Oregon is a state located in the western United States bordering the Pacific Ocean, California, Washington, Idaho, and Nevada. Its northern border lays 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 "walls" of the Willamette Valley, one of the most fertile and agriculturally productive regions in the world. Oregon is infamous for its rain, but this characteristic is true only in the western half of the state; east of the cascades the land is much more arid.
Oregonians are proud of their state's wealth of beautiful forests and streams, and place great importance on proper use of their environment, yet struggle to balance this need with the desire to achieve progress. The state has pioneered many of the nation's environmental firsts, such as one of the first bottle bills, but has also suffered under the rapid pace of logging its forests.
Oregon was originally occupied by a number of 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, at the direction of Thomas Jefferson. They built their winter fort at Fort Clatsop Washington 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 chain of Pacific Fur Company trading posts along the river. Fort Astoria was the 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 Hudsons 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, as the United States sought to wrest control of the area from Great Britain. This controversy was resolved in 1846 after a period of sabre rattling where it seemed that the United States and the United Kingdom would go to war a third time in 75 years. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the United States-Canada boundary was set at the 49th parallel.
In the 1880s, railroads enabled marketing of the state's lumber and wheat, and the more rapid growth of its cities.
Industrial expansion began in ernest 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 between its citizens: Native Americans vs. English fur trappers, English vs. settlers from the U.S., ranchers vs. farmers, wealthy growing cities vs. established but poor rural areas, loggers vs. environmentalists, white supremicists vs. anti-racists, and native-Oregonians vs. Californians (or outsiders in general). The state ballots frequently experience the extremes of the political spectrum - anti-gay, pro-religions measures on the same ballot as liberal drug-decriminalization measures.
The Willamette Valley is very fertile, and coupled with Oregon's infamous 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. Vast forests have made Oregon the nation's major lumbering state since 1950. In recent years, processing, publishing, and manufacturing have become much more dominant. And lately, high technology industries and services have grown considerably. Oregon has 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.
Oregon's Governer serves a four-year term. The legislature consists of a thirty member senate and sixty member house. Senators serve four year terms, and house representatives two. At the national level, Oregon is represented by two senators and five representatives. It has seven electorial votes.
Area: 96,981 sq mi (251,181 sq km). Population: (2000) 3,421,399, an 20.4% increase over 1990 pop. Capital: Salem. Statehood: Feb. 14, 1859 (33d state). Highest point: Mt. Hood, 11,239 ft (3,428 m) Lowest pt.: sea level. Nickname: Beaver State. Motto: The Union. State Bird: Western meadowlark. State Flower: Oregon grape. State Tree: Douglas fir. State Insect: Oregon Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio oregonius) Abbreviation: Oreg. Ore. OR
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