This article is about the state; there are other places named Oregon.
Oregon is a state located in the western United States bordering the Pacific Ocean, California, Washington, Idaho, 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 rain, but only the western half of the state is notably rainy; east of the Cascades the climate is much more arid.
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.
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 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. wrested control of the Oregon Country from the United Kingdom. A popular slogan among the Democrats who wanted the Pacific territory as far north as latitude 54°40′ was "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight." This confrontation 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. 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.
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.
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 have helped fuel the development of the west, and the periodic fluctuations in the nation's building industry has severely impacted 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). State ballots frequently illustrate the extremes of the political spectrum - anti-gay, pro-religious measures on the same ballot as liberal drug decriminalization measures.
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 English Crown. 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:
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 use.
Oregon's geography may be split roughly into six areas:
The state is about 580 km (360 miles) long and 420 km (261 miles) wide. Oregon is the ninth largest state, covering 254,819 km˛ (98,386 square miles).
Law and government
Governors in Oregon serve four-year terms. The Oregon Legislature consists of a thirty-member Senate and sixty-member House. Senators serve four-year terms, and Representatives two.
Oregon adopted 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.
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:
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. 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 (when 4,333 million board feet was harvested) to 173 million board feet 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 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, according to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, 6,056 million board feet was produced in Oregon, against 4,5257 mbf. in Washington, 2,731 in California, 2,413 in Georgia and 2,327 in Mississippi.
High technology 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 dotcom 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.
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 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.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, Oregon's population was estimated at 3,559,596 people.
The racial makeup of the state is:
Oregon has the lowest church membership in the nation. While some parts of the USA boast church membership rates as high as 80 percent, it runs only about 12 percent in Oregon.
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.
Estimates 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.
Major cities and towns
Oregon City was the first incorporated city west of the Mississippi River and later, the first capital of the Oregon Territory, from 1848 to 1852, when the territory capitol 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 volumes.
Colleges and universities
Professional sports teams
Portland is under consideration to be the home of a major league baseball team.