Geography and Landforms:

Oregon is bordered by Washington on the north and California and Nevada on the south. On the east, Oregon is bordered by Idaho and on the west, the state is bordered by the Pacific Ocean.

Major rivers in Oregon include the Columbia, Deschutes, Willamette, John Day and Snake Rivers.

Oregon is divided into six geographic areas: the Coast Range, the Willamette Lowland, the Cascade Mountains, the Klamath Mountains, the Columbia Plateau and the Basin and Range Region.

The Coast Range runs north and south along the Pacific Ocean coast; it consists of low mountain ranges covered with evergreens like spruce, fir and hemlock. The Cascade Mountains are in the center of the state. They are much more rugged and contain some of the highest peaks in the United States, including Mount Hood, the highest point in Oregon. There are also many lakes within the Cascade Mountains including Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States at 1,932 feet deep. Lying between the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains are the Willamette Lowlands along the Willamette River. The southwest corner of Oregon contains the densely forested Klamath Mountains, and the Basin and Range Region covers a section of southeastern Oregon. Most of this region is semi-desert.

Most of the eastern Oregon is covered by the Columbia Plateau, formed thousands of years ago by lava flowing from cracks in the earth's crust. Although many of the state's wheat farms are located on the Columbia Plateau, most of the area is quite rugged. On the Oregon--Idaho border, the Snake River has cut Hells Canyon deep into the earth at an average depth of 5,500 feet.


Spanish and British sailors exploring the Pacific coast may have been the first Europeans to sight Oregon during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Sir Francis Drake of England sailed along the coast in 1579, and may have come as far north as Oregon. These explorations continued through the eighteenth century as both countries sought to claim more territory for their home countries.

The real impetus for exploration came in the eighteenth century with the quest to discover the "Northwest Passage," a water route from the east to the Pacific, and eventually to the Far East. A ''''?20,000 prize was offered to the first person to find the Northwest Passage. In 1778, Captain James Cook charted some of the Oregon coastline. At the same time, Russian explorers were pushing southward from Alaska, and British fur companies based in what is now Canada were also exploring the area. Of course, the primary reason for finding a possible Northwest Passage was to increase trade, and the area that is now Oregon looked to be a promising source of fur. Soon explorers and traders from several countries were hoping to claim this new land for themselves.

In 1792, Captain Robert Gray of the new United States of America discovered the Columbia River and named it for his ship. Gray was probably among the first white men to explore Oregon beyond the coast, and he claimed the area for the U.S.

Soon after the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase land from France in 1804-05, Thomas Jefferson decided to send Lewis and Clark to explore the area and to determine if there really was a Northwest Passage. The Columbia River had long been believed to be the key to this legendary waterway, but Lewis and Clark expedition determined once and for all that there was no real Northwest Passage. However, the combination of claims from both Gray and the Lewis and Clark party strengthened the United States' claim to the land. John Jacob Astor, perhaps one of the richest men in the country, established a fur trading station which he called Astoria in 1811. This was probably the first permanent European settlement in Oregon. Conflict for control of the area between the British fur trading companies, led by the Hudson's Bay Company, and the US traders was finally resolved with the 1846 Oregon Treaty, in which Great Britain gave up claims to the area.

About the same time, beginning in 1842, wagon trains began to make the "great migration" westward over what was called "the Oregon Trail" from Missouri to Western Oregon. The majority of the pioneers settled in the fertile Willamette Valley. By 1848, there was sufficient settlement to create Oregon Territory. Discoveries of gold on the coast and in surrounding areas increased the number of pioneers and prospectors coming to the area.

The increase in white settlement led to conflict with the Native populations. These Indian wars with the Rogue River, Modoc, Paiute, Bannock and Nez Perce tribes inevitably led to the surrender of lands by the Indians and the movement of these groups to reservations. The settlement of these Indian wars brought further settlement, and Oregon became a state in 1859.

The railroads came to Oregon in the 1870s and agricultural products no longer had to be transported along waterways to be sold. Lumbering had been important, but became a leading industry because lumber could be more easily exported on railroads.


Oregon is the leading provider of lumber in the United States; about one-tenth of the nation's timber can be found in the state. There are nearly 31 million acres of forest land (almost half the state), and although much of this area is protected from logging for environmental reasons, the state produces more than 5 billion board feet per year. Other industries connected to timber include paper and paper items, printing and publishing.

The state's numerous dams provide abundant, cheap electric power. The John Day Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric generators in the world. The dams also assist in flood control and navigation, and the rivers are rich in fish, particularly salmon.

In agriculture, the state is a leading producer of peppermint, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, black raspberries, and hazelnuts. Also important is the production of raspberries, hops, prunes, snap beans and onions.

Although mining is not a major industry overall, Oregon leads the nation in the production of nickel. Tourism is increasing as a resource to the state, as there are 13 national forests, one national grassland, and more than 220 state parks.

First Inhabitants:

Archaeologists believe the first humans to come to the area now known as Oregon were part of a group that had arrived in the Northwest from Mongolia using a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska about thirteen thousand years ago. Native Americans who lived in this area created pictographs on canyon walls, and they have legends about how Oregon was created. The earliest groups lived by fishing and hunting large game. Groups living along the lower Columbia River lived in large multi-family long houses. Other groups living further up the Columbia tended to live in smaller groups and be more nomadic. These people fished for salmon on the Willamette River, and in the spring and summer, thousands gathered to harvest the Chinook salmon and trade with one another.

It is estimated that Indians speaking more than 30 different languages lived throughout Oregon by the eighteenth century.

Books Related To Oregon

B is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet - Roland Smith
(978-1585360710) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Oregon.

The Barn - Avi
(978-0380725625) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 3 - 4
A sick man's young children try to build the barn he has planned after he succumbs to a stroke.

Bat 6 - Virginia Euwer Wolff
(978-0590898003) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 4
Two teams of 6th grade female ball players experience prejudice when they play softball against each other after the second world war in the Pacific Northwest.

The Devil in Ol' Rosie - Louise Moeri
(978-1442402027) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 1040, ESL level: 4
Wart must face immense dangers while trying to recapture escaped horses in early 1900's Oregon.

Emily's Runaway Imagination - Beverly Cleary
(978-0380709236) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 910, ESL level: 3
Emily, along with her mother, try to improve life in a small Oregon town by founding a library there.

Escaping the Giant Wave - Peg Kehret
(978-0689852732) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-8, Lexile: 750, ESL level: 3 - 4
Kyle decides to save an acquaintance who has bullied him in the past along with his sister when they face a post-earthquake tsunami.

Nora and the Texas Terror - Judy Cox
(978-0823422838) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, ESL level: 2 - 3
Nora has a difficult time with her loud cousin Ellie, whose family has had to come and live with hers after the parents lose their jobs.

Operation Clean Sweep - Darleen Bailey Beard
(978-0374380342) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 720, ESL level: 3
Small town Oregon women use their newly achieved voting rights to replace elected officials in town with women.

A Piece of the Sky - David Patneaude
(978-0807565360) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-8, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3 - 4
Russell, Phoebe, and Isaac find adventure while searching for the meteorite of a legend, trying to preserve its sanctity, in a small Oregon town.

Rachel's Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl - Marissa Moss
(978-0152021689) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-5, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 4
In a charming, illustrated journal, a young girl keeps a fascinating record of her family's travels on the Oregon Trail.

Famous Citizens:

Danny Ainge
Ainge was born in Eugene, Oregon and attended Brigham Young University. He was a college All-American and won the Wooden Award as college basketball player of the year in 1981, but he also played professional baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays while he was in college. He was eventually drafted to play basketball with the Boston Celtics, and ended his career with the Blue Jays. He started for two NBA championship teams as a Celtic, and when he retired, he was the second player in NBA history to hit 900 three-point shots. After retirement, he served briefly as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Beverly Cleary
Beverly Atlee Bunn was born in McMinnville, Oregon and grew up on a family farm. She studied to be a librarian at the University of Washington, and served as a children's librarian in Yakima, Washington. It was not until she was in her early thirties that she finally found time to write, something she had always wanted to do. She is probably best known for her Ramona books, including Ramona Forever, Beezus and Ramona, and Ramona's World. She has written more than 30 books, and won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Newberry Medal for her children's books.

Matt Groening
Born in Portland, Oregon, Matt was the son of a cartoonist who encouraged his son to draw from an early age. After graduating from college in 1977, he moved to Los Angeles with hopes to become a writer. Not finding much success, he began to send messages to his friends back home in the form of a comic book he called "Life in Hell." This comic strip is still active and appears in newspapers around the world. His success with this project led television producer James L. Brooks to hire Groening to develop an original animated comedy series, and The Simpsons debuted on Fox Television in 1990. The show is the longest running prime time animated show in history.

Chief Joseph
Born in the Wallowa Valley, Joseph was a member of the Nez Perce tribe. Known primarily as a peaceful leader, he was forced into a war in 1877 over issues of white settlement. After trying to lead his people on a 1,500 mile trek to Canada, he was forced to surrender when his people were left starving and near frozen to death. He was first relocated to Oklahoma, but then returned to his homeland and encouraged Indians to get an education and to abstain from drinking and gambling.

Phil Knight
Born in Portland, Oregon, Phil Knight graduated from the University of Oregon with a BS in business administration and competed on the track team. In 1964, Knight and his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, each invested $500 to start Blue Ribbon Sports, the company that would later become Nike. The first athletic shoe to bear the Nike brand was the Cortez in 1972. By 1979, the company (named for the Greek goddess of victory) claimed 50% of the US running shoe market. Today Knight is the chief executive officer, president and chairman of Nike.

Linus Pauling
Born in Portland, Oregon, Linus Pauling was the son of a druggist. He attended Oregon State College and then served as a professor of quantitative analysis at the college. He received the Nobel Price in Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, and is the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes. He worked with Albert Einstein to promote world peace and to warn the public about the biological dangers of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing. He is also known for his research into the curative powers of Vitamin C, although much of his work in this field has never been accepted by mainstream scientists.

Linus Pauling
Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, the son of a pharmacist. He attended Oregon State College and received a doctorate from California Institute of Technology where he went on to become a professor. He was chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering for 22 years. Pauling made advances in chemistry and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. An outspoken opponent of war, particularly using nuclear weapons, he worked for international agreements banning nuclear testing, and in 1963, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes.

Capital: Salem
Entered Union: February 14, 1859
Population: 3,970,239
Area 98,381
Bird Western Meadowlark
Flower Oregon Grape
Nickname: Beaver State
Governor Kate Brown

Places to Visit in Oregon: (Click the links to learn more.)

Sea Lion Caves - Florence
Sea Lion Caves is the world's largest sea cave and is home to the Northern sea lion. The cave is as high as a 12-story building and was discovered in 1880. The cave was probably formed about 25 million years ago. Visitors travel into the cave by elevator and can see live sea lions, birds, whales and other wildlife.

Japanese Garden - Portland
Perhaps the most authentic Japanese garden outside Japan, the garden was founded in 1962. Japanese gardens have an ancient history influenced by Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. Plantings, stones and the route of pathways all give the visitor constantly changing views. The garden is meant to calm and to soothe, and includes five formal garden styles: the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, the Flat Garden and the Tea Garden.

Mount Hood Railroad - Hood River
Since it began in 1906, the Mount Hood Railroad has served as an active freight line for the Hood River Valley, carrying the region's fruit and forest products to market. Now a National Historic Site, visitors can travel through some of Oregon's most beautiful scenery.

The Oregon Vortex - Gold Hill
The Oregon Vortex is a naturally occurring visual and perceptual phenomenon which was believed by Native Americans to be a "forbidden place" and has been featured on television shows on the Learning Channel, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel.

The High Desert Museum - Bend
The High Desert Museum shows visitors the people, plants, and animals of the arid Intermountain West, and includes exhibits in the main building, and outdoor trails winding through animal habitats.