Where in the World?


Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the lower 48 United States. It is the 9th largest state in the USA. The area was inhabited by many indigenous tribes before the arrival of traders, explorers and settlers. The Oregon Territory was created in 1848 after American settlement began in earnest in the 1840s. Oregon became a state (33rd) on February 14, 1859. Oregon is located on the Pacific coast between Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern boundaries respectively. Salem is the state's third most populous city and the state capital. Portland is the most populous city in Oregon. Portland is currently the 30th largest U.S. city with a population of 575,930 (2008 estimate) and a metro population of 2,175,133 (2007 estimate), which makes it the 23rd largest U.S. metro area.

What's It Like?

Oregon has a fantastically diverse landscape including 584km of wave washed Pacific coastline, the multiple volcanoes of a rugged and glaciated Cascade Mountain Range, dense evergreen temperate rainforests and pine forests, and high desert across much of the eastern portion of the state. The towering Douglas firs and redwoods along the rainy Western Oregon coast provide a dramatic contrast with the lower density and fire prone pine tree and juniper forests covering portions of the Eastern half of the state.

The eastern portion of the state is high desert, much of it over 1,000m above sea-level. Oregon’s high desert includes semiarid scrublands, prairies, deserts, and meadows. These drier areas stretch east from Central Oregon. Mount Hood is the highest point in the state at 3,425 m above sea-level. Crater Lake National Park is the only National Park in Oregon. Oregon is the United States’ leader in forest fires; in 2007 Oregon had over 1,000 forest fires.

Oregon also has the second highest continuously flowing waterfall in the US – Multnomah Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The total height of the waterfall is 189m.

Oregon's geography may be split roughly into seven areas:

    * Oregon Coast—west of the Coast Range
    * Willamette Valley
    * Rogue Valley
    * Cascade Mountains
    * Klamath Mountains
    * Columbia River Plateau
    * Basin and Range Region

What Creatures Live There?

Because Oregon has so many different environments for plants and animals the state holds incredible biodiversity. Many species of marine mammals and birds can be found along the Pacific Coast: northern fur seals, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and California grey whales migrate just off shore. December through early February finds whales on their annual 10,000km journey in the Pacific Ocean from the Arctic to the warm waters of Baja California in Mexico. Then, during March through October, the whales return north with their calves. The Oregon Coast also shares the Pacific Flyway which is an important migration route for birds

In the wet Western forests and valleys and in the Cascade Mountains white-tail deer, American beaver, river otters, black bear, cougars, and Roosevelt elk, or Wapati, can be found. Forests are also home to the endangered spotted owl and rare mountain beaver.

The dry Eastern high desert is home to species most people think of when they say “Wild West”. These animals include herds of pronghorn antelope, wild horses, golden eagles, jack rabbits, coyotes, burrowing owls and badgers.

The national symbol, the bald eagle, is found all over Oregon, especially where water is available.

Fish are a key part of all Oregon environments, especially salmon, which provide food for many species of wildlife like bear, osprey and bald eagles as well as native people and commercial fishermen.

Making A Living

The valley of the Willamette River in western Oregon is the most densely populated and agriculturally productive region of the state and is home to eight of the ten most populous cities. Oregon's population in 2006 was about 3.7 million. Oregon's largest for-profit private employer is Intel, located in the Silicon Forest area on Portland's west side.

In the 20th Century most Oregonians made their living by fishing, farming, cattle ranching or in the timber industry.  Agriculture continues to be important to the state’s economy.  In fact, Oregon is the largest grower of grass seed. In the 1980’s Oregon’s network of rivers and abundant water helped other industries develop.  These industries included computer chip manufacturing, hydro-electric power from dams, followed by software firms, high tech designers, and advertising companies.  One of the most interesting companies that started in Oregon was Nike, the sports shoe maker.

Oregon FastFACTS


Capital: Salem
State Animal: American Beaver
State Bird: Western meadowlark
State Fish: Chinook salmon
State Insect: Oregon swallowtail butterfly
State Flower: Oregon grape
State Tree: Douglas fir
Nickname: the beaver state
Land Area: 248,631 sq km
Population: 3,700,758 (census 2006)
Counties: 36
Highest Point: Mt. Hood at 3,425 m
Lowest Point: Pacific Ocean at Sea Level
Major Water Feature: Columbia River, Willamette River, Crater Lake, Klamath Lake

Main Economic Resources: timber, fishing, cattle farming, wheat, wine grapes, potatoes, garden plants (nursery plants), Christmas trees, pears, hydro-electric and wind power, high technology and electronics, sport shoe design