Discover the Coldest Place in Washington State

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: March 13, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Republic holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded in the contiguous United States. On January 20, 1954, the temperature in Republic dropped to a bone-chilling -69.7°F (-56.5°C), the lowest temperature ever recorded in the contiguous United States.
  • Despite its extreme winter temperatures, Republic is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The town is located in the beautiful Kettle River Range, a mountainous region known for its pristine forests, rivers, and lakes.
  • Republic is also home to the Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site, which offers visitors the chance to dig for fossils from the Eocene epoch, which occurred between 56 and 33.9 million years ago.

Have you ever wondered what the coldest place in Washington state is? Known for its beautiful Pacific northwest coasts, national forests, and rainy cities, Washington is a state founded on nature. This includes different temperatures and climates!

If you’re interested in learning more about the coldest areas in Washington, keep reading below!

Average Climate in Washington State

The Evergreen State, Washington state is known for its cool, rainy atmosphere. Overall, the state has what is known as a temperate climate. However, this can vary depending on whether you’re looking into the western or eastern region.

The eastern region of Washington has a semi-arid climate. There’s little precipitation in this part of Washington, and it’s known for its hot summers and mild winters. The western region of Washington, as well as the coastal areas, have a completely different story, however. Here, you can expect to find a cool oceanic climate. Also known as a maritime climate, this results in overall mild temperatures as the ocean helps regulate the temperature year-round.

However, due to the state’s northern positioning, it’s more vulnerable to Arctic air than some other, southern states. As you’ll learn about further below, this can have a big impact on the temperature in Washington!

Washington is also affected by the low-pressure and high-pressure systems found in the northern area of the Pacific Ocean and the inland features such as the mountains. This paired with the prevailing winds leaves an otherwise stable climate vulnerable to extreme variation. 

What Is the Coldest Place in Washington State?

Republic, Washington - The Coldest Place in Washington State
Republic, Washington, the coldest place in the state of Washington.

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If you’ve ever watched Twilight, then you may know that Washington is an overall chilly, rainy state. However, do you know what the coldest place in Washington state is? Hint: it’s not Forks! Instead, the coldest town is Republic.

Republic experiences an average annual low of 31.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Its record low was −38 degrees in December.

About Republic, Washington

Republic is the county seat of its resident county, Ferry. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 1,073. This showed a major increase from the previous census, demonstrating that Republic is a budding little town despite being the coldest place in Washington state. 

Outside of its frosty temperatures, Republic is known as both the largest mining camp in the Republic Mining District and as the home of Spokane and British Columbia railway, also known as the  “Hot Air Line” railway.

Republic is sat near the source of the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia River. Swan Lake is just a few miles south of this town, and, despite its winter lows, it’s a popular lake for fishing and swimming come summer. You’ll also find the Colville National Forest here, which surrounds Republic. 

Like many other towns on the west coast of the United States, Republic was founded as a gold mining town in the late 1800s.  

If you happen to visit the coldest place in Washington state, you’ll be greeted with a wide variety of animals. This includes bats, beavers, deer and elk.

Animals in Republic, Washington

Black bear with powerful paws
Close-up of a black bear showing massive and powerful paws.

©poppistock/Shutterstock.com

The northeastern part of Washington State is home to a variety of animals, both common and rare. From large predators like bears and mountain lions to small rodents and birds, the area is rich in biodiversity.

Here are some of the animals that call this area home:

  • Black bears: Black bears are a common sight in the forests of northeastern Washington. These large predators can weigh up to 600 pounds and are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Visitors to the area are advised to take precautions when camping or hiking in bear country.
  • Mountain lions: Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are another large predator found in this area. These big cats can weigh up to 200 pounds and are known for their elusive nature. While sightings are rare, visitors to the area should be aware of the potential for encounters with these powerful predators.
  • Elk: Elk are a common sight in the forests and meadows of northeastern Washington. These large ungulates can weigh up to 700 pounds and are known for their distinctive bugling calls during the mating season. Visitors to the area may be able to observe elk in the wild or visit a local wildlife sanctuary to see them up close.
  • Moose: Moose is a rare but exciting sight in northeastern Washington. These massive animals can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and are known for their distinctive antlers. While sightings are uncommon, visitors to the area should keep an eye out for these majestic creatures in the forest and wetland areas.
  • Bald eagles: Bald eagles are a common sight in the skies over northeastern Washington. These iconic birds of prey can be seen soaring over rivers and lakes, hunting for fish or carrion. Visitors to the area can observe bald eagles in the wild or visit a local wildlife sanctuary to see them up close.
  • Mule deer: Mule deer are a common sight in the forests and meadows of northeastern Washington. These large deer can weigh up to 300 pounds and are known for their distinctive ears. Visitors to the area may be able to observe mule deer in the wild or visit a local wildlife sanctuary to see them up close.

Northeastern Washington is a fascinating and diverse region that is home to a variety of animals. Visitors to the area should be aware of the potential for encounters with large predators like bears and mountain lions, but can also enjoy observing the area’s many unique and fascinating wildlife species.

Coldest Temperature Recorded in Washington State

Winthrop, Washington
Winthrop, Washington, is tied for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state of Washington.

©Pierrette Guertin/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the coldest temperatures recorded in Washington state, it’s actually a tie between two different towns: Winthrop and Mazama. These neighboring towns both broke the record on a cold winter’s day on December 30, 1968. The record-breaking temperature? -48 degrees Fahrenheit!

Winthrop is so cold year-round that you can see frost even in the summer. However, this still isn’t enough to shake Rebuplic from its spot as the coldest place in Washington state.

What Caused These Cold Temperatures?

So, what exactly happened for Washington state to go cold in the December of 1968? While it’s normal for Washington to experience some low and even snowy temperatures, these record lows certainly weren’t part of the norm.

Instead, these temperatures can be blamed on the polar vortex and Arctic air in Canada. 

The polar vortex is a permanent system of low temperature and pressure that exists around both the north and the south poles of the Earth. During the summer, you may not notice these pools of air. In fact, because they grow weaker in the summer, they rarely, if ever, make themselves known during the warmer months of the year.

However, during the winter, the polar vortex grows stronger. This can allow for it to grow and expand, thus letting the different air currents wrapping the planet move further south into the southern parts of Canada and the United States.

This is exactly what happened in the December of 1968. Thanks to the winter months ensuing in full swing, the cold Arctic air in the northern parts of Canada was swept down into the northern United States. The entire month had been cold and snowy so far that year, but this new burst of frigid air caused the temperature to plummet. 

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Republic, Washington - The Coldest Place in Washington State
Republic, Washington, the coldest place in the state of Washington.
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About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

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Sources
  1. University of Washington, Available here: https://climate.washington.edu/state-records/#:~:text=Warmest%20(annual)%3A%20Vancouver%20(average,min%20temperature%2014.4%C2%B0F).