Oregon is a U.S. state located in the Pacific Northwest region in the Western United States. Oregon’s northern border with Washington is marked by the Columbia River, while the Snake River marks its eastern border with Idaho. The 42° north parallel separates California and Nevada.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT OREGON
- Capital City: Salem
- Largest City: Portland
- Nickname: The Beaver State
- Statehood: February 14, 1859; 33rd state
- Population (as of 2020): 4,237,256
- Abbreviation: OR
- State bird: western meadowlark
- State flower: Oregon grape
- Total Size Of The State: 98,381 sq mi (254,806 km2)
Archaeologists were convinced by a small, prehistoric stone knife found in 2012 that people have lived in Oregon for at least 15,000 years. Many Native American tribes, including Paiutes, Nez Perces, Shastas, Tillamooks, Chinooks, and others, lived on the land much later. The Europeans arrived around 1500. Spain and Great Britain claimed the region as their own when they reached it.
During the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the United States bought an enormous swath of land. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were sent by Thomas Jefferson a year after the newly purchased territory was acquired to map the land beyond, which included the area that is now Oregon.
Over 2,000 miles of wagon roads led American settlers to Oregon in the 1840s. Eventually, so many Americans came here that Europeans gave up their claim to the land, and Oregon became the 33rd state in 1859. (Ruts left by wagon wheels can still be seen on the earth today.)
Why Does It Have That Name?
Experts debate the origins of Oregon’s name. Several theories exist. Some think it came from the French word ouragan, which means “hurricane,” a term used by French explorers to describe a windy state area. On the other hand, it may have originated from the Chinook word oolighan, a fish the Native Americans ate.
Because early settlers hunted these animals for fur, Oregon became known as the Beaver State.
Geographic Features and Landforms
Washington borders Oregon to the north, Idaho to the east, Nevada to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Six types of terrain can be found in the area, including lowlands, plateaus, and mountains.
Located almost exclusively in the state’s eastern half, the Columbia Plateau is Oregon’s most prominent geographical region. There is a deep gorge called Hells Canyon, the deepest in North America. Almost five Eiffel Towers stacked could fit inside the canyon, which is about 5,500 feet deep.
The Basin and Range Region, located south of the Columbia Plateau, is primarily semi-arid but contains a few steep mountains.
Major highs and lows in the Cascade Mountains run north to south through the state. At 11,245 feet, Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest point, and Crater Lake, America’s deepest lake, has a depth of 1,943 feet.
This narrow, fertile northwest region is known as the Willamette Lowland.
Low, forest-covered mountains, small lakes, and cliffs follow the Pacific coast in the Coast Range in the west.
Southwest of Oregon is the rugged, forested Klamath Mountains. There is the national monument Oregon Caves here.
The Natural World
Oregon’s state animal, the beaver, was once hunted for its fur. So, in addition to Roosevelt elk and gray wolves, there are also wolverines in the area. Also, burrowing owls, sage grouse, snowy plovers, and ospreys can be seen in Oregon.
It is also home to reptiles like the western pond turtle and the Oregon alligator lizard. Amphibians include spotted frogs, Pacific giant salamanders, and coastal-tailed frogs.
Douglas firs (Oregon’s state tree) are Oregon’s most common trees. However, Oregon also has hemlocks, red alders, bigleaf maples, and ponderosa pines. In addition, Oregon is home to wildflowers such as creeping Oregon grape, sticky purple geranium, white mule’s ears, and heal-all (sometimes used to treat sore throats).
The state of Oregon produces the most softwood lumber in the United States. The state gem, sunstone, is also mined here, along with opal, jade, and agate.
Some Fun Facts About Oregon
- Three Nobel Prize winners, including Linus Pauling and Beverly Cleary, lived in Oregon.
- The depth of Crater Lake is 1,943 feet, making it the deepest lake in the United States.
- Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon, has the only BigFoot trap in the world. It is thought that this creature does exist, though most people don’t believe it.
- In Oregon’s coastal sea caves and caverns, Steller sea lions can be found year-round.
- In sports, the state is home to the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers.