The Beaver State

Where is it?

State Flag




Pacific Northwest
Geographic coordinates:
42°N to 46°15'N
116°45'W to 124°30'W
total: 98,386 sq mi
land: 96,003 sq mi
water: 2,383 sq mi
coastline: 296 mi
shoreline: 1,410 mi
Bordering States:
California, Idaho, Nevada, Washington
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Mount Hood 11,239 ft
Oregon's geography may be split roughly into six areas: the Coast Range, the Willamette Valley, the Cascade Mountains the Klamath Mountains, the Columbia River Plateau, and the Basin and Range Region. The state varies from rainforest in the Coast Range to barren desert in the southeast, which still meets the technical definition of a frontier.

Oregon is 295 miles (475 km) north to south at longest distance, and 395 miles (636 km) east to west at longest distance. In terms of land and water area, Oregon is the ninth largest state, covering 97,073 square miles (251,418 km²). Its highest point is the summit of Mount Hood, at 11,239 feet (3,428 m), and its lowest point is sea level of the Pacific Ocean. Its mean elevation is 3,300 feet (1,006 m).

Crater Lake National Park is the state's only national park, and the site of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet (592 m). Similar federally owned, protected recreation areas that are entirely in Oregon include: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and Oregon Caves National Monument. Areas that are partly in Oregon and partly in neighboring states include the California National Historic Trail, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, the Nez Perce National Historical Park, and the Oregon National Historic Trail.




3,970,239 (2014)
Largest City:
Portland: 583,778 (2010)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.3%
<18 years old: 23.7%
65 years and over: 12.8%
Male: 49.7% Female: 50.3%
Population growth rate:
6.4% (2000-2005)
Population density:
35.6 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 82.0%
Hispanic: 9.5%
Black: 1.8%
Asian: 3.4%
Native American: 2.3%
Multi-Race: 4.0%
Christian: 75%
Other: 1%
Non-Religious: 24%




Oregon's earliest 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 traveled 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 the United Kingdom's David Thompson (1811) publicized the abundance of fur-bearing animals in the area. In 1811, New York financier John Jacob Astor established Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River as a western outpost to his Pacific Fur Company. 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.

In 1841, the master trapper and entrepreneur Ewing Young died with considerable wealth, with no apparent heir, and no system to probate his estate. A meeting followed Young's funeral at which a probate government was proposed. Doctor Ira Babcock of Jason Lee's Methodist Mission was elected Supreme Judge. Babcock chaired two meetings in 1842 at Champoeg—half way between Lee's mission and Oregon City—to discuss wolves and other animals considered troublesome at the time. These meetings were precursors to an all-citizen meeting in 1843, which instituted a provisional government headed by an executive council made up of David Hill, Alanson Beers, and Joseph Gale. This government was first of several acting governments of the Oregon Country (also referred to as the Republic of Oregon) prior to American annexation.

The Oregon Trail infused the region with new settlers, starting in 1842–43, after the United States agreed to jointly settle the Oregon Country with the United Kingdom. The border was resolved in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty after a period during which it seemed that the United States and the United Kingdom would go to war for a third time in 75 years. Cooler heads prevailed, and the Oregon boundary dispute between the United States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848. Settlement increased 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.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, regular U.S. troops were withdrawn and sent east. Volunteer cavalry were recruited in California and were sent north to Oregon to keep peace and protect the populace. The First Oregon Cavalry served until June 1865.

In the 1880s, railroads enabled marketing of the state's lumber and wheat, as well as the more rapid growth of its cities.

Industrial expansion began in earnest following the construction of the Bonneville Dam in 1943 on the Columbia River. The power, food, and lumber provided by Oregon helped fuel the development of the west, although the periodic fluctuations in the nation's building industry have 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, social progressivism vs. small-government conservatism, 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. (See: State of Jefferson, State of Klamath, State of Shasta and Cascadia.) Oregon state ballots often include politically conservative proposals (e.g. anti-gay, pro-religious measures) side-by-side with politically liberal ones (e.g. drug decriminalization), illustrating the wide spectrum of political thought in the state.




February 14, 1859 (33rd State)
State Tree:
Douglas Fir
State Bird:
Western Meadowlark
State Flower:
Oregon Grape
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 bicameral Oregon Legislative Assembly), an executive department which includes an "administrative department" and Oregon's governor serving as chief executive, and a judicial department, headed by the Oregon Supreme Court.

Governors in Oregon serve four-year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms, but an unlimited number of total terms. The Secretary of State serves as Lieutenant Governor for statutory purposes. The other constitutional officers are Treasurer, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Labor Commissioner. The Oregon Legislative Assembly consists of a thirty-member State Senate and sixty-member House. Senators serve four-year terms, and Representatives two. The state supreme court has seven elected justices, including the only openly gay state supreme court justice in the nation, Rives Kistler. 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.

Oregon is one of the few states whose legislature is biennial. The debate over whether to move to annual sessions is a long-standing battle in Oregon politics, but the voters have resisted the move from citizen legislators to professional lawmakers. Because Oregon's state budget is written in two year increments and, having no sales tax, its revenue is based largely on income taxes, it is often significantly over- or under-budget. Recent legislatures have had to be called into special session repeatedly to address revenue shortfalls resulting from economic downturns, bringing to a head the need for more frequent legislative sessions. State legislators are personally liable for any deficit.




The Willamette Valley is very fertile and, coupled with Oregon's famous rain, gives the state a wealth of agricultural products, including cattle, dairy products, potatoes, peppermint, hops and apples and other fruits. 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 in 2005 had the thrid most wineries in the U.S. with 303. Due to regional similarities of climate and soil, the grapes planted in Oregon are often the same varieties found in the French regions of Alsace and Burgundy.

Vast forests have historically made Oregon one of the nation's major timber production and logging states, but forest fires (such as the Tillamook Burn), over-harvesting, and lawsuits 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. Even the shift in recent years towards finished goods such as paper and building materials has not slowed the decline of the timber industry. Examples include Weyerhaeuser's acquisition of Willamette Industries in January, 2002, the announcement by Louisiana Pacific in September, 2003 that they will relocate their corporate headquarters from Portland to Nashville, and the experiences of small lumber towns like Gilchrist. Despite these changes, Oregon still leads the United States in softwood lumber production; in 2001 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. The effect of the forest industry crunch is still extensive unemployment in rural Oregon and is a bone of contention between rural and urban Oregon.

Oregon is a popular location for shooting movies and television commercials. Movies wholly or partially filmed in Oregon include The Goonies, National Lampoon's Animal House, Stand By Me, Kindergarten Cop, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Paint Your Wagon, The Hunted, Sometimes a Great Notion, Elephant, Bandits, The Ring 2, Short Circuit, Come See the Paradise, The Shining, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and The Postman. Oregon native Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has incorporated many references from his hometown of Portland into the TV series.

Oregon's scenic coastal and mountain highways are frequently seen in automobile commercials.