The State of Oregon
AT A GLANCE
Name: The exact origin of Oregon's name is unknown, but it may have come from the Native American name for one of the area's rivers—the Ouragon.
Nickname: Beaver State
Size: 97,052 sq. mi. (251,365 sq km)
Population: 4,028,977 (2015 est.)
Statehood: Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859.
Electoral votes: 7 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 5 (until 2016)
State tree: Douglas fir
State flower: Oregon grape
State insect: swallowtail butterfly
Highest point: Mount Hood, 11,239 ft. (3,426 m)
Oregon is one of the Pacific Northwest states. Oregon has a steep, rugged coastline with many bays and harbors. Two large mountain ranges, the Coast and the Cascade, run down the length of Oregon.
The Coast Range includes the shortest of Oregon's mountains. The state's highest mountain, Mount Hood, is part of the volcanic Cascade Mountains. Crater Lake, which rests at the top of an inactive volcano, is located in the Cascades, as are many waterfalls. The Klamath Mountains, in the southwestern corner of Oregon, have some of the state's thickest forests and best mineral deposits.
The Willamette Valley lies between the Coast and Cascade Ranges and contains some of Oregon's most fertile farmland. The Willamette River runs through this valley, which is also an industrial center and home to more than half the state's population. The Columbia River, which forms the border between Oregon and Washington, is the state's largest river. Water from the Columbia River and its tributaries provides energy for much of the state.
Oregon's climate is greatly affected by the mountain ranges. Moist winds from the Pacific Ocean cool as they pass over the coastal mountains, where the moisture condenses and falls as rain. The winds are drier after passing over the Cascades, and the area east of this mountain range receives almost no rain.
Oregon's most valuable resources are trees, fertile soil, sand and gravel, limestone, natural gas, diatomite, clays, coal, and some gemstones.
Facts and Firsts
- Oregon's Crater Lake is the nation's deepest lake—1,932 feet at it deepest point. It was formed more than 7,000 years ago in the crater of an ancient volcano.
- The Heceta Head Lighthouse in Lane County is thought to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.
- Oregon is the only state with a double-sided state flag. One side shows a shield, designed to represent Oregon; the reverse side has a picture of a beaver.
- The world's largest log cabin was built in Portland in 1905 for a fair that celebrated the centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The cabin burned down in 1964.
- Oregon is the only state with an official state nut, the hazelnut.
Many of Oregon's towns, rivers, and natural formations are named for the Native American tribes that lived in the area before the arrival of Europeans. The Chinook, Tillamook, Bannock, Paiute, and Nez Perce are some of these native peoples.
In the 1500s, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Oregon coast, but control of the territory was disputed until the mid-1800s. Spain, Russia, Britain, and the United States all laid claim to different parts of the West Coast from California to Alaska. Spain and Russia eventually gave up their claims to this land, and in 1846, President James Polk finally negotiated a treaty with Britain that fixed the United States's northern boundary at the present-day border with Canada.
Before the mid-1800s, there were few European settlers in the Oregon area. Fur trading was the region's only industry. The first large migration of settlers to Oregon occurred in 1843, when about 900 settlers came from the East along the Oregon Trail and settled in the Willamette Valley.
During the years that followed, more and more people began to settle in Oregon, California, and the area that would become the state of Washington. Native Americans clashed with these settlers in a series of wars between 1847 and 1877. In the late-1800s, after the Civil War, Oregon's population grew as former soldiers looking for inexpensive land settled in the West.
Population growth also took place as a result of the construction of transcontinental railroads, which made travel to the West Coast easier.
During World War II, Portland became a major port for shipment of supplies to Russia and for U.S. troops in the Pacific. In the 1950s, huge dams were built on the Columbia River to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power for new industry. Many people moved to cities, where they worked in factories that manufactured goods such as electrical equipment, machinery, and metals.
In the early 1980s, Oregon suffered its worst economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s. A period of nationwide economic problems caused a decrease in the construction of new homes and businesses, and many Oregon lumber mills closed.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, expansion of a variety of industries helped diversify Oregon's economy. While Oregon produces 10 percent of all the nation's lumber, manufacturing and service industries have surpassed wood products in importance. Factories in the Willamette Valley make such products as computer microprocessors and printer parts.
Production of agricultural goods, such as fruit, nursery plants, nuts, and wine, has increased. Orchards in the Hood and Rogue River Valleys grow fruit that is shipped all over the world. Irrigation from Oregon's large rivers allows farmers to grow potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat. Irrigation has also enabled the dry region east of the Cascade Mountains to be used for raising cattle, thanks to irrigation.
The Willamette Valley is the center of Oregon's agriculture, trade, and industry. Oregon's two largest cities, Portland and Salem, are located in this rich valley. Portland's location at the meeting site of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers has made it a major seaport. There, foreign cars are brought into the United States, and wheat and wood products are shipped to the rest of the world. Nike, the shoe manufacturer, has headquarters in nearby Beaverton.
Tourism has earned Oregon the nickname Pacific Wonderland. Oregon's natural wonders attract millions of visitors each year.
Born in Oregon
- James Beard, food expert
- Raymond Carver, writer and poet
- Matt Groening, cartoonist
- Chief Joseph, Nez Perce chief
- Edwin Markham, poet
- Phyllis McGinly, poet
- Linus Pauling, chemist
- John Reed, poet and author
- Carl “Doc” Severinsen, band leader
- Norton Simon, art collector
- Sally Struthers, actress