50 Interesting Facts About Oregon

Last updated on July 21st, 2020

Oregon is the 27th most populous and the 9th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies in the Pacific Northwest region on the West Coast of the United States. The state attained statehood on February 14, 1859, becoming the 33rd state to join the union. Its four bordering states are Nevada, Washington, California, and IdahoSee the full list of the 50 states and their borders here. Oregon (nicknamed: “Beaver State”) has 36 counties. The state’s capital is Salem.

Interesting facts about Oregon 

1. The origin of the name “Oregon” is uncertain. However, according to one account, the name is believed to have been derived from the French word, ‘Ouragan,’ which is loosely translated as hurricane’ or windstorm’. This was in reference to the powerful winds originating from the Columbia River hence the name Oregon.[1] 

North American Beaver on ground.
North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) on ground.

2. Also known as Castor canadensis (scientific name), the American Beaver is actually the Oregon state animal since 1969. And that is why Oregon is popularly known as “The Beaver State”.[3]

Oregon on the map

3. The state has 11 lighthouses, and Yaquina is the tallest of them all – 93 feet. The tallest lighthouse is the most popular lighthouse on the coast and has been in service since 1873.[30]

Powell's Books In the city of Portland, Oregon.
Powell’s Books In the city of Portland, Oregon. Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world.

4. Powell’s Book store in Portland, Oregon, is the world’s largest bookstore. The store is in service in Portland since 1971. The company’s founder started his book selling career with a loan of $3,000, which he repaid within two months of borrowing the money.[31,32]

5. The mention of the deepest gorge in Oregon should give you a clear picture of a 7,900 feet Hell’s Canyon. This magnificent and picturesque physical feature is located between Idaho and Oregon along the Snake River.[4]

6. It may take you by surprise but milk is indeed Oregon’s state beverage. In 1997, the legislature unanimously agreed that milk and other dairy products should be accorded such status on the basis of their contribution to the state’s economic well-being. Therefore, milk is a symbol of economic prosperity in Oregon.

Mill Ends Park, Oregon.
Mill Ends Park, Oregon. Interesting facts about Oregon. Image by – Ian Sane

7. Did you know that the world’s smallest park – Mill Ends Park – is in Portland, Oregon? Surprisingly, the park is just two square feet in area. Now imagine how one could fit a park in that little area. Here is a picture to clarify all your doubts. The park lies in the median of the heavily trafficked Naito Parkway. It was granted this recognition in 1971 by The Guinness Book of Records. The park was built because of a supposed leprechaun sighting. A journalist named Dick Fagan ran a column called Mill Ends. He claimed (in jest, of course) that he saw a leprechaun digging a hole that was supposed to be used for erecting a light pole. In truth, Fagan saw the empty space and began planting flowers on the spot. In 1948, on St. Patrick’s Day, the park was dedicated by Fagan himself. The journalist also wrote about a leprechaun colony living in the park headed by one named Patrick O’Toole. [33,34]

8. The square dance or simply the Official State Dance is a heritage symbol within Oregon. The dance’s lively spirit exemplifies a friendly, enthusiastic and free nature that are all tailored to reflect the typical Oregon character and heritage in general.

Agate nodule (Succor Creek Claim, Harney County, Oregon, USA)
“Thunder eggs” are agate-filled masses that fill former cavities in rocks. Image via James St. John

9. Have you ever come across a state that prides itself with amazing geodes? Well, Oregon’s Thunderegg will give you enough reasons to spend more time in this state. This official state rock contains several minerals of various colors and crystalline structure making it unique yet appealing to the eye. Apparently, these popular items are skillfully cut and polished to reveal their breathtaking designs inside.[5]

10. Unlike the Thunderegg, Oregon sunstone is regarded highly as the state’s official gemstone (designated in 1987) because of its brightly colored appearance. The stone belongs to the feldspar family and it is found mainly in the Southeastern regions of the state. Sunstone is a variety of a mineral called oligoclase. Sunstone can be polished, faceted, and carved and made into jewelry.[6]

Flag of California

Oregon state flag

11. Oregon boasts of a unique state flag in the U.S. with two separate designs each on either side. A close look reveals that one side is decorated with the state seal emblem and on the reverse side; there is a picture of a golden beaver.[2]

12. Crater Lake is a notable physical feature that makes Oregon a unique state in the entire country. Crater Lake is actually the deepest (592 meters) among the lakes in the U.S. and one of the deepest in the world. The most intriguing part of its history is that it was formed as a volcanic lake thousands of years ago. Its scenic crystal-blue waters are well-known by every traveler worldwide. You could stack the Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument and Statue of Liberty on top of each other and still have 100 feet of water covering Lady Liberty’s torch. That is how deep the lake is.[7]

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. Image via Ron Reiring

13. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon is among the top 20 states with the highest suicide rates. Montana tops the list, closely followed by Alaska and Wyoming.[35] 

14. Did you know that physician-assisted suicide is legal in eight U.S. jurisdictions including Oregon? However, there are certain limitations to the act wherein the individuals must have a terminal illness as well as a prognosis of six months or less to live. The other jurisdictions where this act is legal are Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, Montana, California and District of Columbia. His first public assisted suicide was in 1990, of Janet Adkins.[8,9,10]

15. Forest Grove at the heart of Oregon is credited for being the home of the world’s tallest and most notable barber shop pole, standing at 72-feet tall.[13]

16. There’s no other state in the US that is known to have an official state nut if not Oregon. The state nut is known as the hazelnut or filbert and Oregon is home to 99 percent of the commercial nuts cultivated in the US.

The famous Nike swoosh.
The famous swoosh. Image by Josh Hallett

17. Interestingly, the famous Nike logo was designed by Carolyn Davidson (in 1971), a student at Portland State University. And she was paid $35 for her design by Nike’s founders, Bill Bowerman, and Phil Knight though they didn’t like the logo in the first place. But now, Nike Logo is recognized by every sports enthusiast all over the world. Originally, the logo was called as ‘the strip’, which later became well known as ‘Swoosh’.[11]

18. Nike first took its baby steps in Eugene, when Bill Bowerman, a former Olympian and coach designed the famous waffle-iron rubber sole that would establish the brand as a serious contender in athletic wear. It was lighter, more durable, and had better grip, allowing athletes to move more confidently.

Oregon on the map
Oregon (in red) on the map with bordering states.

19. It is a well-known fact that the famous Hollywood star of all time, Clint Eastwood lived in Springfield, Oregon. He worked at Weyerhaeuser for a few weeks as a lumberjack before realizing that lumberjacking was a dangerous business venture.[12]

20. In Portland, pinball machines are completely banned since 1949 when Dorothy McCullough was the mayor.[18]

Tilikum Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland, Oregon.
Bicycle riders in the bike lane on the Tilikum Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland, Oregon. Interesting facts about Oregon.

21. In 1971, Oregon passed the Oregon Bicycle Bill, the first such state law in the country, which devoted 1% (every year) of state transportation funding for cycling. Interestingly, the bill was signed outdoors – on the seat of a bike.[29]

22. Oregon has plenty to offer and one of the unique things that make this state famous is the honey mushroom or Armillaria ostoyae, the largest living single organism in the world. The organism covers a vast area (2,385 acres of Malheur National Forest) and it is believed to be between 2,400 and 8,650 years old.[14]

Armillaria ostoyae or Honey mushroom
Armillaria ostoyae or Honey mushroom. Image via Charles de Mille-Isles

23. The state of Oregon is home to different Native American Ethnic groups in the country. The federal government recognizes only nine tribes existing within the present day state.[15]

24. When you think of Oregon as a state you should always remember that the Douglas fir is the state tree in accordance with the 1939 declaration. In fact, this tree species is the main source of softwood lumber production in Oregon.[3]

25. Oregon stands at number six among the most Bigfoot sighting places in the US with Washington taking the lead.[17]

Boy and girl shopping for Christmas decoration at market.

26. Did you know that Oregon is the top-most Christmas tree producing state in the U.S.? The state has dedicated 42,000 acres of its land area for the purpose of raising these trees.[26,27]

27. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was voted to be one of the most recognizable fossil sites globally.[19]

Mount Hood and Mount Hood Meadows from White River Sno-Park
Mount Hood and Mount Hood Meadows from White River Sno-Park. Interesting facts about Oregon. Image via David Prasad

28. Mount Hood in Oregon is the second most explored mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. With an elevation of 11,249 feet, it is the highest mountain in Oregon. It is a potentially active stratovolcano. The last minor eruptive event occurred in 1907.[20,21]

29. Oregon is known for its annual festival of Estacada which involves mushroom hunting, mushroom tastings, mushroom identification classes, and mushroom themed artwork.[37]

30. Oregon has a state song known as “Oregon, My Oregon” composed by J.A. Buchanan and Henry B. Murtagh.

31. Oregon’s vast forests are a leading source for lumber in the U.S. In fact, the state harvests more timber than any other state. Almost half of the state’s landmass is covered by forests. Oregon’s soils and climate provide ideal conditions for the growth of trees in the region.[22,23]

32. There is only one national park in Oregon which comprises of the caldera surrounding Crater Lake.[36]

Willamette Meteorite.
Interesting facts about Oregon. Willamette Meteorite.

33. Willamette Meteorite, discovered in the U.S. state of Oregon, is the largest meteorite found in North America and the sixth-largest in the world. The iron-nickel meteorite did not create an impact at the site it was found and thus it was concluded that the meteorite was transported to this place by some glacial activity some thousands of years ago. At 15.5 metric tons (34,000 lbs.), Willamette is the largest single “stone.”[24,25]

34. Linus Pauling (1901 – 1994) born in Portland, Oregon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.[28]

35. Salem is the capital of Oregon. Originally, it was called Chemeketa by the Kalapuya Indians – a term that means “place of rest” or “place of peace”. The name was later changed to Salem, which is close to the Hebrew term “shalom” or peace. As the state capital, Salem did, indeed, become a meeting place for residents of Oregon.

Farewell Bend, Oregon
Farewell Bend, Oregon. Image via Sam Beebe

36. Bend, Oregon was named because of an area that the settlers called “Farewell Bend”. This was the spot where pioneers would say their goodbyes before heading westward. There were other bids for the town’s name, such as Pilot Butte but Post Office Department officials in Washington, D.C. chose “Bend” because “Farewell Bend” was simply too long.

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