Oregon State Flag
Oregon State Seal
Oregon is a state
located in the northwest United
States, and bordering the Pacific Ocean, California,
and Nevada. Its northern
border lies along the Columbia River and the east along the Snake River.
Two north-south mountain ranges - the Coastal Range and the Cascade
Mountain Range - form the two boundaries of the Willamette Valley, one
of the most fertile and agriculturally productive regions in the world.
Oregon is known for its abundant rainfall, but only the western 35%
of the state and a bit of northeastern Oregon is notably rainy; east
of the Cascades the climate is much more arid. Nonetheless, 40% of the
state is or was forested.
A 1977 article in
U.S. News and World Report described Oregon as a state
of scenic grandeur and easygoing individualism [that] is writing the
preface to what may be the future for all Americans: simple living,
conservation, and limited growth. That description still applies over
a quarter-century later. Oregonians are proud of their state's beautiful
forests and streams, and place great importance on proper use of their
natural resources. They struggle to balance this with the desire to
support the development needed to support its increasing population
without losing what attracts people to Oregon in the first place. The
state has pioneered some innovative solutions to the nation's environmental
problems, such as the Oregon Bottle Bill, but has also suffered from
the rapid pace of logging in its forests.
Its population in
2000 was 3,421,399, a 20.4% increase over 1990; as of July 2004, the
population had grown to an estimated 3,594,586.
- % water
255,026 km² (9th)
- Total (2000)
13.76 /km² (39th)
Mountain: UTC-7/-6 (all but majority of Malheur County is in Pacific)
42°N to 46°15'N
116°45'W to 124°30'W
geography may be split roughly into six areas:
the Coast Range,
the Willamette Valley,
the Cascade Mountains
the Klamath Mountains,
the Columbia Plateau, and
the Basin and Range Region.
The state varies
from rain forest in the Columbia Gorge to barren desert in the southeast,
which still meets the technical definition of a frontier.
Oregon is about
360 miles (580 km) long and 261 miles (420 km) wide. In terms of land
and water area, Oregon is the ninth largest state, covering 98,386 square
miles (254,819 km²).
Its highest point
is the summit of Mount Hood, at 11,239 ft (3,428 m). As a West Coast
state, its lowest point is sea level. Its mean elevation is 3,300 ft
Crater Lake National
Park is Oregon's only national park.
residents were several Native American tribes, including the Bannock,
Chinook, Klamath, and Nez Perce. James Cook explored the coast in 1778
in search of the Northwest Passage. The Lewis and Clark Expedition travelled
through the region during their expedition to explore the Louisiana
Purchase. They built their winter fort at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth
of the Columbia River. Exploration by Lewis and Clark (1805-1806) and
Britain's David Thompson (1811) publicized the abundance of fur in the
area. In 1811, New York financier John Jacob Astor established Fort
Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River with the intention of starting
a chain of Pacific Fur Company trading posts along the river. Fort Astoria
was the first permanent white settlement in Oregon. In the War of 1812,
the British gained control of all of the Pacific Fur Company posts.
By the 1820s and
1830s, the British Hudson's Bay Company dominated the Pacific Northwest.
John McLoughlin, who was appointed the Company's Chief Factor of the
Columbia District, built Fort Vancouver in 1825.
The Oregon Trail
infused the region with new settlers, starting in 1842–43, after
the U.S. agreed to jointly settle the Oregon Country with the United
Kingdom. The border was resolved in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty after
a period where it seemed that the United
States and the United Kingdom would go to war for a third time in
75 years. In 1844, the Democrat James Polk ran for President on the
slogan "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," referring to the northern
border of the Oregon Country at latitude 54°40'. Cooler heads prevailed,
and the boundary between the United
States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The
Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848.
due to the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, in conjunction with the
forced relocation of the native population to Indian Reservations in
Oregon. The state was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859.
In the 1880s, railroads
enabled marketing of the state's lumber and wheat, as well as the more
rapid growth of its cities.
began in earnest following the construction of the Bonneville Dam in
1943 on the Columbia River. The power, food, and lumber provided by
Oregon have helped fuel the development of the west, and the periodic
fluctuations in the nation's building industry has hurt the state's
economy on multiple occasions.
The state has a
long history of polarizing conflicts: Native Americans vs. British fur
trappers, British vs. settlers from the U.S., ranchers vs. farmers,
wealthy growing cities vs. established but poor rural areas, loggers
vs. environmentalists, white supremacists vs. anti-racists, supporters
of social spending vs. anti-tax activists, and native Oregonians vs.
Californians (or outsiders in general). Oregonians also have a long
history of secessionist ideas, ranging from varying parts of the population
on all sides of the political spectrum attempting to form other states
and even other countries. State ballots frequently illustrate the extremes
of the political spectrum—anti-gay, pro-religious measures on
the same ballot as liberal drug decriminalization measures.
The origin of "Oregon"
The origin of the
state's name is something of a mystery. The earliest known use of this
proper noun was in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom
of Great Britain. The petition referred to Ouragon and asked for money
to finance an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage.
Why Rogers used
the name has led to many theories, which include:
- George R. Stewart
argued in a 1944 article in American Speech that the name came from
an engraver's error in a French map published in the early 1700s,
naming the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin River). This theory was endorsed
in Oregon Geographic Names as "the most plausible explanation."
- In 2001, Scott
Byram, (currently the archaeologist for the Coquille Indian Tribe),
and David G. Lewis published an article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly
argued that the name Oregon came from the word oolighan, referring
to grease made from fish, which the Native Americans of the region
traded in. Those trade routes brought the term eastward.
- In a 2004 article
for the Oregon Historical Quarterly, professor Thomas Love and Smithsonian
linguist Ives Goddard argue that Rogers chose the word based on exposure
to either of the Algonquian words wauregan and olighin, both meaning
"good and beautiful". Olighin was one of the early names
for the Ohio River, shown on a 1680s map of the explorations of René
Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Rogers is likely to have heard
the terms because of his frequent encounters with Mohegans in the
- Less supported
theories are based on it having a Spanish etymology. The theory that
it comes from oregano, was dismissed years ago by Henry W. Scott,
an early editor of Oregonian. He wrote that it was "a mere conjecture
absolutely without support. More than this, it is completely disproved
by all that is known of the name." Others have speculated that
the name is related to the kingdom of Aragon.
- In 1778, Jonathan
Carver used Oregon to label the Great River of the West in his book
Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America. The poet William
Cullen Bryant took the name from Carver's book and used it in his
poem "Thanatopsis" to refer to the recent discoveries of
the Lewis and Clark Expedition; this use helped establish it in modern
Law and Government
Oregon state government
has a separation of powers similar to the federal government. It has
three branches, called departments by the state's constitution:
- a legislative
department (the Oregon Legislative Assembly),
- an executive
department which includes an "administrative department"
and has Oregon's governor serving as chief executive, and
- a judicial department,
headed by the Oregon Supreme Court.
Governors in Oregon
serve four-year terms. The Legislative Assembly consists of a thirty-member
Senate and sixty-member House. Senators serve four-year terms, and Representatives
two. The state supreme court has seven elected justices. They choose
one of their own to serve a six-year term as Chief Justice. The only
court that may reverse or modify a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court
is the United States Supreme Court.
The state maintains
formal relationships with the nine federally-recognized tribal governments
- Burns Paiute
Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians
Tribes of Grand Ronde
Tribes of Siletz
Tribes of Warm Springs
Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
- Coquille Tribe
- Cow Creek Band
of Umpqua Indians
- Klamath Indian
Tribe of Oregon
many electorial reforms proposed during the Progressive Era, due to
the efforts of William S. U'Ren and his Direct Legislation League. Under
his leadership, the state overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in
1902 that created the initiative and referendum processes for citizens
to directly introduce or approve proposed laws or amendments to the
state constitution. In following years, the primary election to select
party candidates was adopted in 1904, and in 1908 the Oregon Constitution
was amended to include recall of public officials. More recent progressive
innovations include the nation's only doctor-assisted suicide law, legalization
of medical marijuana, and among the nation's strongest anti-sprawl and
Of the measures
placed on the ballot since 1902, the people have passed 99 of the 288
initiatives and 25 of the 61 referenda on the ballot, though not all
of them survived challenges in courts (see Pierce v. Society of Sisters,
for example). During the same period, the legislature has referred 363
measures to the people, of which 206 have passed.
Oregon has been
a pioneer in the use of vote-by-mail:
1981 The Oregon
Legislature approves experimentation with vote-by-mail for local elections.
1987 Vote-by-mail becomes permanent, with the majority of Oregon's counties
making use of it.
1995 Oregon becomes the first state to conduct a federal primary election
totally by mail.
1996 Ron Wyden, Bob Packwood's replacement, is elected by mail with
a 66% turnout.
1998 Through a voter initiative, Oregonians confirm their overwhelming
support for vote-by-mail.
2000 Oregon becomes the first state in the nation to conduct a presidential
election entirely by mail. About 80% of registered voters participated.
sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages are regulated in the state
by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Entering the Union
at a time when the status of "Negroes" was very much in question,
and wishing to stay out of the looming conflict between the so-called
"Union" and "Confederate" States, Oregon banned
Negroes from moving into the State in the vote to adopt its Constitution
(1858). This ban was not officially lifted until 1925; in 2002, additional
racist language was struck from the Oregon Constitution by the voters
Oregon is represented
at the federal level by two senators and five representatives, which
translates into seven electoral votes.
leans toward the Democratic party. It has supported Democratic candidates
in the last five elections. John Kerry narrowly won the state in 2004
by a margin of 4 percentage points with 51.4% of the vote. Republicans
dominate the eastern, central, and southern regions of the state, as
well as the southwest and the southern outer suburbs of Portland. Essentially
the Willamette Valley is dominated by Democrats while the rest of Oregon
is dominated by Republicans. This divide is due to very real cultural
and economic differences often with ties to land use issues. The Democratic
party of Oregon is pro-environmental and seen as supportive of urban
opinions, while the Republican party of Oregon is seen as pro-rancher
and pro-logger and supportive of rural opinions.
The Willamette Valley
is very fertile, and coupled with Oregon's famous rains, gives the state
a wealth of agricultural products. Apples and other fruits, cattle,
dairy products, potatoes, and peppermint are all valuable products.
Oregon is also one of four major world hazelnut growing regions, and
produces 95% of the domestic hazelnuts in the United
States. While the history of the wine production in Oregon can be
traced to before Prohibition, it became a significant industry beginning
in the 1970s, and Oregon is home to at least four wine appellations.
Her forests have
historically made Oregon one of the nation's major timber production
or logging states, but forest fires (such as the Tillamook Burn), over-harvesting,
and law suits over the proper management of the extensive federal forest
holdings have reduced the amount of timber produced. According to the
Oregon Forest Resources Institute, timber harvested from federal lands
dropped some 96% from 1989 from 4,333 million to 173 million board feet
(10,000,000 to 408,000 m³) in 2001. While the 1980s saw an unsustainable
amount of timber harvested, the drop in timber harvested is still significant,
as the total amount of timber harvested in 2001 is less than half of
that in the late 1970s. Even the shift in recent years towards finished
goods such as paper and building materials have not slowed the decline
of the timber industry. Examples include the Weyerhaeuser's acquisition
of Willamette Industries in January, 2002, the announcement by Louisiana
Pacific in September, 2003 that they will relocate their corporate headquarters
and the experiences of small lumber towns like Gilchrist. Despite these
changes, Oregon still leads the United
States in softwood lumber production: in 2001, according to the
Oregon Forest Resources Institute, 6,056 million board feet (14,000,000
m³) was produced in Oregon, against 4,5257 mbf. in Washington,
2,731 in California, 2,413
in Georgia and 2,327 in
Mississippi. Still the effects
of the forest industry crunch is massive unemployment in rural Oregon
and is a bone of contention between rural and urban Oregon.
industries and services have been a major employer since the 1970s.
Tektronix was the largest private employer in Oregon until the late
1980s. Intel's creation and expansion of several plants in eastern Washington
County continued the growth that Tektronix had started. The spinoffs
and startups that were produced by these two companies led to the establishment
of the Portland metropolitan area as the
Silicon Forest. The recession and dot-com bust of 2001 in the Silicon
Valley has led to similar results in the Silicon Forest; many high technology
employers have either reduced the number of their employees or gone
out of business. OSDL made news in 2004 when they hired Linus Torvalds,
developer of the Linux kernel.
Oregon had one of
the largest salmon-fishing industries in the world, although ocean fisheries
have reduced the river fisheries in recent years. Tourism is also strong
in the state; Oregon's evergreen mountain forests, waterfalls, pristine
lakes (including Crater Lake National Park), and scenic beaches draw
visitors year round. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, held in Ashland,
is a tourist draw near its Californian border which complements the
area's scenic beauty and opportunity for outdoor activities.
Oregon is home to
a number of smaller breweries.
As of 2004, Oregon's population was estimated
to be 3,594,586. This includes 309,700 foreign-born (accounting
for 8.7% of the state population) and an estimated 90,000 illegal
aliens (2.5% of the state population).
state's population increased by 752,000 between 1990 and 2004,
an increase of 26.5%
makeup of the state:
1.3% Native American
3.1% Mixed race
The largest reported ancestry groups in Oregon are: German (20.5%),
English (13.2%), Irish (11.9%), American (6.2%), and Mexican (5.5%).
counties are inhabited principally by residents of British ancestry,
with a high proportion of German-Americans in the northwest. There
are large numbers of Mexicans in Malheur and Jefferson counties.
6.5% of Oregon's
population were reported as under 5, 24.7% under 18, and 12.8%
were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.4% of the population.
affiliations of the people of Oregon are:
Protestant – 55%
Baptist – 6%
Lutheran – 6%
Methodist – 4%
Presbyterian – 3%
Episcopal – 2%
Pentecostal – 2%
Church of Christ – 2%
Other Protestant or general Protestant – 30%
Roman Catholic – 15%
Mormon – 4%
Other Christian – 1%
Other Religions – 1%
Non-Religious – 24%
most people from Oregon still identify themselves (at least nominally)
as Christians, Oregon has the lowest church membership of all
50 states. While some parts of the USA have church membership
rates as high as 80%, it runs only about 12% in Oregon. Nearly
one in four Oregonians identify themselves as non-religious, giving
Oregon one of the highest percentages of non-religious people
in the nation. "Non-religious" is an umbrella term which
is sometimes synonymous with or includes elements of atheism,
agnosticism, skepticism, freethought, humanism, secular humanism,
heresy, logical positivism, and even apathy.
released September 2004 show double-digit growth in Latino and
Asian American populations since the 2000 Census. About 60% of
the 138,197 new residents come from ethnic and racial minorities.
Asian growth is located mostly in the metropolitan areas of Portland,
Salem, and Eugene;
Hispanic population growth is across the state.
Important Cities and Towns
The capital is Salem
and the largest city is Portland. Eugene,
home of the University of Oregon is the second largest city, followed
closely by Salem.
City was the first incorporated city west of the Rockies and later,
the first capital of the Oregon Territory, from 1848 to 1852, when the
territory capital was moved to Salem, Oregon.
It was also the end of the Oregon Trail and the site of the first public
library established west of the Rocky Mountains, stocked with only 300
Colleges and Universities
- Concordia University,
- Eastern Oregon
- Eugene Bible
- George Fox University
- Gutenberg College
- Lewis &
- Linfield College
- Marylhurst University
- Mount Angel
- Multnomah Bible
College and Seminary
- National College
of Naturopathic Medicine
- Northwest Christian
- Oregon Health
and Science University
- Oregon Institute
- Oregon State
- Pacific Northwest
College of Art
- Pacific University
- Portland State
- Reed College
- Southern Oregon
- University of
- University of
- Warner Pacific
- Western Baptist
- Western Oregon
- Western States
- Willamette University
- Blue Mountain
- Clackamas Community
- Chemeketa Community
- Klamath Community
- Lane Community
- Mount Hood Community
- Portland Community
- Rogue Community
- Umpqua Community
Professional Sports Teams
- Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association
- Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League
- Portland Timbers of the USL First Division
- Portland Lumberjax of the National Lacrosse League
- Farm clubs of Major League Baseball:
- Eugene Emeralds, a single-A club in the Northwest League
- Portland Beavers, a triple-A club in the Pacific Coast League
- Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a single-A club in the Northwest League
- Portland is under consideration to be the home of a major league
State flower: Oregon
grape (since 1899)
State song: Oregon, My Oregon (written in 1920 and adopted in 1927)
State bird: Western meadowlark (chosen by the state's children in 1927)
State tree: Douglas-fir (since 1939)
State fish: Chinook salmon (since 1961)
State rock: Thunderegg (like a geode but formed in a rhyolitic lava
flow; since 1965)
State animal: Beaver (since 1969)
State dance: Square Dance (Adopted in 1977)
State insect: Oregon Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio oregonius; since
State gemstone: Oregon sunstone, a type of feldspar (since 1987)
State nut: Hazelnut (since 1989)
State seashell: Oregon hairy triton (Fusitriton oregonensis, a gastropod
in the cymatiidae family; since 1991)
State mushroom: Pacific Golden Chanterelle (since 1999)
State beverage: Milk (since 1997)
- Before Oregon
officially became an official U.S. territory in 1848, the provisional
government briefly encouraged the minting of $5 and $10 dollar "Beaver
Coins" in order to make up for the lack of U.S. currency. Thus
Oregon has the distinction of being one of the few U.S. areas to mint
its own currency.
- Oregon is the
only state in the United States
with a flag that features a different obverse and reverse. It is one
of the few official flags in the world that does so. The "front"
of the flag shows the state seal, while the "back" features
a small beaver, in honor of the official state animal.
- Oregon has the
smallest park in the world: Mill Ends Park in Portland,
- Oregon has no
for the state include OR (postal), Ore., and Oreg.
- Oregon is one
of two states that prohibits drivers from pumping their own gasoline.
The other is New Jersey.
- Movies filmed
in Oregon include Animal House, Kindergarten Cop, One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest, Sometimes a Great Notion, The Goonies, Elephant, Bandits,
and Drugstore Cowboy.
- Oregon claims
the D River is the shortest river in the world, while the American
state of Montana makes
the same claim of the Roe River. The Guinness Book of Records officially
declared that the two rivers are the same length and can both claim
- The Kingsmen,
who made the song Louie Louie famous, are from Portland.
There was an unsuccessful effort to make Louie Louie Oregon's official
- In 1970 the
Oregon Highway Division (now Oregon Department of Transportation)
exploded a dead beached whale on a beach just outside Lane County.
The results were not as expected and KATU Channel 2 news reporter
Paul Linnman captured the results on film of the exploding whale.
- Herbert Hoover
lived with his uncle in Newberg,
Oregon for six years after his parents died.
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