Oregon Facts



Modified: 27 May 2022

Downtown of Portland, Oregon

Oregon lies on the West Coast of the USA, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and four other states. Oregon, established in 1859, is known for its wild west history and numerous natural wonders. In fact, the world’s largest living organism can be seen in this state! That bit of info probably is at the top of every single list of Oregon facts!

Located in the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon, armillaria ostoyae is an enormous piece of fungus. It is so big that scientists call it the Humongous Fungus!

But wait, there’s more! Did you know that many beloved brands keep their headquarters in Beaverton, Ohio? Adidas, Nike, and Intel all have headquarters in Ohio. To some, it may not look like it at first, but if you look through its history you will see that Oregon is one of the most radical states in America. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide, and a decade later, the recreational use of marijuana.

And in November 2020, it became the first US state to decriminalize hard drugs, allowing the people to live there to possess small amounts of heroin and cocaine. That’s just one of many Oregon Facts, with more to follow, as shown on this list of 60 Oregon Facts.

  1. Oregon covers a total area of 254,806 km² or 254,806 square kilometers.
  2. Water only makes up 6,177 km² or 6,177 square meters of that area, or 2%.
  3. The state has an average elevation of 1 kilometer above sea level.
  4. At its lowest point, the state actually lies at sea level, along its Pacific coast.
  5. An estimated 4.22 million people live in the state today.
  1. Archaeological evidence points to humans first arriving in Oregon around 15,000 BC.
  2. Humans first formed permanent settlements in Oregon around 8000 BC.
  3. European settlers began settling down in Oregon in the late 18th Century.
  4. The famed Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through Oregon from 1805 until 1806.
  5. Europeans made the first permanent settlement in Oregon in 1811.
  6. Mass settlements of the area began in 1842 via the famous Oregon Trail.
  7. The US Government officially established the Oregon Territory in 1848.
  8. Oregon finally became a US state in 1859.
  9. Oregon stayed loyal to the Union during the American Civil War.
  10. The late 19th century saw widespread development across the state.
  1. Oregon’s shipbuilding industry benefited heavily from the demand for ships in WWII.
  2. The state suffered heavily during the global oil crisis of 1973.
  3. Oregon became the first US state to legalize assisted suicide in 1994.
  4. The state later legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2014.
  5. The state falls in the GMT-8 time zone, except in summer when they apply daylight savings.
Table of Contents

The name Oregon has interesting stories behind it.

Rodrigo Montezuma used the Spanish word orejon or big ear to reference the Columbia River in his book, Relacion de la Alta y Baja California.

In particular, it references the earful quality of the Columbia River’s massive mouth system. The British later adapted orejon into ouragon, also to reference the Columbia River.

Ouragon, though, has a French connection, derived from the word ouragan, meaning hurricane. In that case, it references the powerful winds blowing along the lower reaches of the Columbia River. Both later evolved into the modern name Oregon. Another theory also roots the name in the herb oregano, which grew wild in the southern part of the region.

Mount Hood stands as the highest peak in Oregon.

mount hood, oregon
Image from Adobe Stock

With a height of 3.43 km, Mount Hood stands about 80 km southeast of Portland, on the border of the counties of Clackamas and Hood River. Not only does this make it the highest peak in Oregon, but it also makes Mount Hood the tallest out of the Cascade Range. The peak has 12 glaciers and snowfields, and the only year-round ski-lift system in all of North America.

Mount Hood has erupted several times in the past.

The mountain’s actually a volcano, one of many making up the Cascade Volcano Arc, a series of volcanoes formed due to subduction along the Cascadia subduction zone.

Volcanologists studying Mount Hood have found evidence of volcanic activity going back 15,000 years. Within those 15 years, three of the most recent eruptions took place within the last 1,800 years, with the most recent taking place in 1782.

Since then, Mount Hood has stayed quiet, but minor volcanic quakes occur with regularity. Also, vents near the summit constantly emit gases like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

This has led volcanologists to declare Mount Hood as the most likely Cascade volcano, or volcano along the Cascade Arc, to erupt in the near future. In fact, they estimate the chances of an eruption in the next 30 years to be between 3% and 7%.

A major earthquake once struck Oregon in 1700.

The momentous 1700 Cascadia Earthquake took place on January 26 of that year. The natural disaster resulted from a 20-meter slip in the Juan de Fuca plate, rupturing the ground over 1000 km from Vancouver Island to Northern California.

As only Native Americans lived in the region at the time, it’s unclear how the earthquake affected them. The earthquake did cause a tsunami, though, which scientists have confirmed as the one that devastated Japan‘s Iwate Prefecture in that same year.

The 1990 Mount St. Helens Eruption affected parts of Oregon.

Bend City in Oregon’s Deschutes County first felt Mount St. Helens’ eruption coupled with a terrible ashfall on March 27. That happened, even though the city stood around 460 kilometers south of the volcano. The amount of ash coming from the volcano falling across the state eventually caused the Columbia River to grow shallower.

In fact, its depth decreased by 8 meters, leaving the river impassable to oceangoing ships. This proved costly for Portland’s economy, costing the city an estimated $5 million.

Several other peaks of the Cascade Volcanoes stand in Oregon.

There’s the Lava Butte in Central Oregon, between the towns of Bend, Oregon, and Sunriver, which last erupted 7,000 years ago. There’s also Broken Top, North Sister, and South Sister, which together make up the Three Sisters volcanoes of Central Oregon. These are just four out of many other volcanoes that stand proudly in the state of Oregon.

The Columbia River flows along much of Oregon’s northern border.

The river actually starts in Canada‘s British Columbia region, before looping northwest and then south, flowing into Washington state. Then it flows west, along the border of Washington and Oregon, before finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

The river’s total length measures an estimated 2,000 kilometers and carries on average an estimated 7,500 cubic meters of water every second.

The Snake River also flows along much of Oregon’s eastern border.

It’s also the Columbia River’s biggest tributary, adding an average estimate of 1,600 cubic meters of water every second to the Columbia River. The Snake River starts out in Western Wyoming, then flows through Southern Idaho, and then along Oregon’s eastern border. It also runs through Washington state, finally emptying into the Columbia River in the state’s Tri-Cities region.

Both Oregon and Montana claim to have the shortest river in the world.

For Oregon, it’s the D River, which has a length of only 130 meters. Guinness World Records once declared it the world’s shortest river, but the title was transferred to Montana‘s Roe River in 1989, as the river only has a length of 61 meters. This led to tension between the two states, and to avoid things blowing up, Guinness removed the category in 2006. Talk about competitive examples of Oregon Facts.

Oregon does have the world’s smallest park, though.

Oregon Facts, Mill Ends Park
Photo by atul666 from Wikipedia

That honor goes to Portland’s Mill Ends Park, with an area of only 0.29 m². Basically, the park’s only big enough for a single tree, in the median strip of the city’s SW Naito Parkway. The site originally had a light pole in 1948, but it failed to work, and instead, weeds began to grow on the spot. Columnist Dick Fagan began tending flowers on the site and gave it the name of Mill Ends after his column in the Oregon Journal. Urban legend claims Fagan did so at the request of leprechauns who threatened to curse anyone (apart from Fagan) who tries to build anything within their territory. In any case, Mill Ends officially became a park in 1976, with a dedication to Saint Patrick.

Oregon’s only national park has the deepest lake in the USA.

Specifically, it’s the Crater Lake National Park, founded in 1902 and located in the south of the state. The name comes from Crater Lake, the body of water filling all that’s left of Mount Mazama, a volcano that destroyed itself in an eruption 7,700 years ago.

With a depth of 594 meters, Crater Lake isn’t just the USA’s deepest, it is also the second deepest in North America. No rivers or streams feed the lake, which depends on rain and snow to keep its water level stable.

On a related note, volcanologists warn that Mount Mazama itself remains only dormant, and small eruptions may happen in the future. This leaves the long-term future of Crater Lake and the surrounding park uncertain.

Oregon also has a rich biodiversity.

Forests cover 60% of the state, with forests covering up to 80% of the landscape west of the Cascades. Tree species include the Douglas fir, hemlock, redwood, ponderosa pine, and western red cedar among others. Many mammal species live in the state, such as badgers, bats, black bears, foxes, rabbits, skunks, with wolves among the most common.

Off the coast, marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins, blue whales, humpback whales, killer whales, seals, and sea lions thrive in the warm Pacific waters. Many birds also roam the skies of Oregon, such as great blue herons, mallard ducks, and rufous hummingbirds among others.

Oregon also has the world’s biggest fungus.

You can find it in the Malheur National Forest, located in Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. The fungus belongs to the Armillaria ostoyae species, and lives underground, growing over an area covering an estimated 3.4 square miles. This not only makes this fungus the biggest of its kind, but it also makes it the biggest living thing in the whole world.

The state has a varied climate.

Western Oregon enjoys an oceanic climate, thanks to the warm and humid air brought by the Pacific Ocean. This gives the area wet winters, with springs and autumns varying from moderate to very heavy precipitation, but also dry summers.

The southwest of the state enjoys a Mediterranean climate, something it shares with Northern California. The state’s northeast has a steppe climate, however, and the rest of Eastern Oregon has a high desert climate.

This divide in the state’s climate results from the Cascades splitting the state, which also keeps the Pacific’s warmth and moisture from reaching the east.

Oregon suffered from major floods at the end of the last Ice Age.

During the final days of the Ice Age, Oregon’s Willamette Valley region suffered heavy flooding, with evidence suggesting depths of well over 100 meters.

Scientists studying the time period point to the collapse of glaciers as the cause of the floods. Those glaciers held back the waters of the prehistoric Lake Missoula, which covers modern Montana. When the glaciers melted, the waters formed to waves of Biblical proportions.

Many Native American tribes were living in the area by the time the Europeans arrived.

The tribes populating Oregon before the arrival of Europeans include the Bannock, Chasta, Chinook, Coquille, and Kalapuya peoples. Other Native Americans living in the region include the Klamath, and Klickitat peoples.

The Spaniards and the British visited Oregon several times between the 16th and the 18th centuries.

Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo passed by Oregon’s Southern Coast in 1543. Sir Francis Drake also passed by Oregon in 1579, during his expedition around the world.

In 1603, Martin de Aguilar explored Cape Blanco and Coos Bay. Juan Hernandez explored the coast thoroughly in 1774, with the goal of charting a shipping lane to Asia. The famed British explorer James Cook also passed by Oregon in 1778.

The fur trade drove the initial development of the region.

British explorer David Thompson explored the Columbia River in 1811 and publicized the many furry animals in the region. John Astor also founded Fort Astoria that year, which he turned into an outpost for his Pacific Fur Company to operate from.

The British took control of the company’s fur trading outposts in the War of 1812, and by the 1830s, the British Hudson’s Bay Company dominated the entire Pacific Northwest.

Various nations contested Oregon’s territory during the 19th century.

Oregon Facts, Kaiser Wilhelm I
Photo by Wilhelm Kuntzemuller from Wikipedia

Britain, Russia, Spain, and the United States of America all contested control of modern Oregon over the course of the 19th century. Spain dropped their claim in 1819, after the signing of the Adam-Onis Treaty that year. Russia also dropped its claims in the 1820s, when the Russo-American Treaty of 1824 and the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1825 were finally signed.

Britain and the United States continued to compete over the region for decades, but largely resolved their differences in the 1846 Oregon Treaty. The remaining issues finally became resolved in 1872, thanks to a neutral mediation by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.

Oregon has a diverse history when it comes to race relations.

It started in 1844, with the Black Exclusion Law that barred African-Americans from entering Oregon while simultaneously abolishing slavery. Any African-Americans in Oregon had to leave, while slave owners had three years to free all their slaves.

African-Americans who refused to leave the state were lashed 39 times as punishment. It took until 1926 for this law, and others like it, to finally get abolished.

Similarly, the Donation Land Claim of 1850 led to the forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations across the state. A harrowing, but true example of Oregon facts.

Oregon has seven Native American reservations.

Harney County has the Burns Paiute Indian Colony, home to the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians all live in the reservation of the same name. The Coquille Reservation houses the Coquille Tribe, as does the Grand Ronde Community for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.

Then there’s the Siletz Reservation for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, and the Umatilla Reservation, for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Finally, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs live in the Warm Springs Reservation.

Celilo Village also stands in Oregon.

Technically, the village isn’t a reservation and just held in trust by the United States government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. The village sees people mingling from the Columbia River Indians, the Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes.

A Native American tribe from Nevada actually has its reservation on top of Oregon’s southern border.

This is the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, located in Nevada’s Humboldt County, and Oregon’s Malheur County. The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes inhabit this reservation.

More reservations used to exist in Oregon.

There’s the former Coastal Indian Reservation, originally established in 1855 for the coastal Indian tribes. The modern Siletz Reservation is actually a remnant of the older reservation. Other former reservations in Oregon include the Malheur Reservation and the Table Rock Indian Reservation.

A Japanese balloon bomb once exploded in Oregon during WWII.

Towards the end of the war, the Japanese became increasingly desperate to strike back against the USA. An idea they came up with involved using unmanned balloons to carry bombs to the enemy country.

Only one succeeded in reaching the USA, whose explosive payload detonated on Oregon’s Gearhart Mountain near Bly. Six people died, the only Americans to ever die on American soil from a balloon bomb in WWII.

Oregon has a solid agricultural sector.

Blueberries make up a large part of the state’s agricultural produce, with Oregon producing 45,000 tons of blueberries in 2016 alone. Hazelnuts also count among Oregon’s agricultural produce, with the state producing an estimated 95% of all hazelnuts in the USA. Other major produce includes grapes, Oregon grapes are virtually the same as those found in the French regions of Alsace and Burgundy.

The lumber industry once dominated Oregon’s economy.

In recent decades, forest fires, overharvesting, and even legal action over management issues have caused the state’s lumber industry to contract. While lumber production in private lands has remained constant, lumber production in public land dropped by 90% between 1989 and 2011.

That said, Oregon still dominates the USA’s softwood production, with an estimated 9.76 million cubic meters of softwood produced in 2011 alone.

Fishing makes up a large part of the state’s economy today.

Oregon’s salmon industry remains one of the biggest in the world. In recent years, however, the growth of ocean fishing has caused a drop in the salmon sector of the economy. That said, it still continues to contribute greatly to the state’s economy.

Tourism is a big factor to the state’s flourishing economy.

Tourists primarily come to the state to experience Oregon’s natural wonders. The most famous tourist spots include the Deschutes River, the Multnomah Falls, the Painted Hills, and the Oregon Caves.

The city of Portland is brimming with tourist attractions.

Oregon Facts, Portland
Photo by Truflip99 from Wikipedia

If you’re dropping by the vibrant city of Portland, make sure to see the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Oregon Zoo, and the Portland Art Museum. Portland also has the International Rose Test Garden. When it comes to street food, Portland is the city to go to as it’s known to be the best city in the world when it comes to outdoor delicacies. The city also has many breweries, in fact, it has the most breweries out of any city on Earth.

The Oregon coast also draws plenty of tourists.

Newport’s Oregon Coast Aquarium, in particular, covers an area of 93,000 square meters. It also has the distinction of being the former home of Keiko the whale, who starred in the 1993 film, Free Willy. Florence also has the Sea Lion Caves, the largest sea cave system in the USA, while Warrenton’s Fort Clatsop has a replica of American explorers Lewis and Clark’s encampment.

Several films have the distinction of getting shot in Oregon.

We’ve already mentioned Free Willy, but did you know that there are other films set in Oregon? Classics like Animal House and Kindergarten Cop are set and filmed in the state. Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, came from Portland and included various references from his home city in the series.

Oregon also has a solid technology industry.

Tektronix began the trend in the 1970s, and as it began falling behind in the 1980s, Intel took the lead. Today, Intel operates four massive complexes in Oregon’s Hillsboro city. The various start-ups and other enterprises that sprang up around Tektronix and Intel led to the birth of Silicon Forest, located between Beaverton and Hillsboro.

Though the dot-com bust of 2004 hit Silicon Forest hard, the tech cluster has long since bounced back. In that same year, Linux kernel’s creator, Linus Torvalds, started working for Open Source Development Labs in Silicon Forest.

In 2010, Genentech opened a new $400 million biotechnology research facility in Silicon Forest. Amazon, Facebook, and Google all also operate facilities in Silicon Forest.

Many companies keep their headquarters in Oregon.

Nike, for starters, keeps their headquarters in Beaverton City, and with an annual income of $30.6 billion, makes up the state’s biggest corporation. Adidas also has its American headquarters in Portland, while Intel keeps its headquarters at Hillsboro.

Oregon’s politics reflect the country’s geographical divide.

The polls show that Western Oregon favors liberal policies, while Eastern Oregon favors conservative policies. This led to Democrats winning votes in the west and Republicans gaining favor in the east.

That said, Oregon’s demographics mean that Western Oregon effectively keeps the state as a Democratic stronghold. Another strange, but true example of interesting Oregon Facts.

The state has a solid educational system.

The state has no less than 197 public school districts, servicing an estimated 567,000 students on average. Statistics also estimate that up to 90.5% of Oregon’s high school students graduate, well above the USA’s national average of 88.3% of high school students that actually graduate.

It also has plenty of choices for college-level education.

Some of the best choices for upcoming college students include the Portland State University, the Oregon State University, and the University of Oregon, which are all competitive public research universities. There also are the Eastern, Southern, and Western Oregon Universities that students could consider for their education.

Oregon has three major professional sports teams.

The prized sports teams of Oregon all hail from Portland, with the Portland Timbers representing the city in Major League Soccer. The Portland Thorns represent the city in the National Women’s Soccer League and the Portland Trail Blazers do the same in the NBA.

Various cities also participate in minor-league baseball.

Minor-league baseball is also hot in Oregon, with the Eugene Emeralds, from the city of the same name, leading the state’s sports industry. Keizer has the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, sharing the team with the bigger city, and the county capital of Salem. There’s also the Hillsboro Hops, also from the city of the same name.

Oregon left its mark on international relations.

Oregon Facts, Toyama City in Toyama Prefecture
Photo by 名古屋太郎 from Wikipedia

The state counts places in five other countries as its “sister” regions. These include Iraq’s Iraqi Kurdistan, Japan’s Toyama Prefecture, and South Korea’s Jeollanam-do Province. Taiwan, as a whole, counts as Oregon’s sister domain. In China, Fujian Province is treated as Oregon’s sister region.