Benton County, Washington

Benton County is a county in the south-central portion of the U.S. state of Washington. As of the 2010 census, its population was 175,177.[1] The county seat is Prosser,[2] and its largest city is Kennewick. The Columbia River demarcates the county's north, south, and east boundaries.

Benton County was created from what were then larger versions of Klickitat County and Yakima County on March 8, 1905.[3] and was named after U.S. Senator from Missouri (1821–51) and later U.S. Representative (1853–55) Thomas Hart Benton.

Benton County, Washington
Prosser Court House
Benton County Courthouse
Logo of Benton County, Washington

Map of Washington highlighting Benton County

Location within the U.S. state of Washington
Map of the United States highlighting Washington

Washington's location within the U.S.
FoundedMarch 8, 1905
Named forThomas Hart Benton
Largest cityKennewick
 • Total1,760 sq mi (4,558 km2)
 • Land1,700 sq mi (4,403 km2)
 • Water60 sq mi (155 km2), 3.4%
Population (est.)
 • (2018)201,877
 • Density110/sq mi (40/km2)
Congressional district4th
Time zonePacific: UTC−8/−7
Benton County, Washington


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,760 square miles (4,600 km2), of which 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) is land and 60 square miles (160 km2) (3.4%) is water.[4] The highest point of land elevation within the county is the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain at 3,527 feet; and the lowest point of land elevation is along the southwestern shore of Crow Butte at 265 feet (fluctuates due to level of Columbia River).


  • Columbia River - Surrounds and forms the county's boundary on three sides. Barge trafficking is possible upriver to anchorage sites in northern Richland, the upstream extent of Lake Wallula which forms behind McNary Dam.
  • Yakima River - Bisects the county from west to east, emptying into the Columbia River at Richland. As a water source, the Yakima is the lifesource for agriculture in the Yakima Valley. A shallow river, the Yakima is suitably navigable only for small, personal watercraft. Historically, the Yakima River supported some of the most bountiful migratory fish populations in the entire Columbia Basin, and many of those legendary salmon runs are now rebounding after decades of demise. Amon Creek is the most notable tributary of the Yakima River in Benton County, emptying into the mainstem river near the Yakima River Delta in Richland.

Mountains and ridges

Adjacent counties

National Protected Areas

Major highways


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2018201,877[5]15.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]
1790–1960[7] 1900–1990[8]
1990–2000[9] 2010–2018[1]

2000 census

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 142,475 people, 52,866 households, and 38,063 families residing in the county. The population density was 84 people per square mile (32/km²). There were 55,963 housing units at an average density of 33 per square mile (13/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 86.25% White, 0.93% Black or African American, 0.82% Native American, 2.20% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 7.01% from other races, and 2.69% from two or more races. 12.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.1% were of German, 11.0% English, 9.1% United States or American and 8.4% Irish ancestry. 86.4% spoke English and 10.3% Spanish as their first language.

There were 52,866 households out of which 38.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.60% were married couples living together, 10.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.00% were non-families. 23.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.17.

In the county, the population was spread out with 29.70% under the age of 18, 8.60% from 18 to 24, 28.50% from 25 to 44, 22.90% from 45 to 64, and 10.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 98.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $47,044, and the median income for a family was $54,146. Males had a median income of $45,556 versus $27,232 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,301. About 7.80% of families and 10.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.30% of those under age 18 and 6.90% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 175,177 people, 65,304 households, and 45,699 families residing in the county.[11] The population density was 103.0 inhabitants per square mile (39.8/km2). There were 68,618 housing units at an average density of 40.4 per square mile (15.6/km2).[12] The racial makeup of the county was 82.4% white, 2.7% Asian, 1.3% black or African American, 0.9% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 9.0% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 18.7% of the population.[11] In terms of ancestry, 22.3% were German, 13.4% were English, 12.5% were Irish, and 7.9% were American.[13]

Of the 65,304 households, 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.8% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 30.0% were non-families, and 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.17. The median age was 35.6 years.[11]

The median income for a household in the county was $57,354 and the median income for a family was $69,834. Males had a median income of $57,496 versus $36,575 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,161. About 9.3% of families and 12.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.[14]


Benton County is one of the 33 counties in Washington that operates under the non-chartered "commission" or "plural executive" form of government. Three commissioners share administrative aegis with several other partisan officials independently-elected to four-year terms of office. Judges of the superior court are also independently elected. In Benton County, the commissioners appoint a county administrator to oversee all departments that do not fall under other elected officials.

  • Commissioner (District 1) - Jerome Delvin
  • Commissioner (District 2) - Shon Small
  • Commissioner (District 3) - James Beaver
  • Assessor - Bill Spencer
  • Auditor - Brenda Chilton
  • Clerk - Josephine Delvin
  • Coroner - John Hansens
  • Prosecutor - Andy Miller
  • Sheriff - Jerry Hatcher
  • Treasurer - Kenneth Spencer, Jr.

The County government is seated in Prosser, with many departments having satellite and auxiliary offices and facilities in Richland, Kennewick, and elsewhere.

There are five incorporated cities within Benton County. The two larger cities—Kennewick and Richland—employ the "council-manager" form of government where the mayor is elected from the city council and serves a more ceremonial role, whereby direct administration of the city is the responsibility of the city manager. The three smaller cities—Benton City, Prosser, and West Richland—use the "mayor-council" form of government where the mayor is the chief administrator of the city and is directly elected by the citizens. In Washington, a majority of cities use the mayor-council form, but the council-manager structure is common among medium-sized municipalities.

Numerous special purpose districts with varying degrees of taxing and administrative authority such as port authorities and school districts oversee local responsibilities that are not a part of county or city governance.


Compulsory education

Benton County is serviced by six public school districts and a few smaller private schools. Delta High School, located in Richland, is a public high school specializing in the "STEM" fields of study (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Delta High School is a collaborative venture of the Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland school districts.

Higher education

Two public college branch campuses are located in Benton County, each in Richland:


The Tri-City area's favorable climate, generally lower costs of living, and central location within a four-hour drive of the Seattle, Portland, Boise, and Spokane metropolitan areas has made it a popular destination for conferences, sports tournaments, festivals, agri-tourism, and other attractions that are aggressively marketed by the community.

Golf courses

Benton County is home to seven publicly accessible golf courses:

  • Canyon Lakes (Kennewick) – 7,026 yards | 73.8 / 131
  • Columbia Park (Kennewick) – 2,447 yards | note: "par 3"
  • Tri-City Country Club (Kennewick) – 4,900 yards | 63.9 / 115 | note: semi-private
  • Buckskin (Richland) - note: 9 holes
  • Columbia Point (Richland) – 6,571 yards | 71.2 / 128 | note: municipal
  • Horn Rapids (Richland) – 7,060 yards | 74.0 / 139
  • West Richland (West Richland) – 6,014 yards

A private golf and country club, Meadow Springs, is also located in Richland.


  • Benton County Historical Museum
  • East Benton County Historical Museum
  • Hanford Reach Interpretive Center


The Tri-City Americans are a major junior hockey team and are a founding member of the Western Hockey League and play at the Toyota Center. The Americans began as the Calgary Buffaloes in 1966, and after stints in Billings, Nanaimo, and New Westminster, moved to the Tri-Cities for the 1988–89 season where they were rebranded as the "Americans". Players are 16–20 years old and are generally considered to have amateur status, though they do receive nominal compensation and the organization is operated as a for-profit business.

Public lands

Like many Western counties, Benton County is home to considerable public lands acreage totaling about one-third of the county's total land area. The most significant holding is the United States Department of Energy's Hanford Site, most of which has restricted public access. However, Hanford does have a strong "nuclear tourism" element and certain Site facilities, such as the B Reactor, are a major attraction for history and engineering buffs. Part of the Hanford Site acreage is also part of the Hanford Reach National Monument, which was established in 2000 by presidential proclamation. Like with most of the rest of Hanford, most of the National Monument within Benton County is restricted from general public use.

Other federal land holdings in the county include small clusters of Bureau of Land Management, notably an aggregation along the Horse Heaven Hills south of Benton City that is popular with hikers; Fish and Wildlife Service-owned islands and shorelands that are parts of the Umatilla and McNary National Wildlife Refugues; and Army Corps of Engineers properties along the Columbia River, most of which are managed for habitat and recreation by the County and cities.

State-owned public lands are minimal in Benton County, with the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rattlesnake Slope Wildlife Recreation Area north of Benton City being the most significant and a draw for hikers and equestrians.

Benton County and the cities also own numerous parklands and open spaces, most notable the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, a hiking destination managed by the County located south of Richland which draws over 200,000 visits per year.


Red Mountain toward Rattlesnake Mountain
Kiona Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA looking northwest toward Rattlesnake Mountain. Two varieties of grapes are evident on a crisp autumn day.

The area of south-central Washington occupied by Benton County has been known primarily as an agricultural hub since its settlement by white Americans. The rise of viticulture has had a profound impact on the agricultural and tourism industries over the past two decades, and has in many ways reshaped the reputation of the region.

The Yakima Valley AVA, part of which is located in Benton County, was the first American Viticultural Area established within Washington State, gaining the recognition in 1983. As the Washington wine industry began to focus more on terroir, three sub-appellations have been created for areas within the Yakima Valley AVA that demonstrate unique microclimates and soil conditions which crafted different wines from their neighboring areas. The Red Mountain AVA, which lies in its entirety on Benton County, was created in 2001. The county also includes part of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA which is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA.

Sites of interest



Census-designated place

Other unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  4. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  6. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  7. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
  9. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  11. ^ "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  12. ^ "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  13. ^ "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2018-04-05.

Further reading

  • William Denison Lyman, History of the Yakima Valley, Washington: Comprising Yakima, Kittitas, and Benton Counties. In Two Volumes. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919. Volume 1 | Volume 2

External links

Coordinates: 46°15′N 119°30′W / 46.25°N 119.50°W

B Reactor

The B Reactor at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Washington, was the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built. The project was commissioned to produce plutonium-239 by neutron activation as part of the Manhattan Project, the United States nuclear weapons development program during World War II. The B reactor was fueled with metallic natural uranium, graphite moderated, and water-cooled. It has been designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark since August 19, 2008 and in July 2011 the National Park Service recommended that the B Reactor be included in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park commemorating the Manhattan Project. Visitors can take a tour of the reactor by advance reservation.

Badger Mountain (Benton County, Washington)

Badger Mountain is a small mountain in Richland, Washington. Badger rises above the Tri-Cities connected to the smaller Candy Mountain via Goose Gap, is visible throughout much of the area and is a popular hiking destination for a wide variety of climbers. There are a number of trails climbing the mountain with varying levels of difficulty. Most of Badger Mountain is protected by the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, but the radio towers at the peak are private property. There are two summits on Badger Mountain, named the East Summit and the West Summit. The West Summit is the highest.

Columbia Center Mall

Columbia Center Mall is a shopping mall located in northwestern Kennewick, Washington, owned by Simon Property Group. It is the largest mall in southeastern Washington, with Macy's (Originally The Bon Marché), and JCPenney as its anchors. It opened in 1969, and has undergone two major renovations. In 1988, the expansion opened anchors Sears and Lamonts (later Gottschalks, the The Bon Marché Men's and Children's, now Macy's Men's and Children's). The second in 1997 on the site of a former Pay 'n Save, brought Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, plus a renovated eight screen Regal Cinemas (Columbia Center 8), which closed in July 2018, and will be demolished for a Dick's Sporting Goods set to open in Fall 2019.On December 28, 2018, it was announced that Sears would be closing as part of a plan to close 80 stores nationwide. The store closed in March 2019.

Columbia Plateau Trail

The Columbia Plateau Trail is a 130-mile-long (210 km), 20-foot-wide (6.1 m) corridor in eastern Washington state maintained as part of the Washington State Park system. The trail runs along the abandoned right-of-way of the former Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway from Cheney to the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers at Pasco, Washington, passing through five counties in the southeastern part of the state. The trail's recreational uses include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, in-line skating on paved portions, and wildlife viewing.

Geneva Junction, Washington

Geneva Junction is an unincorporated community in Benton County, Washington, United States, located approximately eight miles north of Richland on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Hanford Reach National Monument

The Hanford Reach National Monument is a national monument in the U.S. state of Washington. It was created in 2000, mostly from the former security buffer surrounding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation (Hanford Site). The area has been untouched by development or agriculture since 1943. Because of that it is considered an involuntary park.

The monument is named after the Hanford Reach, the last non-tidal, free-flowing section of the Columbia River in the United States, and is one of eight National Monuments administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; part of the monument within the Hanford Site is also managed by the Department of Energy. President Bill Clinton established the monument by presidential decree in 2000. In May 2017, the Interior Department announced that Hanford Reach was one of 27 National Monuments under review for possible rescinding of their designation.Ancestors of the Wanapum People, Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Colville, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and the Nez Perce used the land for hunting and resource collecting.

Geographically, the area is part of the Columbia River Plateau, formed by basalt lava flows and water erosion. The shrub-steppe landscape is harsh and dry, receiving between 5 and 10 inches (250 mm) of rain per year. The sagebrush-bitterbrush-bunchgrass lands are home to a wide variety of plants and animals, and the Hanford Reach provides one of the Northwest's best salmon spawning grounds. Forty-eight rare, threatened, or endangered animal species have found refuge on the monument, as well as several insect species found nowhere else in the world.

Juniper Dunes Wilderness

The Juniper Dunes Wilderness is a protected wilderness area comprising 7,140 acres (28.9 km²) in Franklin County, Washington. Established in 1984, it is noteworthy for the northernmost growth of western juniper trees that live among the area's large sand dunes.

Longview, Benton County, Washington

Longview is an unincorporated historic community in Benton County, Washington, United States, located approximately three miles west of Umatilla, Oregon on the north bank of the Columbia River, just above Devil's Bend Rapids.The community was originally called Gravel because of the abundance of gravel found in the area. The name was changed to Francis, and then later to Tuton by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway. The name Tuton was often confused with the town of Luzon in Benton County, so the name was finally changed to Longview, because of the "long" view of Columbia River from the community's location.In October 1922 the town was renamed to Barger to avoid confusion with the city of Longview in Cowlitz County, Washington. Finally, on November 23, 1943, the name was changed to King.

Lyons Ferry Park

Lyons Ferry State Park is a public recreation area located near the confluence of the Snake and Palouse rivers, seven miles (11 km) northwest of Starbuck, Washington. The state park is on Route 261 abreast of Lake Herbert G. West, a reservoir on the Snake River created with the construction in the 1960s of the Lower Monumental Dam some 17 miles (27 km) downstream. The park offers facilities for boating, fishing, and swimming. The area is managed cooperatively by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Lyons Ferry Marina.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park commemorating the Manhattan Project that is run jointly by the National Park Service and Department of Energy. The park consists of three units: one in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one in Los Alamos, New Mexico and one in Hanford, Washington. It was established on November 10, 2015 when Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz signed the memorandum of agreement that defined the roles that the two agencies had when managing the park.The Department of Energy had owned and managed most of the properties located within the three different sites. For over ten years, the DoE worked with the National Park Service and federal, state and local governments and agencies with the intention of turning places of importance into a National Historical Park. After several years of surveying the three sites and five other possible alternatives, the two agencies officially recommended a historical park be established in Hanford, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge. The Department of Energy would continue to manage and own the sites while the National Park Service would provide interpretive services, visitor centers and park rangers. After two unsuccessful attempts at passing a bill in Congress authorizing the park in 2012 and 2013, the House and Senate ultimately passed the bill in December 2014, with President Obama signing the National Defense Authorization Act shortly thereafter which authorized the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Benton County, Washington

This list presents the full set of buildings, structures, objects, sites, or districts designated on the National Register of Historic Places in Benton County, Washington, and offers brief descriptive information about each of them. The National Register recognizes places of national, state, or local historic significance across the United States. Out of over 90,000 National Register sites nationwide, Washington is home to approximately 1,500, and 15 of those are found partially or wholly in Benton County.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted May 17, 2019.

Palouse Falls State Park

Palouse Falls State Park is a 94-acre (38 ha) Washington state park in the Palouse region of Eastern Washington, USA. It is named for the 200-foot (61 m) Palouse Falls on the Palouse River, which are part of the park. The state park was created in 1951 following the contribution of several parcels of land by multiple donors. Displays in the park explain the region's unique geology as well as its historical ties: the Palouse Indians and the Mullan Road both took advantage of the easy access to the plateau in the vicinity of the falls. The park has a short, ADA-accessible trail with falls overlook and facilities for picnicking and tent camping.

Paterson, Washington

Paterson is an unincorporated community in Benton County, Washington, United States, located on the northern banks of the Columbia River at the junction of Washington State Route 14 and Washington State Route 221. It was named for early settler Henry Patterson.

Rattlesnake Mountain (Benton County, Washington)

Rattlesnake Mountain (Native American name Lalíik meaning "land above the water") is a 3,531 ft (1,060 m) windswept treeless sub-alpine ridge overlooking the Hanford nuclear site. Parts of the western slope are privately owned ranchland, while the eastern slope is under the federal protection of the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, a unit of the Hanford Reach National Monument, managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The mountain is the second highest point in Benton County, with its neighbor Lookout Summit surpassing it by only 98 ft (30 m).

The highest winds recorded on Rattlesnake were around 150 mph (241 kilometers per hour).

Richland Airport (Washington)

Richland Airport (IATA: RLD, ICAO: KRLD, FAA LID: RLD) is a public airport located two miles (3 km) northwest of the central business district of Richland, a city in Benton County, Washington, United States. It is owned by the Port of Benton.

Sacajawea State Park

Sacajawea State Park is a public recreation area and historical preserve in the city of Pasco, Washington, covering 267 acres (108 ha) at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers where the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped on October 16, 1805. The state park bears the name of the Shoshone woman Sacagawea, who was an active member of the expedition married to expedition member Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian interpreter and explorer. The park's Sacajawea Interpretive Center features exhibits about her and about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Toyota Center (Kennewick, Washington)

The Toyota Center is a multi-purpose arena in the northwest United States, located in Kennewick, Washington.

Opened 31 years ago in 1988 as the Tri-Cities Coliseum, the arena's name was changed in 2004 to the Three Rivers Coliseum to match the Three Rivers Convention Center, which was built next door in the same year. In October 2005, a deal was reached between the city of Kennewick and Toyota, which agreed to pay $2 million over ten years for naming rights. The city uses the funds for needed improvements and upgrades to the facility. A smaller facility next door, built by the city in 1998, was named "Toyota Arena."

In 2016, the Kennewick Public Facilities District will put to the voters an expansion of what is now known as the Three Rivers Complex. This expansion is called The Link, an ambitious $35 million project that would build a 2,300-seat theater, add 50,000 square feet (4,650 m2) of convention space, and renovate the arena.The Toyota Center is located west of central Kennewick, just northwest of Vista Field, which closed six years ago in 2013. The elevation at ground level is approximately five hundred feet (150 m) above sea level.

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge

The Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge is located on and around the Columbia River about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Hermiston, Oregon and includes 8,907 acres (3,605 ha) in Oregon, and 14,876 acres (6,020 ha) in Washington. It was established in 1969 to help mitigate habitat lose due to the flooding that occurred following the construction of the John Day Dam. The refuge is popular with birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The refuge is a varied mix of open water, sloughs, shallow marsh, seasonal wetlands, cropland, islands, and shrub-steppe upland habitats. It is divided into six units—two in Oregon, three in Washington, and one in the middle of the Columbia River. The scarcity of wetlands and other natural habitats in this area make Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge vital to migrating waterfowl, bald eagles, colonial nesting birds, and other migratory and resident wildlife. It is strategically located within the Pacific Flyway to provide Arctic nesting geese and ducks a wintering site and a resting stopover.

Yakima River

The Yakima River is a tributary of the Columbia River in south central and eastern Washington state, named for the indigenous Yakama people. The length of the river from headwaters to mouth is 214 miles (344 km), with an average drop of 9.85 feet per mile (1.866 m/km). It is the longest river entirely in Washington state.

Places adjacent to Benton County, Washington
Municipalities and communities of Benton County, Washington, United States
Ghost towns

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