A comparison of pollen records and associated plant remains from sites along a major precipitation gradient in southwestern Washington enables reconstruction of the late Quaternary environment during glacial and early Holocene time. During the Evans Creek Stade (25 000 – 17 000 years BP) little moisture reached lowlands east of the Olympic Mountains and as a result both the Puget Trough and the Columbia Basin featured a cold dry climate and parkland–tundra vegetation In glacial time, greatest aridity seems to have occurred between 19 000 and 17 000 years BP. After 17 000 years BP the development of mesophytic subalpine parkland suggests that maritime conditions extended farther east into the Puget Trough, and the Cascade Range became an important precipitation divide. Conditions warmer and (or) drier than today developed throughout western Washington between 10 000 and 8000–6000 years BP. Vegetation on opposite sides of the Cascade Range became dissimilar as early as 17 000 years BP, but this trend was accentuated in late glacial and early Holocene time.