State: Oregon – ORPublished on September 17th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography
Oregon is a U.S. State located in the Pacific Northwest. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, by Washington to the north, California to the south, Idaho to the east, and by Nevada to the southeast.
Today we’ll examine the history, geography, and climate of this place. First, we will look at some key information about this state:
- State abbreviation: OR
- Capital: Salem
- Largest City: Portland
- Nickname: Beaver State
- Motto: Alis volat propriis (Latin: She flies with her own wings)
- State song: “Oregon My Oregon”
- Area: ranked 9th (98,381 square feet)
- Highest point: Mount Hood (11,249 ft)
- Admitted to the Union: February 14, 1859 (33rd state)
- Time zones: most of state if Pacific UTC -8/-7 most of Malheur County is Mountain UTC -7/-6
- Official website: oregon.gov
- State Flag
- State bird: Western meadowlark
- Crustacean: Dungeness crab
- Fish: Chinook salmon
- Flower: Oregon grape
- Grass: Bluebunch wheatgrass
- Insect: Oregon swallowtail
- Mammal: American beaver
- Tree: Douglas-fir
OR State Overview
Oregon was the 33rd of the 50 U.S. States to be admitted to the union. The earliest use of the named was spelled “Ouragon.” It appeared in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain. Back then the word referred to the River of the West (the Columbia River).
There are multiple theories for how the name of the state came to be in its current form and spelling. They range from it being derived from the French word ouragan which means “windstorm” or “hurricane”, to the name being rounded down from the phrase “aure il agua.” Still another explanation is that it was a mispelling on a french map engraving in the 18th century.
According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, the proper pronunciation is “or-uh-gun” and not “or-ee-gone.” A native quarterback from the state by the name of Joey Harrington began distributing “Orygun” stickers to remind people how it is pronounced. Stickers are still sold with this spelling at the University of Oregon Bookstore.
The Columbia makes up most of the northern boundary of the state, and the Snake River does the same for the eastern boundary. This is one of only three states to have a coastline on the Pacific Ocean.
As of 2013, there were roughly 3.9 million people living in the state with Portland being the largest city. The area has a diverse landscape that ranges from the Pacific coastline to the Cascade Range. Crater Lake National Park is the only national park of its kind in the state.
The State’s History
Humans were living in this area for at least 15,000 years prior to colonization. Major powers fought over who controlled the state until 1846 when the U.S. and Great Britain finalized the division of the area. The oldest evidence of people living in the area are the Fort Rock Cave and the Paisley Caves in Lake County. These caves have materials that are dated to be 13,200 years old.
By the time the 16th century came, there were numerous Native American groups living in the area. The first Europeans were Spanish explorers who spotted the area while traveling along the Pacific Coast in 1543.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled through the northern portion of the state looking for the Northest Passage. This was followed by several more explorers looking to stake their claim in certain portions of the state:
- David Thompson – a British explorer became the first European to navigate the Columbia River. He stopped at the junction of the Snake River and claimed it for Great Britain and the North West Company.
- John Jacob Astor – financed the construction of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River as a western outpost for the Pacific Fur Company.
British gained control of the Pacific Fur Company posts in the War of 1812. The Treaty of 1818 created a join occupancy of the area between America and Britain. The Oregon Trail bright new American settlers from 1842-1843.
There was a time when it seemed like American and Britain would go to war again, but the border disputes were resolved in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty. During the Civil War, troops were sent east while volunteers from California came north to keep the peace.
The emergence of railroads in the 1880’s allows the state’s lumber, wheat, and other markets to expand, along with the major cities. This is the only state to have legalized gay marriage, physician-assisted suicide, and recreational marijuana.
Geography and Climate
The geography of the state can be split into eight regions:
- Oregon Coast
- Willamette Valley
- Rogue Valley
- Cascade Range
- Klamath Mountains
- Columbia Plateau
- High Desert
- Blue Mountains
The western mountain regions house three of the most prominent mountain peaks in the United States. These were formed by volcanic activity resulting from the Juan de-Fuca Plate which is a tectonic plate still posing a continuous threat of volcanic activity and earthquakes in the area.
The most recent earthquake was the 1700 Cascadia earthquake. The Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington affected the northern portion of the state as well. The Columbia River also played a major role in the development of the state’s geography. It is one of the largest rivers in North America.
The landscape today ranges from rain forests in the Coast Range, to barren deserts in the southeast, which still meet the definition of a frontier. Crater Lake National Park is the only park of its kind in the state.
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet. This state is also home to what is considered the largest organism in the world. It is an Armillaria solidpes fungus that lies beneath the Malheau National Forest.
The climate here is mild for the most part. There is an oceanic climate west of the Cascade mountain range. The climate varies with mixed evergreen forests spread across the west and a high desert in the east. The southwestern portion of the state has a Mediterranean climate with dry and sunny winters and hot summers like Northern California.
The climate is heavily influence by the Pacific Ocean. Humidity is high in the west and becomes more dry as you move east.
Now that you’ve learned a great deal about this place, continue learning with our list of Oregon state facts. Before you go though, leave a comment about your experience with this state!