Interesting and fun Oregon facts

85 Interesting Facts About Oregon

Oregon state, USA, is known for its laid-back culture, beaches & rocky shores, and pioneering past. Pack your bags and hit the Oregon Trail as we delve into the state’s history and culture with these fun facts about Oregon. Also, read these interesting facts about Portland, Oregon’s largest and most famous city.

General Oregon Facts

  • Oregon has a total land area of 98,381 mi² (254,806 km²), which makes it the 9th largest state in the nation. It is between Colorado and Wyoming in terms of size.
  • Oregon is slightly larger than the UK.
  • Salem is the capital city of Oregon. It has a population of 179,000.
  • Salem is only an hour away from Portland, the state’s largest city. With a population of 666,000, it is the 25th largest city in the US. Not to be confused with Portland, Maine, or Portland, Tennessee!
  • Oregon consists of eight regions: the Willamette Valley, the Southern Region, the Portland Region, Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Oregon Coast, Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.
Central Salem rooftops, including some tall church spires
Salem, the capital of Oregon
  • OR is the two-letter abbreviation for Oregon.
  • Residents of the state are called Oregonians.
  • Oregon was traditionally inhabited by Bannock, Chasta, Chinook, Kalapuya, Klamath, Molalla, Nez Perce, Takelma, and Umpqua peoples. Today indigenous people make up 1.5% of the population.
  • It’s not entirely certain how the state got its name. Some believe that “Oregon” is derived from “ouragan”, which is the French word for hurricane, while others believe the state’s name is derived from the Spanish word “orejon”, meaning “big ears”. The is no relationship between Oregon and the word “oregano.”
The city of Portland, Oregon, with Mount Hood in distance
Portland with the state’s highest peak, Mount Hood, in the distance
  • Oregon’s state mottos are “She Flies With Her Own Wings” and “The Union”.
  • The state’s tourism slogan is “We Like It Here. You Might Too.”
  • Oregon is the only state in the nation that has an official state nut–the hazelnut, otherwise known as the filbert. In fact, the state grows 99% of the nation’s hazelnuts.
  • Milk is the official state beverage of Oregon, along with over 20 other states.
  • The official Oregon state animal is the beaver and the state is nicknamed “The Beaver State”. There are 10 to 50 million of the toothy creatures in the state.
Oregon's state flag from both sides
The two sides of Oregon’s flag
  • Oregon’s state flag is the only flag in the nation to have a different design on each of its sides. The front side shows the state seal, which includes a wagon for the Oregon Trail, “State of Oregon”, and “1859”, the year of the state’s founding. The other side features a beaver.
  • The official state colors are the same as the colors featured in the state flag, navy blue and gold. Navy blue represents sincerity and piety, while gold denotes loyalty and honor.

Random Interesting Facts About Oregon

  • The Oregon Trail became a popular old-school computer game in the 1980s and 90s, often played by elementary school students on their schools’ first computers.
A wagon on the Oregon Trail with prairies in the background
Pioneer wagon on the Oregon Trail
  • The Oregon Trail has also inspired TV shows, movies, songs, musicals, and commemorative coins.
  • Crater Lake in Klamath County, Oregon is deepest lake in the country. Otherwise known as Deep Blue Lake, it has a depth of and average depth of 1148 ft (350 m), but depending on the weather, it can go up to 1,949 ft (594 m) deep (Fun Fact: Canada has an even deeper lake in the Northwest Territories).
  • Crater Lake is the crater of Mount Mazama, a volcano that collapsed 7700 years ago in an eruption 42 times stronger than Mt. St. Helens. Today it is filled with vivid blue water. It has no water source besides precipitation.
Crater Lake Oregon viewed from the shore
Crater Lake
  • Oregon has 17 national historic landmarks, encompassing chateaus, lodges, wildlife refuges, a Chinese shop, an old highway, a fort, a dam, and more.   
  • Oregon is home to the world’s largest living organism, a honey fungus, which is 2.4 mi (3.9 km) long and 8650 years old, located in the Blue Mountains of the state.
  • The state can be considered a ghost town hub, with 256 abandoned towns, more than any other state in the country. Many of them were former lumbar or mining towns from the times of the pioneers.
A dock in Yaquina Bay with a bridge across the bay in the background
Yaquina Bay
  • Mount Hood (a potentially active volcano) is the highest point in Oregon at 11,239 ft (3429 m) above sea level. It is clearly visible from Portland. The lowest point is at sea level.
  • Sea Lion Caves in Oregon is the largest connected system of sea caves and caverns in the US.
  • Lava River Cave is the state’s largest lava tube, at 5211 ft (1588 m) in length. Local indigenous people knew about it long before settlers arrived, evidence by obsidian flakes found near the cave.
  • Tillamook Rock Lighthouse on a small island at the mouth of the Columbia River is the resting place of half a million cremated people.
A lighthouse on an island at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse off the coast of Oregon
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
  • The hottest temperature ever recorded in the state of Oregon was 119°F (48°C) on October 8, 1898 in Pendleton. The coldest was -54°F (-48°C) in October 1933 in Seneca.  
  • The state’s climate varies widely: humid and cool on the coast, heavy snowfall in the Cascade Range, and arid continental on the plateau east of the mountains.
  • The state spans two time zones: the Pacific Time Zone and the Mountain Time Zone (only Malheur County in the east uses the latter).
  • Oregon’s major industries include wood products, forestry, agriculture, food processing, nursery products, hospitality and tourism.
  • There are over 300 breweries in Oregon, with around 10 of them per 100,000 people. Only six other states have more per capita.  
Exterior of Tillamook Cheese Factory in Oregon
Tillamook Cheese Factory
  • Tillamook is a quintessential Oregon brand. Started in 1909, it once ran one of the largest cheese factories in the world. Today it is a dairy cooperative, and the Tillamook Creamery is a popular tourist attraction along coastal US Route 101 west of Portland.
  • George Boyington is one of several claimed inventors of the corn dog in the US. He started making them at his hot dog stand in Rockaway Beach, Oregon in the 1930s.
  • The Grigg brothers, corn farmers in eastern Oregon and entrepreneurs, invented Tater Tots, but the invention took place at their factory in Ontario, Canada.
  • Iconic woolen Pendleton blankets, which are based on traditional Native American designs and patterns, have been made by Pendleton Woolen Mills for over 100 years. The Portland-based company was first founded in 1863.
A white wooden covered bridge in Oregon
One of many historic covered bridges in Oregon
  • There are around 50 historic covered bridges remaining in Oregon.
  • The first ever wiki (a website that can be collaboratively edited by many users, i.e. the basis of Wikipedia) was made by Ward Cunningham in Oregon in 1995.
  • Oregon is one of only two states which still has gas attendants to fuel your car for you (the other is New Jersey).
  • A number of TV shows and movies have been filmed partially or fully in Oregon, including Twilight, Portlandia, The Goonies, Stand by Me, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Into the Wild, Free Willy, and Jackass: The Movie.
  • Oregon has also hosted seasons of Top Chef, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and The Amazing Race.
Iconic sign that says "Portland Oregon Old Town"
Many movies and TV shows have been filmed in Portland.
  • Famous Oregonians include actress Lisa Rinna, Ramona author Beverly Cleary, poet Edwin Markham, suffrage supporter Abigail Scott Duniway, model Holly Madison, and figure skater Tonya Harding.  
  • Dick Fosbury of Portland was an Olympic high jumper who invented the “Fosbury Flop” move in the sport (flipping over the bar backwards).
  • Bands and musicians from Oregon include Everclear, The Decemberists, The Dandy Warhols, Esperanza Spalding, Elliot Smith (born in Nebraska but spent most of his life in Oregon), and Pink Martini.
  • There’s an old law stating that it illegal to box with a kangaroo in Myrtle Creek, Oregon.
  • Juggling is only permitted in Hood River, Oregon for those who have a license.
  • It’s unlawful to walk down the street backwards while consuming a donut in Marion, Oregon.
  • “Occult arts” are illegal in Yamhill.
  • It’s prohibited to use a “bean shooter” or a slingshot in public in Salem.
  • Getting married at an ice skating rink is technically illegal in Portland.

Historical Facts About Oregon

  • Much of Oregon’s landscape was formed by volcanoes 40 million years ago.
  • In the last ice age, the Columbia River dug its way through the Cascade Range.
A boat sailing down Columbia River, with green hills on either side
Columbia River, largest river in the Pacific Northwest
  • The first Native Americans arrived in the Oregon region via Alaska and Siberia. The oldest human remains are a pair of sandals at Fort Rock Cave dating to 13,200 years ago. Other evidence from Paisley Caves may be even older.
  • In 5677 BCE, Mount Mazama erupted, forming what is now Crater Lake. The natives in the area, the Klamath people, thought that the eruption represented a battle between the god of the underworld, who lived in the mountain, and the sky god.
  • The 1700 Cascadia Earthquake off the coast of Oregon caused a tsunami that caused damage across the ocean in Japan.
  • The first European to see Oregon’s coast was explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1543. Spanish explorers were looking for the Northwest Passage and mapping the coast, as well as later British ones like James Cook.
A road approaching Fort Rock in Oregon
Fort Rock, where some of the state’s oldest human artifacts have been found
  • In 1805 to 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition mapped out Oregon in the quest to explore the newly acquired territory in the Louisiana Purchase. They built a winter camp in Oregon at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth of the Columbia River.
  • In 1811, Fort Astoria became the first European settlement in Oregon.
  • From 1842 to 1843, numerous settlers arrived in the area via the Oregon Trail.
  • In 1845, the name “Portland” was chosen in a coin toss. The city was incorporated in 1851.
Looking into a log gate at a log house at Fort Clatsop, Oregon
Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark stayed
  • The US and England both wanted Oregon (a much larger area at the time), so they split it 50/50 in 1846, with England keeping the area north of the 49th parallel (modern-day British Columbia).   
  • The first newspaper to be published in the Pacific Coast region was the “Oregon Spectator” on February 5, 1846.
  • Gold was discovered on July 25, 1850 in the Rogue River, Oregon. This resulted in the quest for Gold being extended up the Pacific Coast.
  • In 1851, Oregon City became home to the state’s first covered wooden bridge.
  • Oregon joined the Union as the 33rd state on February 14 1859, meaning the state’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day!
Aerial view of a blue-colored Rogue River in Oregon
Rogue River, where gold was discovered
  • The largest flood in the history of Oregon occurred from December 1861 to January 1862. It was called “The Great Flood” and killed over 4000 people in Oregon, Nevada, and California.
  • There was no slavery in Oregon, but many locals also didn’t support the presence of blacks in the state. In 1866, Oregon ratified the 14th amendment, voting with a narrow margin, allowing citizenship rights to anyone born in the US.
  • The same route as the Oregon Trail was considered for the first transcontinental railway in 1869, but they ended up going with a route further south to California.
  • The law prohibiting interracial marriages was repealed by the state of Oregon in 1951.
  • In 1873, 22 blocks in Portland burned down.
Track tracks through a forest in Oregon
Railway line in Oregon
  • In 1907, a railway line connecting Portland to Spokane and Seattle was completed.
  • In 1957, Celilo Falls on Columbia River, a native fishing site for thousands of years, was submerged with the creation of the Dalles Dam in Washington state.
  • The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington spread ash across much of Oregon and disrupted the state’s economy.
  • The first state in the US to legalize physician-assisted suicide was Oregon in 1994. As a result, the state’s suicide rates became the highest in the nation.
  • Keith Hunter Jesperson, dubbed the “Happy Face Killer” because he drew happy faces on letters to the police and media, killed the first of his claimed 185 victims in Oregon in 1990, and is currently serving a life sentence there.
Smoke rising from a forest fire in Oregon
A forest fire in central Oregon
  • Katie Harman of Portland, Oregon was crowned Miss America for 2002 on September 22, 2001.
  • Oregon experienced a record forest fire season in 2002, which burned 1 million acres.
  • The state’s same-sex marriages ban was thrown out by a US federal judge on May 19, 2014.
  • 2020 was another of the worst years on record for forest fires in Oregon, taking over 1 million acres of forest.

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