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Oregon is a state of the northwest United States in the Pacific Northwest. It was admitted as the 33rd state in 1859. Claimed by the United States after Capt. Robert Gray explored the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792, the area was further explored by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and was soon the site of fur-trading posts. The Oregon Country, a region encompassing all the land from the California border to Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, was held jointly by Great Britain and the United States from 1818 until 1846, when the international boundary was fixed at the 49th parallel. In 1848 the Oregon Territory was created, including all of present-day Washington and Idaho. The state's current boundaries were established in 1853. Salem is the capital and Portland the largest city. Population: 3,640,000.
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Early Exploration and Fur Trading
Initial European interest in the region was aroused by the search for the Northwest Passage. Spanish seamen skirted the Pacific coast from the 16th to the 18th cent., hoping to claim the area. The English may first have arrived in the person of Sir Francis Drake, who sailed along the coast in 1579, possibly as far as Oregon.
Two centuries later, in 1778, Capt. James Cook, seeking the award of £20,000 for the discovery of the Northwest Passage, charted some of the coastline. By this time the Russians were pushing southward from posts in Alaska and the British fur companies were exploring the West. Oregon's furs promised to become an important factor in the rapidly expanding China trade, and the Oregon coast was soon active with the vessels of several nations engaged in fur trade with the Native Americans. British captains, among them John Meares and George Vancouver, made the coastal area known, but it was an American, Robert Gray, who first sailed up the Columbia River (1792), thus establishing U.S. claim to the areas that it drained.
Canadian traders of the North West Company were approaching the Columbia River country when the overland Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in 1805. David Thompson was already making his way to the lower river when John Jacob Astor's agents (in the Pacific Fur Company) founded Astoria, the first permanent settlement in the Oregon country. In the War of 1812 the post was sold (1813) to the North West Company, but in 1818 a treaty provided for 10 years of joint rights for the United States and Great Britain in Oregon (i.e., the whole Columbia River area). This agreement was later extended. The North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, and soon the region was dominated by John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver.
Settlement and Statehood
In 1842 and 1843 enormous wagon trains began the great migration westward over the Oregon Trail. Trouble between the settlers and the British followed. The Americans set out to form their own government, and demanded the British be removed from the whole of the Columbia River country up to lat. 54°40′N; one of the slogans of the 1844 election was Fifty-four forty or fight. War with Britain was a threat momentarily, but diplomacy prevailed. In 1846 the boundary was set at the line of lat. 49°N, but disagreements over the interpretation of the 1846 treaty were not successfully arbitrated until 1872.
Two years later the Oregon Territory was created, embracing the area W of the Rockies from the 42d to the 49th parallel. The area was reduced with the creation of the Washington Territory in 1853, and Oregon became a state in 1859 with a constitution that prohibited slaveholding but also forbade free blacks from entering the state. Although the California gold rush caused a temporary exodus of settlers, it also brought a new market for Oregon's goods, and the Oregon gold strike that followed attracted some permanent settlement to the eastern hills and valleys.
Wheat farming prospered and in 1867–68 a surplus crop was shipped to England—the beginning of Oregon's great wheat export trade. Cattle and sheep were driven up from California to graze on the tallgrass of the semiarid plateaus, and soon cattle barons, such as Henry Miller, acquired huge herds. They dominated the industry until the late 19th cent., when sheepmen and homesteaders succeeded in reducing the cattle range. The 1850s, 60s, and 70s were plagued by Native American uprisings, but by 1880 troubles with the Native American were over, and the next few decades brought increasing settlement and internal improvements.
Railroads and Industrialization
During the 1880s, and largely under the management of Henry Villard of the Northern Pacific RR, transcontinental rail lines were completed to the coast and down the Willamette Valley into California, bringing new trade and stimulating the beginnings of manufacture. Lumbering, which had long been important, became a leading industry. Seemingly overnight logging camps and sawmills were built in the western foothills. The huge stands of Douglas fir and cedar brought fortunes to the lumbering kings, but the threat to natural resources led ultimately to the creation of national forests.
By the time of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition at Portland in 1905, less than 50 years after statehood had been gained, the frontier era had passed. Most of the feuding on the eastern plateaus was over, and cattle and sheep grazed peacefully on fenced-in ranges. In spring the Willamette Valley was abloom with fruit blossoms, and the river cities were busy with trade and industry.
Reform Movements and Environmental Issues
Oregon has been a leader in social, environmental, and political reforms. It was the first state, for example, to institute initiative, referendum, and recall; to ease the laws governing the use of marijuana; and to initiate a ban against nonrecyclable containers. Several issues have sharply divided conservatives and liberals; one of the most important has been the question of minority groups. In the 1880s the influx of Chinese threatened the labor market and brought violent anti-Chinese sentiment, and in the 20th cent. there was opposition to the Japanese. Feeling against minorities has never been statewide, however, and large groups have vigorously opposed it.
In the 1930s one of the most disputed issues was the question of whether the development of power should be public or private. Today, however, it is widely recognized that the federal power and irrigation projects have had a profoundly positive effect on the economy of the entire Pacific Northwest. Many acres have been opened to irrigated farming, and the tremendous industrial expansion of World War II was to a large extent dependent on Bonneville power.
Environmental issues have dominated Oregon politics since the 1970s. Controversy arose in the late 1980s over the spotted owl, which has become endangered as old-growth forest has been cut down. Restrictions on logging on public lands were initiated in 1991, and attempts to establish forest policies acceptable to both environmentalists and the timber industry bogged down as other species were also shown to be in danger. There also is concern that the state's numerous hydroelectric dams are disrupting the migratory cycle of Pacific salmon.
- Oregon's state flag pictures a beaver on its reverse side. It is the only state flag to carry two separate designs.
- Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state.
- The Columbia River gorge is considered by many to be the best place in the world for windsurfing.
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is formed in the remains of an ancient volcano.
- Oregon and New Jersey are the only states without self-serve gas stations.
- Eugene was the first city to have one-way streets.
- Pilot Butte, a cinder cone volcano, exists within the city limits of Bend.
- At 329 feet the Coast Douglas-Fir in Oregon is considered the tallest tree in the state.
- At 8,000 feet deep Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America.
- The hazelnut is Oregon's official state nut. Oregon is the only state that has an official state nut. The hazelnut is also known as the filbert.
- Oregon's state birthday is on February 14, Valentine's Day.
- The "Oregon Pioneer" statue that tops the capitol building is a work by Ulric Ellerhusen. This heroic figure represents the spirit of Oregon's early settlers.
- The state park system has 159 yurts located in 19 parks. Yurts are a circular domed tent suitable for camping.
- Navy blue and gold are Oregon's official state colors.
- The Chinook salmon is Oregon's official state fish.
- The Willamette River was discovered in 1792.
- In 1858 the richest gold find in the Cascade Mountains was discovered in the Bohemia Mining District at Sharp's Creek near Cottage Grove.
- Dorris Ranch in Springfield became the first commercial filbert orchard in the state.
- In 1876 the University of Oregon opened in Eugene. Deady Hall was the first building on campus and still exists.
- In 1880 a sea cave was discovered near what is now known as Florence. Sea Lion Caves is known to be the largest sea cave in the world.
- The nation's most photographed lighthouse is the Heceta Head Lighthouse located in Lane County.
- Darlingtonia Wayside is Oregon's only rare plant sanctuary.
- Oregon's second highest waterfall is Salt Creek Falls in the Cascade Mountain range. It drops 286 feet.
- The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is one of the largest long-term ecological research sites in the United States.
- Eugene is rated by "Bicycling Magazine" as one of the top ten cycling communities in the United States.
- There are nine lighthouses standing along the coastline. Five are still being used; the others are designated historic monuments.
- Portland is considered an example of outstanding urban planning. The city is known as The City of Roses.
- High above the city of Portland the International Rose Test Garden features more than 500 varieties of roses cultivated continuously since 1917.
- At 11,239 feet Mount Hood stands as the tallest peak in Oregon. Mount Hood is a dormant volcano.
- Silver Falls State Park is the Oregon's largest state park. It features 10 waterfalls and contains a wide variety of forested hiking trails.
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. It was formed more than 6,500 years ago. Its crystal-blue waters are world renowned.
- Discovered in 1874 the caves located in Oregon Caves National Monument are carved within solid marble.
- The world's largest rosary collection is exhibited at The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center. A local resident collected the exhibit.
- The Carousel Museum contains the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of carousel horses.
- Fort Clatsop National Memorial contains a replica of Lewis and Clark's 1805-1806 winter outpost.
- The small village of Bickelton is filled with bluebird houses seen on the posts of every house.
- The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is a spectacular river canyon cutting the only sea-level route through the Cascade Mountain Range.
- The Ries-Thompson House is the oldest remaining residence in Parkdale. Built circa 1900 the home and area offer a commanding view of Mount Hood.
- Tillamook is home to Oregon's largest cheese factory.
- Florence is known as Oregon's rhododendron capital.
- The Oregon Legislature designated the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) as the Oregon state flower by resolution in 1899.
- Oregon's capitol building is located in Salem. Earlier capitals include the cities of Oregon City and Corvallis.
- The Columbia River forms most of the northern border between Oregon and Washington. The Snake River forms over half of the eastern boundary with Idaho.
- In 1905 the largest long cabin in the world was built in Portland to honor the Lewis and Clark expedition.
- A treaty between the United States and Spain established the current southern border between Oregon and California. The treaty was signed in 1819.
- The Oregon Trail is the longest of the overland routes used in the westward expansion of the United States.
- The Tillamook Naval Air Museum is housed in the world's largest wooden clear-span building.
- Haystack Rock off Cannon Beach is 235 feet high and is the third largest coastal monolith in the world.
- The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, built in 1880, is currently used as the site of the final resting place of up to 467,000 cremated individuals.
- The Seaside Aquarium was the first facility in the world to successfully breed harbor seals in captivity.
- Oregon.gov - Official website.
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Oregon United States OR US