Oregon is the 33rd state in the United States, admitted to the union on February 14, 1859. Oregon is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, California and Nevada on the south, Idaho on the east, and Washington state on the north.

The state fish is the Chinook salmon.
The state flag consists of a blue field with the state seal surrounded by the words "State of Oregon" and "1859" on the front, and a beaver (Oregon is the beaver state) on the back. It is the only two-sided state flag.
The state flower is the Oregon Grape.
The state tree is the Douglas Fir.

There 10 national forests in Oregon, and one National Park, Crater Lake. There are 10 lighthouses along the rugged Oregon coast.

There are 36 counties and 240 cities in Oregon.

Oregon's 10 largest cities in 1998:
Portland, Eugene, Salem, Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Medford, Springfield, Corvallis, and Albany.

Oregon's 10 largest counties in 1998:
Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Lane, Marion, Jackson, Deschutes, Linn, Douglas, and Yamhill.

Fun facts: Oregon does not have a sales tax, it pioneered the bottle deposit law, and you can't pump your own gas.

Those who say it rains in Oregon a lot are only partially correct. On the western side of the state, it does tend to be wet, but the less-populated east side of the mountains are generally quite dry.

One of the earliest and finest exponents of world jazz, Oregon began life in 1970 as an offshoot of the Paul Winter Consort, in which the group's original members had played. From the beginning, the band eschewed most jazz conventions. Percussionist Collin Walcott played tabla, sitar, and dulcimer, among other instruments, but did not use a trap set; bassist Glen Moore doubled on clarinet, viola, and piano, and its front line was formed by a double-reedist (Paul McCandless) and an acoustic guitarist (Ralph Towner). The band's music differed from much of what had heretofore been considered jazz. The concept of blues and swing was given a much-reduced prominence in favor of other, less literal forms of tonal and rhythmic organization. For example, Indian ragas would occasionally replace chord changes, and talas would supplant swing time. The group's dynamic approach was quieter than typical by jazz standards, and their overall aesthetic somewhat introspective. Improvisation was central to the band's work, however, and in this sense their music is most firmly in the jazz tradition.

Oregon's music is characterized by a heightened method of ensemble interaction, a rapt attention to timbral contrast, and an openness to any and all cultural influences. After Walcott's death in a car accident in 1984, the group disbanded for a time, before eventually replacing him with the percussionist Trilok Gurtu.

Published before on allmusic.com. Placed with permission.

Oregon is a great place to live. This is largely due to the fact that 99% of the rest of the world doesn't seem to realize it. Oregon is one of those rare states with out sales tax. Oregon does not generally allow people to pump their own gas. We were the first state with a deposit on canned beverages. We were also the first state to try vote by mail. Most every beach was declared to be a "state highway" quite some years ago so that greedy types couldn't buy them up and prevent public access. From the largest city, Portland (population ~600,000, metro area ~1.5 million), it is about an hours drive to: coastal, desert, forest, or moutainous places. We have several notable schools, including Oregon State, University of Oregon, Portland State, Southern Oregon University, and University of Portland. Oregon became a state on February 14, 1859. We pronouce it Ore-gen, *not* O-re-gon. You will be taunted and tortured mercilessly if you mis-speak. The Portland area (especially the western suburbs) are known in many circles as the Silicon Forest. Many big tech companies, including Intel and HP, have major facilities here.

A note on the weather in Oregon: first, remember that if you come from out of state (especially if you come from LA, you are not allowed to complain. Even if you are in the middle of a group of natives whining about the lack of sunshine, you are invited to commiserate. Oregonians are offended when foreigners mention the nasty weather.

On a slightly more serious note, it should be noted that most of Oregon, size wise, is not rainy at all, but is rather desert or plains. However, this is mostly the sparsly populatled Eastern region of the state. The Willamette Valley (where most of the people live) while it has many gloomy, drizzly days, actually has about as much rain (40 inches) as Atlanta, GA or New York, NY. Parts of the coast, on the other hand, actually can have as much as 200 inches of rain a year.

The other interesting thing about the weather in Oregon, is despite the rain, and the fact that the name of the state comes from the French word for hurricane (at least that is one story), is very moderate in that there is very few weather events that turn into crisis situations. In other words, it may rain, but it doesn't flood. Tornados and Hurricanes are also once in a lifetime events. An exception to this rule is the Oregon Flood of 1996 when the Willamette got so full of water that they almost had to move a submarine to higher ground.

On the other hand, Oregon, unlike Georgia or New York, does have an active Volcano on its skyline, so we shouldn't feel too secure.


By coincidence, Chattering Magpie chooses to node the Columbus Day Storm right at the time I write this write up mentioning how rare serious storms are in Oregon. Well, Columbus Day was one of them.

Actually, parts of the Oregon coast routinely get far more than 200 inches of rain a year. And with that much rain, it does indeed flood. Most flooding is minor, but there are definite exceptions.

Tillamook County, Oregon has had what the locals refer to as a "100 Years Flood" (meaning that it only floods that badly once every hundred years or so) three times since the late 1990's. These floods have caused as much as six feet of water over important highways, and have closed down most businesses in some cities for days.

While Oregon is not know for its hurricanes (as it's rare for hurricanes to originate on the Pacific Ocean), the coastal areas do commonly experience "hurricane-style winds" of 60 to 100 miles-per-hour, which can do considerable damage.

Fires are a problem in Oregon, too. In the summer of 2002, fires destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, fields and homes in the western United States, Oregon being hit hard. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes. Some people lost everything.

Oregon is also part of the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a roughly circular region extending down Oregon, Washington and California, through the Pacific, up Japan and along Alaska's Pacific coastline. This area, the result of tectonic plate boundaries, has more than half of the world's active above-sea level volcanoes. In Oregon alone there are at least twelve volcanoes in the Cascade Range:

As Oregon schoolchildren are taught, even dormant volcanoes can erupt unexpectedly.

Being on the Ring of Fire also leads to earthquakes (though usually not as destructive as those in California) and the threat of tsunamis, most likely traveling from Oregon's neighbor across the ocean, Japan. Scientists are predicting 'The Big One' to hit within the next couple of hundred years, where the tectonic plates will shift enough to create a massive tidal wave that will engulf a considerable portion of Oregon's coast.

Even though Oregon may not have many tornados or hurricanes, it does have its share of crisis situations, as does any place on the planet.

It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that the Europeans first started searching for the Northwest Passage, which was supposed to be a large river linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In 1775, two Spanish explorers named Bruno Heceta and Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra discovered what appeared to be a large bay. Although Heceta wrote in his journal that he believed the bay to be "the mouth of a great river or of some passage to another sea," his expedition did not explore it. It was in this way that the Spanish missed being the first to sail the Columbia River.

The English had their chance in Captain James Cook, who sailed the region three years later. However, Cook chose to sail past the river to present-day Canada to trade otter pelts with the Indians. On the other hand, it was Cook who told other traders about the Pacific Northwest in his journals, and this brought in an influx of ships. Still, none of them explored the area surrounding the large river.

Ten years after Cook had left, an American fur trader named Robert Gray became the first white to stand in Oregon. He traded with the Tillamook Indians and left for Boston. He later returned and explored the river, which he named after his ship, the Columbia.

A British explorer named George Vancouver heard of Gray's findings and sent Lieutenant William R. Broughton to the area. For three weeks, Broughton mapped the Columbia. He then claimed the territory as part of the British Empire. Later, the United States claimed the new Oregon Territory, which was composed of present-day Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, along with parts of Montana and Wyoming.

By 1801, the United States had begun expanding westwards. President Thomas Jefferson purchased a large territory of land from France known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Jefferson then asked himself a question: What if a waterway could be found to link the Columbia River to the Missouri River? To find out, he called for an expedition led by Merriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the new territory.

Lewis and Clark left St. Louis in 1804. Over the next two years, they followed the Missouri River, met with the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, crossed the Continental Divide, and finally reached the Columbia in mid-October of 1805. The Pacific Ocean was sighted in November, and the expedition spent the winter at Fort Clatsop. Next spring, Lewis and Clark explored the area around the Willamette River before heading back to St. Louis.

The expedition's successful return to St. Louis in the fall of 1806 touched off a great interest in the Northwest. Although Lewis and Clark found no easy route linking the Missouri to the Columbia, they had successfully opened the way to lands beyond the Rockies.

In 1810, a New Yorker named John Jacob Astor started a new fur trading company called the Pacific Fur Company. Astor's plan was to build a fort at the mouth of the Columbia. This would give his ships the ability to trade with China and Alaska. In this way, the town of Astoria was founded in 1811.

Unfortunately, Astor's dream was short-lived. First, 27 of his traders were killed by natives on Vancouver Island. Then, a rival fur company moved into the area. The North West Company showed up in Astoria to try and become the dominant fur trader in the area. During the War of 1812, the North West Company notified the Astorians that a British ship was coming to capture Astoria. The Astorians knew they had no chance to survive, so they sold all trading rights to the North West Company. With that, the Pacific Fur Company was no more.

According to the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, all territories taken during the war had to be returned to their original owners. The United States claimed that Astoria was rightfully U.S. territory. This led to the argument known as the Northwest Boundary Dispute. Although Astoria was returned to the United States, the rest of the Oregon Territory was placed under joint occupation between the U.S. and Britain. This agreement would last until 1846.

Although Astoria technically belonged to the United States, the North West Company still controlled the fur trade. The North West Company renamed Astoria Fort George before becomming consolidated with their chief rival, the Hudson Bay Company, in 1821. Three years later, a man named John McLoughlin, who worked for the Hudson Bay Company, took over governing the company's Columbia District. McLoughlin assumed that the Americans had too much of a claim to Astoria, so he set up a new fort on the Columbia's northern bank. This fort, Fort Vancouver, replaced Fort George as the primary trading depot in the region.

McLoughlin and the Hudson Bay Company ruled over the Oregon Territory. Their policies actively tried to present competitors in the region and tried to deter American settlement. Because of this, the first American to come to Oregon after the end of the Pacific Fur Company didn't arrive until 1828. His name was Jedediah Smith, and his trapping party was ambushed by Indians. Smith sought McLoughlan's aid to recover his furs. McLoughlin agreed, but demanded that Smith leave Oregon afterwards.

In 1829, a Boston man named Hall Kelley established the American Society for Encouraging the Settlement of the Oregon Territory and lobbied Congress for the necessary funds to launch his venture. The publicity Kelley created influenced another Bostonian, Nathaniel Wyeth, to open a fishery and trading post in Oregon. However, the Hudson Bay Company was able to undercut Wyeth's prices.

The next wave of immigrants were the missionaries. Rumors had been circulating in the East that the natives in Oregon were interested in Christianity. Because of this, two Methodists named Daniel and Jason Lee headed to Oregon with Wyeth in 1834. After working almost entirely with the natives, the Lees were convinced by McLoughlin to open their mission to both Native Americans and American settlers. Other missionaries soon followed, and missions were set up throughout present-day Oregon and Idaho. However, most of the Native Americans soon became dissillusioned with Christianity; the missionaries were ignorant to the tribal customs, and the Native Americans did not understand the concept of material wealth that the missionaries promised.

Although the plan to convert the natives ultimately failed, the missions did result in a large-scale immigration to Oregon. When missionaries returned to the east, they told people about how glorious Oregon Country was. Things were helped by the Panic of 1837. Falling agricultural prices convinced many people that their lives would be better in Oregon, so they migrated to Oregon on the overland route known as the Oregon Trail. Over 100 immigrants arrived via the Trail in 1842. The next year, the concept of "Oregon or Bust" really took off, and 900 immigrants soon arrived in the Willamette Valley. The number of immigrants continued to increase each year.

In 1841, a wealthy settler named Ewing Young died and left no heirs to inherit his fortune. This made it obvious that Oregon needed a legal system. A special council made up of Methodist missionaries and French-Canadian trappers was formed to handle the Young estate, but it wasn't until two years later that a provisional constitution was formed. This constitution became known as the Organic Law. It created a government divided into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Land settlement became regulated. Taxes were collected, but were completely voluntary. These laws were revised in the coming years, due to the large migration influx. It was during these years that official boundaries were set between U.S. and British territory. After an intense debate that became known as the Northwest Boundary Dispute, the boundary was placed at the 49th parallel. In 1848, president James K. Polk signed a bill that officially added the Oregon Territory to the United States. The next year, Joseph Lane arrived in Oregon City and was formally sworn in as the first governer of Oregon. Later, the capital was moved from Oregon City to Salem. At the time, Oregon included Washington, Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.

The biggest problem Governer Lane faced was the issue of land ownership. Although Congress had kept most of Oregon's provisional laws, they did throw away the laws dealing with land settlement. Fortunately, Congress soon passed the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850. Under the provisions of this law, 320 acres of land were given to any men who had cultivated land in the Oregon Territory for four consecutive years. If the man was married, his wife recieved an additional 320 acres. For settlers who arrived from 1850-1855, they were given 160 acres, or 320 if married. This helped Oregon increase it's population.

By 1850, most of the 13,000 immigrants lived in the Willamette Valley. With this large concentration of people, the issue of statehood came up. Many debates took place. The people who supported statehood believed that if Oregon became a state, the citizens would benefit from more money and protection from the Indian tribes. Dissenters were convinced that maintaining a state government was only possible through large taxes. In 1857, a constitution was drafted and presented to Congress for approval. This constitution prohibited slavery in the state. However, a special clause prevented free blacks from living in Oregon. This law was not removed until 1926. On St. Valentine's Day, 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state of the union, with it's present boundaries.

The economy of Oregon was originally based on trapping. However, as the fur trade declined, many settlers switched to farming. In 1860, gold was discovered in eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Prospecters entered the region and brought their money with them. This enabled more businesses to spring up. One of the most important was the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, which connected Portland to the mining camps. This helped Portland boom from a lumber town to a large economic hub. The American Civil War also helped Oregon's economy. Manufactured woolen goods were in high demand, so the textile industry in Salem flourished. When the gold ran out, Oregon's economy shifted to the export of wheat. In 1880, the Portland-based "wheat fleet" was delivering millions of bushels of grain to Australia, China, and England.

For a very long time, Oregon's economy was limited by the lack of railroads leading to the East. Railroads first connected Oregon to the rest of the nation in 1883, when the North Pacific railroad linked Portland with Saint Paul, Minnesota. A year later, the Oregon Short Line linked the state to the main transcontinental railroad. In 1887, a railroad was constructed between Oregon and California. These railways enabled Oregon products to appear in the Eastern and Midwestern states, and Oregon's economy boomed.

By the turn of the 19th century, the timber in the Midwest was depleted. (Popular folklore blames Paul Bunyan, who supposedly chopped down the last tree in the Dakotas.) Because of this, loggers moved to the Pacific Northwest. New developments in logging technology, along with the sheer amount of trees, helped the timber industry become the largest industry in Oregon. To this day, Oregon still leads the nation in timber production, with the Douglas fir and the ponderosa pine being the two most common trees.

Prior to statehood, the Democratic Party represented the political views of most Oregonians and was controlled mostly by people in Salem. After the Civil War, the Republican Party, which was ran mostly by Portland lawyers, took power.

In the 1870's, the women's rights movement swept through Oregon. Abigail Scott Duniway was the most prominent of the feminists, campaigning to give women the right to vote and own property. In 1884, the first amendment giving women the right to vote was introduced, but it failed. It wasn't until 1912 that women gained the vote in Oregon.

In the late 1800's, farmers began to get involved in politics. A branch of the Farmers Clubs, which were originally designed to combat high shipping costs, opened in Oregon in 1873. Farmers also formed an independant political party, which did surprisingly well in the legislative elections in 1874. The increasing activism of farmers also helped the Populist Party. In 1886, a Populist named Sylvester Pennoyer ran for governer on the Democratic ticket. Four years later, Pennoyer ran again on the Populist ticket and won. Pennoyer demanded the U.S. Congress to give funds to Oregon in order to improve the transportation network in order to help farmers ship their goods at low prices.

In the early 20th century, Oregon became a leader in progressive democracy. In 1902, Oregon approved an amendment that allowed for two important concepts in today's government: the initiative and the referendum. Other reforms soon followed. In 1904, direct primaries were introduced. In 1908, laws allowing the recall of government officials were put in place. Between 1904 and 1918, Oregonians approved 13 constitutional amendments and passed 35 statutory laws. Some of the more notable laws dealt with labor, such as worker's compensation, the liability of employers, and an eight-hour day for laborers working on state projects. Another important law was the abolition of the death penalty. Incidentally, Oregon has always had a changing attitude towards capital punishment. The death penalty was reenacted in 1920, then banned again in 1964, and then restored again in 1984.

The Great Depression hit the nation hard. To combat the depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented a new plan called the New Deal. The public works projects created by the New Deal transformed Oregon. Reforestation occured, and highways and interstates were constructed. However, the most important New Deal project in Oregon was the Bonneville Dam. Completed in 1938, the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River provided hydroelectric power to the Pacific Northwest, and is responsible for making Portland a major hub in the Western power grid.

Thanks to the Bonneville Dam, Oregon was a major producer of industrial goods during World War II. Portland became a major shipbuilding center. To house the new workers, the city of Vanport was founded north of Portland. For a short time, Vanport had the distinction of being the second largest city in Oregon. However, the population was cut in half after the war ended, and a Columbia River flood wiped out the city in 1948. During the war, Oregon gained the distinction of being the only mainland U.S. state to be attacked by another nation since the 1800's. A Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens, to no effect. Also, the town of Brookings was attacked in an attempt to start a forest fire. Fortunately, the fire did not start. Today, the Japanese soldier responsible for the attempt is frequently invited to Brookings as some odd form of local celebrity. Also during WWII, all Japanese citizens in Oregon were trasported east of the Cascades and placed in "relocation centers" to help security. After the war, the Japanese-Americans returned to their homes to find themselves bankrupt and without property. In 1988, Congress gave $20,000 to all Japanese-Americans who had lived in a relocation center as compensation.

Starting in the 1960s, steps were taken to maintain the beautiful environment. In 1967, a law was passed that required all businesses to obtain permits before dumping toxic material into the Willamette River. In that same year, state parks were formed along the riverbanks. In 1973, the Willamette River Greenway Act was passed, which prevents the riverbank from being developed. Other river-related laws were passed; portions of six rivers were declared "scenic rivers", which bars dams and other similar structures. In 1971, Oregon became the first state in the union to require resource protection during logging operations, thanks to the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

In 1969, Oregon adopted statewide land-use zoning. This created ten land-use goals that all local governments had to comply with. The enforcement of this law was given to the Land Conservation and Development Commission in 1973. In 1971, Oregon prohibited all no-deposit beverage bottles and cans through the famous "bottle bill". Also, environmentalists passed a law that banned aerosol cans that used flourocarbons. Oregon was the first state to do this.

The most controversial law Oregonians have passed was the Death with Dignity Act. Passed in 1994, the act legalized doctor-assisted suicide. However, referendums and legal actions prevented the law from being practiced. Finally, in 1997, the Oregon legislature put the measure on the ballot again for a possible recall, but the voters chose to keep the Death with Dignity Act by a fair margin.

Today, the economy of Oregon is primarily based on the environment. Timber, agricultural goods, and tourism are the three biggest industries. Salmon fishing, although important in the past, has become less important. The last cannery on the Columbia was shut down in 1979. Also, overfishing, pollution, and dams have significantly lowered the number of salmon. In 1998, the Coho salmon was listed as a threatened species by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Six additional species were placed on the list the following year. Because of this, the federal government has recently begun to protect the fish population in the rivers of Oregon.

The late 20th century has also reshaped the structure of Oregon's state government. In 1961, Governer Mark Hatfield attempted to reorganize the government into large departments, with the heads of each department on the gubernatorial cabinet. Hatfield's plan failed, but Governer Tom McCall was able to get a similar proposal passed. McCall was successful in getting the legislature to pass a large number of his suggestions, including the formation of a department of human resources, a department of fish and wildlife, and a department of transportation. In 1981, the court system was also reorganized.

Today, most of Oregon's problems are from taxes. The state relies on income taxes, whereas local governments are funded by property taxes. There is no sales tax, although plans to implement one has been defeated several times. The property tax, although among the highest in the nation, is limited due to a law passed in 1990. Oregon is currently in one of its worst economic phases ever, with unemployment rampant. Also, schools are in a horrible shape due to lack of funding. This got so bad that the Portland School District was lampooned in the political satire comic Doonesbury. The Oregon voters are going to have to either adopt a sales tax or remove the limit on property taxes. Unnfortunately, with the mindset many of the voters have, neither of these is likly in the future.

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