding Horse Heaven Hills to be subdivided into residential areas or to leave them alone. Although many of the mid to older generations would like to maintain the hills' natural beauty, housing is already starting to cover the hills.

Cities in the metro area

The Tri-Cities Metro Area has a population of over 262,500 people.[1]

50,000+ people

10,000 - 50,000 people

1,000 - 10,000 people

Fewer than 1,000 people

Notable people

Arts and literature

Business and science and other

Entertainers and musicians



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Coordinates: 46°13′25″N 119°08′09″W / 46.22361°N 119.13583°W / 46.22361; -119.13583

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