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Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It joined the Union on February 14, 1859 as the 33rd state. Previously, the region was part of the Oregon Territory that was created in 1848 after American settlement began in earnest in the 1840s. The state lies on the Pacific coast between Washington on the north and California and Nevada on the south; Idaho lies to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers form much of its northern and eastern boundaries, respectively. Salem, the state's third most populous city, is the state capital, while the most populous city is Portland.

The valley of the Willamette River in western Oregon is the most densely populated and agriculturally productive region of the state and is home to 8 of the 10 most populous cities. Oregon's population in 2000 was about 3.5 million, a 20.3% increase over 1990; it is estimated to have reached 3.7 million by 2006. Oregon's largest private employer is Intel, located in the Silicon Forest area in Portland's west side. Nike and Precision Castparts are the only Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state. The state has 199 public school districts, with Portland Public Schools as the largest. There are 17 community colleges, and seven publicly financed colleges in the Oregon University System. Oregon Health & Science University, the state's only medical school, is affiliated with the system. Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Oregon in Eugene are the two flagship universities of the state, while Portland State University has the largest enrollment. Willamette University in Salem is the oldest college in Oregon.

Major highways include Interstate 5 which runs the entire north-south length of the state, Interstate 84 that runs east-west, U.S. Route 97 that crosses the middle of the state, U.S. Route 101 that travels the entire coastline, and U.S. Route 26 that runs east-west, among many other highways. Portland International Airport is the busiest commercial airport in the state, run by the Port of Portland, the busiest port in Oregon. Rail service includes Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway freight service, Amtrak passenger service, as well as light rail and street car routes in the Portland metro area.

Oregon has a diverse landscape with tall, dense forests that stretch a third of the way across the state in the north and halfway across the state in the south; and its accessible and scenic Pacific coastline and its rugged, glaciated Cascade volcanoes. Other areas include semi-arid scrublands, prairies, and deserts that cover approximately half the state in eastern and north-central Oregon, and sparser pine forests in the northeast. Mount Hood is the highest point in the state at 11,239 feet (3,425 m) above sea-level. Crater Lake National Park is the only National Park in Oregon.


Human habitation of the Pacific Northwest began at least 15,000 years ago, with the oldest evidence of habitation in Oregon found at Fort Rock Cave in Lake County by archaeologist Luther Cressman dating to 13,200 years ago. By 8000 B.C. there were settlements throughout the state, with populations concentrated along the lower Columbia River, in the western valleys, and around coastal estuaries.

By the 16th century Oregon was home to many Native American groups, including the Bannock, Chasta, Chinook, Kalapuya, Klamath, Molalla, Nez Perce, Takelma, and Umpqua.

James Cook explored the coast in 1778 in search of the Northwest Passage. The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled through the region during their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. They built their winter fort at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Exploration by Lewis and Clark (1805–1806) and the United Kingdom's David Thompson (1811) publicized the abundance of fur-bearing animals in the area. Also in 1811, New Yorker John Jacob Astor financed the establishment of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River as a western outpost to his Pacific Fur Company; this was the first permanent Caucasian 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 Hudson's Bay Company dominated the Pacific Northwest from its Columbia District headquarters at Fort Vancouver (built in 1825 by the District's Chief Factor John McLoughlin across the Columbia from present-day Portland).

In 1841, the master trapper and entrepreneur Ewing Young died leaving considerable wealth and no apparent heir, and no system to probate his estate. A meeting followed Young's funeral at which a probate government was proposed. Doctor Ira Babcock of Jason Lee's Methodist Mission was elected Supreme Judge. Babcock chaired two meetings in 1842 at Champoeg (half way between Lee's mission and Oregon City) to discuss wolves and other animals of contemporary concern. These meetings were precursors to an all-citizen meeting in 1843, which instituted a provisional government headed by an executive committee made up of David Hill, Alanson Beers, and Joseph Gale. This government was the first acting public government of the Oregon Country before annexation by the government of the United States.

The Oregon Trail brought many new settlers to the region, starting in 1842–1843, after the United States agreed with the United Kingdom to jointly settle the Oregon Country. For some time, it seemed that these two nations would go to war for a third time in 75 years (see Oregon boundary dispute), but the border was defined peacefully in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty. The border between the United States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848.

Settlement increased because of the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, in conjunction with the forced relocation of the native population to Indian reservations in Oregon. The state was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, regular U.S. troops were withdrawn and sent east. Volunteer cavalry were recruited in California and sent north to Oregon to keep peace and protect the populace. The First Oregon Cavalry served until June 1865.

In the 1880s, the proliferation of railroads assisted in marketing of the state's lumber and wheat, as well as the more rapid growth of its cities.

Industrial expansion began in earnest following the construction of the Bonneville Dam in 1933-1937 on the Columbia River. Hydroelectric power, food, and lumber provided by Oregon helped fuel the development of the West, although the periodic fluctuations in the U.S. building industry have hurt the state's economy on multiple occasions.

The state has a long history of polarizing conflicts: American Indians vs. British fur trappers, British vs. U.S. settlers, ranchers vs. farmers, wealthy growing cities vs. established but poor rural areas, loggers vs. environmentalists, white supremacists vs. anti-racists, social progressivism vs. small-government conservatism, supporters of social spending vs. anti-tax activists, and native Oregonians vs. Californians (or outsiders in general). Oregonians also have a long history of secessionist ideas, with people in various regions and on all sides of the political spectrum attempting to form other states and even other countries. (See: State of Jefferson, Cascadia and Ecotopia.)

In 1902, Oregon introduced a system of direct legislation by the state’s citizens by way of initiative and referendum, known as the Oregon System. Oregon state ballots often include politically conservative proposals (e.g. anti-gay, pro-religious measures) side-by-side with politically liberal ones (e.g. drug decriminalization), illustrating the wide spectrum of political thought in the state.


The origin of the name "Oregon" is unknown. According to the Oregon Blue Book, the source for the earliest written use of the word was Major Robert Rogers, an English army officer. In his 1765 proposal for a journey, Rogers wrote:

"The rout . . . is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon. . . ."

One account, endorsed as the "most plausible explanation" in the book Oregon Geographic Names, was advanced by George R. Stewart in a 1944 article in American Speech. According to Stewart, the name came from an engraver's error in a French map published in the early 1700s, on which the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin) River was spelled "Ouaricon-sint", broken on two lines with the -sint below, so that there appeared to be a river flowing to the west named "Ouaricon".

Present-day Oregonians have a preferred pronunciation of "Oregon": it's "pronounced OR-UH-GUN never OR-EE-GONE" (according to the Oregon Tourism Commission). The accepted pronunciation follows from the horse-hoarse merger, which encompasses the majority of native Oregonians.


National parks and historic areas in Oregon
Entity Location
Crater Lake National Park Southern Oregon
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Eastern Oregon
Newberry National Volcanic Monument Central Oregon
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Southern Oregon
Oregon Caves National Monument Southern Oregon
California National Historic Trail Southern Oregon, California
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Western Oregon, Washington
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail IL, MO, KS, IA, NE, SD, ND, MT, ID, OR, WA
Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks Western Oregon, Washington
Nez Perce National Historical Park MT, ID, OR, WA
Oregon National Historic Trail MO, KS, NE, WY, ID, OR

Oregon's geography may be split roughly into seven areas:

  • Oregon Coast—west of the Coast Range
  • Willamette Valley
  • Rogue Valley
  • Cascade Mountains
  • Klamath Mountains
  • Columbia River Plateau
  • Basin and Range Region

The mountainous regions of western Oregon were formed by the volcanic activity of Juan de Fuca Plate, a tectonic plate that poses a continued threat of volcanic activity and earthquakes in the region. The most recent major activity was the 1700 Cascadia earthquake; Washington's Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, an event which was visible from Portland.

The Columbia River, which constitutes much of the northern border of Oregon, also played a major role in the region's geological evolution, as well as its economic and cultural development. The Columbia is one of North America's largest rivers, and the only river to cut through the Cascades. About 15,000 years ago, the Columbia repeatedly flooded much of Oregon during the Missoula Floods; the modern fertility of the Willamette Valley is largely a result of those floods. Plentiful salmon made parts of the river, such as Celilo Falls, hubs of economic activity for thousands of years. In the 20th century, numerous hydroelectric dams were constructed along the Columbia, with major impacts on salmon, transportation and commerce, electric power, and flood control.

Today, Oregon's landscape varies from rainforest in the Coast Range to barren desert in the southeast, which still meets the technical definition of a frontier.

Oregon is 295 miles (475 km) north to south at longest distance, and 395 miles (636 km) east to west at longest distance. In terms of land and water area, Oregon is the ninth largest state, covering 98,381 square miles (254,810 km²).

The highest point in Oregon is the summit of Mount Hood, at 11,239 feet (3,428 m), and its lowest point is sea level of the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon coast. Its mean elevation is 3,300 feet (1,006 m). Crater Lake National Park is the state's only National Park, and the site of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet (592 m). Oregon claims the D River is the shortest river in the world, though the American state of Montana makes the same claim of its Roe River. Oregon is also home to Mill Ends Park (in Portland), the smallest park in the world at 452 square inches (0.29 m²).

Oregon is home to what is considered the largest single organism in the world, an Armillaria ostoyae fungus beneath the Malheur National Forest of eastern Oregon.

Major cities

Oregon's population is largely concentrated in the Willamette Valley, which stretches from Eugene (home of the University of Oregon, second largest city in Oregon) through Salem (the capital, third largest) and Corvallis (home of Oregon State University) to Portland (Oregon's largest city).

Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, was the first permanent English-speaking settlement west of Rockies in what is now the United States. Oregon City, at the end of the Oregon Trail, was the Oregon Territory's first incorporated city, and was its first capital from 1848 until 1852, when the capital was moved to Salem. Bend, near the geographic center of the state, is one of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. In the southern part of the state, Medford is a rapidly growing metro area, which is home to The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, the third-busiest airport in the state. Further to the south, near the California-Oregon border, is the community of Ashland, home of the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival.


Oregon's climate—especially in the western part of the state—is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean. The climate is generally mild, but periods of extreme hot and cold can affect parts of the state. Precipitation in the state varies widely: the deserts of eastern Oregon, such as the Alvord Desert (in the rain shadow of Steens Mountain), get as little as 200 mm (8 inches) annually, while some western coastal slopes approach 5000 mm (200 inches) annually. Oregon's population centers, which lie mostly in the western part of the state, are generally wet and soggy, while the high deserts of Central and Eastern Oregon are much drier.

Law and government

The Oregon Country functioned as an independent republic[citation needed] with a three-person executive office and a chief executive until August 13, 1848, when Oregon was annexed by the United States, at which time a territorial government was established. Oregon maintained a territorial government until February 14, 1859, when it was granted statehood.

State government

Oregon state government has a separation of powers similar to the federal government. It has three branches, called departments by the state's constitution:

  • a legislative department (the bicameral Oregon Legislative Assembly),
  • an executive department which includes an "administrative department" and Oregon's governor serving as chief executive, and
  • a judicial department, headed by the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.

Governors in Oregon serve four year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms, but an unlimited number of total terms. Oregon has no Lieutenant Governor; in the event that the office of Governor is vacated, Article V, Section 8a of the Oregon Constitution specifies that the Secretary of State is first in line for succession. The other statewide officers are Treasurer, Attorney General, Superintendent, and Labor Commissioner. The biennial Oregon Legislative Assembly consists of a thirty-member Senate and a sixty-member House. The state supreme court has seven elected justices, currently including the only two openly gay state supreme court justices in the nation. They choose one of their own to serve a six-year term as Chief Justice. The only court that may reverse or modify a decision of the Oregon Supreme Court is the Supreme Court of the United States.

The debate over whether to move to annual sessions is a long-standing battle in Oregon politics, but the voters have resisted the move from citizen legislators to professional lawmakers. Because Oregon's state budget is written in two year increments and, having no sales tax, its revenue is based largely on income taxes, it is often significantly over- or under-budget. Recent legislatures have had to be called into special session repeatedly to address revenue shortfalls resulting from economic downturns, bringing to a head the need for more frequent legislative sessions.

The state maintains formal relationships with the nine federally recognized tribal governments in Oregon:

  • Burns Paiute Tribe
  • Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians
  • Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
  • Confederated Tribes of Siletz
  • Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Coquille Tribe
  • Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
  • Klamath Tribes

Oregonians have voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in every election since 1988. In 2004 and 2006, Democrats won control of the state Senate and then the House. Since the late 1990s, Oregon has been represented by four Democrats and one Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and by one U.S. Senator from each party. Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski defeated Republicans in 2002 and 2006, defeating conservative Kevin Mannix and the more moderate Ron Saxton respectively.

The base of Democratic support is largely concentrated in the urban centers of the Willamette Valley. In both 2000 and 2004, the Democratic Presidential candidate won Oregon, but did so with majorities in only eight of Oregon's 36 counties. The eastern two-thirds of the state beyond the Cascade Mountains often votes Republican; in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush carried every county east of the Cascades. However, the region's sparse population means that the more populous counties in the Willamette Valley usually carry the day in statewide elections.

Oregon's politics are largely similar to those of neighboring Washington, for instance in the contrast between urban and rural issues.

In the 2004 general election, Oregon voters passed ballot measures banning gay marriage, and restricting land use regulation. In the 2006 general election, voters restricted the use of eminent domain and extended the state's discount prescription drug coverage.

The distribution, sales and consumption of alcoholic beverages are regulated in the state by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Thus, Oregon is an Alcoholic beverage control state. While wine and beer are available in most grocery stores, comparatively few stores sell hard liquor.

Racial discrimination

Entering the Union at a time when the status of "Negroes" was very much in question, and wishing to stay out of the looming conflict between the Union and Confederate States, Oregon banned African Americans from moving into the state in the vote to adopt its Constitution (1858). This ban was not officially lifted until 1925; in 2002, additional language now considered racist was struck from the Oregon Constitution by the voters of Oregon.

The historical policies of racial discrimination have had longterm effects on Oregon's population. A 1994 report from an Oregon Supreme Court task force found minorities more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, incarcerated and on probation than "similarly situated nonminorities." The report does not place blame on individuals, but instead points out the problems of institutional racism. The report recommends multicultural training of the existing justice system personnel and also recommends diversifying the perspectives, backgrounds and demographics of future hires.

Federal government

Like all U.S. states, Oregon is represented by two U.S. Senators. Since the 1980 census Oregon has had five Congressional districts.

After Oregon was admitted to the Union, it began with a single member in the House of Representatives (La Fayette Grover, who served in the 35th United States Congress for less than a month). Congressional apportionment led to the addition of new members following the censuses of 1890, 1910, 1940, and 1980. A detailed list of the past and present Congressional delegations from Oregon is available.

The United States District Court for the District of Oregon hears Federal cases in the state. Oregon (among other western states and territories) is in the 9th judicial circuit.


During Oregon's history it has adopted many electoral reforms proposed during the Progressive Era, through the efforts of William S. U'Ren and his Direct Legislation League. Under his leadership, the state overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in 1902 that created the initiative and referendum processes for citizens to directly introduce or approve proposed laws or amendments to the state constitution, making Oregon the first state to adopt such a system. Today, roughly half of U.S. states do so. In following years, the primary election to select party candidates was adopted in 1904, and in 1908 the Oregon Constitution was amended to include recall of public officials. More recent amendments include the nation's only doctor-assisted suicide law, called the Death with Dignity law (which was challenged, unsuccessfully, in 2005 by the Bush administration in a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court), legalization of medical marijuana, and among the nation's strongest anti-sprawl and pro-environment laws. More recently, 2004's Measure 37 reflects a backlash against such land use laws. However, a further ballot measure in 2007, Measure 49, curtailed many of the provisions of 37.

Of the measures placed on the ballot since 1902, the people have passed 99 of the 288 initiatives and 25 of the 61 referendums on the ballot, though not all of them survived challenges in courts. During the same period, the legislature has referred 363 measures to the people, of which 206 have passed.

Oregon pioneered the American use of postal voting, beginning with experimentation authorized by the Oregon Legislative Assembly in 1981 and culminating with a 1998 ballot measure mandating that all counties conduct elections by mail.

In the U.S. Electoral College, Oregon casts seven votes. Oregon has supported Democratic candidates in the last five elections. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won the state in 2004 by a margin of four percentage points, with 51.4% of the popular vote.


Land in the Willamette Valley owes its fertility to the Missoula Floods, which deposited lake sediment from Lake Missoula in western Montana onto the valley floor. This soil is the source of a wealth of agricultural products, including potatoes, peppermint, hops, apples and other fruits.

Oregon is also one of four major world hazelnut growing regions, and produces 95% of the domestic hazelnuts in the United States. While the history of the wine production in Oregon can be traced to before Prohibition, it became a significant industry beginning in the 1970s. In 2005, Oregon ranked third among U.S. states with 303 wineries. Due to regional similarities in climate and soil, the grapes planted in Oregon are often the same varieties found in the French regions of Alsace and Burgundy. In the northeastern region of the state, particularly around Pendleton, both irrigated and dryland wheat is grown. Oregon farmers and ranchers also produce cattle, sheep, dairy products, eggs and poultry.

Vast forests have historically made Oregon one of the nation's major timber production and logging states, but forest fires (such as the Tillamook Burn), over-harvesting, and lawsuits over the proper management of the extensive federal forest holdings have reduced the amount of timber produced. According to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, between 1989 and 2001 the amount of timber harvested from federal lands dropped some 96%, from 4,333 million to 173 million board feet (10,000,000 to 408,000 m³), although harvest levels on private land have remained relatively constant.[32] Even the shift in recent years towards finished goods such as paper and building materials has not slowed the decline of the timber industry in the state. The effects of this decline have included Weyerhaeuser's acquisition of Portland-based Willamette Industries in January 2002, the relocation of Louisiana Pacific's corporate headquarters from Portland to Nashville, and the decline of former lumber company towns such as Gilchrist. Despite these changes, Oregon still leads the United States in softwood lumber production; in 2001, 6,056 million board feet (14,000,000 m³) was produced in Oregon, compared to 4,257 million board feet (10,050,000 m³) in Washington, 2,731 million board feet (6,444,000 m³) in California, 2,413 million board feet (5,694,000 m³) in Georgia, and 2,327 million board feet (5,491,000 m³) in Mississippi. The effect of the forest industry crunch is still extensive unemployment in rural Oregon and is a bone of contention between rural and urban Oregon.

Oregon occasionally hosts film shoots. Movies wholly or partially filmed in Oregon include Rooster Cogburn,The Goonies, National Lampoon's Animal House, Stand By Me, Kindergarten Cop, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Paint Your Wagon, The Hunted, Sometimes a Great Notion, Elephant, Bandits, The Ring, The Ring 2,Quarterback Princess, Mr. Brooks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Short Circuit, Come See The Paradise, The Shining, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, The Postman, Homeward Bound, Free Willy, Free Willy 2, 1941, Swordfish, and Untraceable. Oregon native Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has incorporated many references from his hometown of Portland into the TV series. Oregon's scenic coastal and mountain highways are frequently seen in automobile commercials.

High technology industries and services have been a major employer since the 1970s. Tektronix was the largest private employer in Oregon until the late 1980s. Intel's creation and expansion of several facilities in eastern Washington County continued the growth that Tektronix had started. Intel, the state's largest private employer, operates four large facilities, with Ronler Acres, Jones Farm and Hawthorn Farm all located in Hillsboro. The spinoffs and startups that were produced by these two companies led to the establishment in that area of the so-called Silicon Forest. The recession and dot-com bust of 2001 hit the region hard; many high technology employers reduced the number of their employees or went out of business. OSDL made news in 2004 when they hired Linus Torvalds, developer of the Linux kernel. Recently, biotechnology giant Genentech purchased several acres of land in Hillsboro in an effort to expand its production capabilities.

Oregon is also the home of large corporations in other industries. The world headquarters of Nike, Inc. are located near Beaverton. Medford is home to two of the largest mail order companies in the country: Harry and David Operations Corp. which sells gift items under several brands, and Musician's Friend, an international catalog and Internet retailer of musical instruments and related products.Medford is also home to the national headquarters of the Fortune 1000 company, Lithia Motors. Portland is home to one of the West's largest trade book publishing houses, Graphic Arts Center Publishing.

Oregon has 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. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, held in Ashland, is a tourist draw which complements the southern region of the state's scenic beauty and opportunity for outdoor activities.

Oregon is home to a number of smaller breweries and Portland has the largest number of breweries of any city in the world.

Portland reportedly has more strip clubs per capita than both Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Oregon's gross state product is $132.66 billion as of 2006, making it the 27th largest GSP in the nation.

Taxes and budgets

Oregon's biennial state budget, $42.4 billion as of 2007, comprises General Funds, Federal Funds, Lottery Funds, and Other Funds. Personal income taxes account for 88% of the General Fund's projected funds. The Lottery Fund, which has grown steadily since the lottery was approved in 1984, exceeded expectations in the 2007 fiscal years, at $604 million.

Oregon is one of only five states that have no sales tax. Oregon voters have been resolute in their opposition to a sales tax, voting proposals down each of the nine times they have been presented. The last vote, for 1993's Measure 1, was defeated by a 72–24% margin.

The state also has a minimum corporate tax of only $10 per year, amounting to 5.6% of the General Fund in the 2005–2007 biennium; data about what businesses pay the minimum is not available to the public. As a result, the state relies almost entirely on property and income taxes for its revenue. Oregon has the fifth highest personal income tax per person in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oregon ranked 41st out of the 50 states in taxes per person in 2005. The average paid of $1,791.45 is higher than only nine other states.

Some local governments levy sales taxes on services: the city of Ashland, for example, collects a 5% sales tax on prepared food.

Oregon is one of six states with a revenue limit. The "kicker law" stipulates that when income tax collections exceed state economists' estimates by 2 percent or more, all of the excess must be returned to taxpayers. Since the inception of the law in 1979, refunds have been issued for seven of the eleven biennia. In 2000, Ballot Measure 86 converted the "kicker" law from statute to the Oregon Constitution, and changed some of its provisions.

Federal payments to county governments, which were granted to replace timber revenue when logging in National Forests was restricted in the 1990s, have been under threat of suspension for several years. This issue dominates the future revenue of rural counties, which have come to rely on the payments in providing essential services.

55% of state revenues are spent on public education, 23% on human services (child protective services, Medicaid, and senior services), 17% on public safety, and 5% on other services.


As of 2005, Oregon has an estimated population of 3,641,056, which is an increase of 49,693, or 1.4%, from the prior year and an increase of 219,620, or 6.4%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 75,196 people (that is 236,557 births minus 161,361 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 150,084 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 72,263 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 77,821 people.

The center of population of Oregon is located in Linn County, in the city of Lyons.

As of 2004, Oregon's population included 309,700 foreign-born residents (accounting for 8.7% of the state population) and an estimated 90,000 illegal immigrants (2.5% of the state population).

The largest reported ancestry groups in Oregon are: German (20.5%), English (13.2%), Irish (11.9%), American (6.2%), and Mexican (5.5%). Most Oregon counties are inhabited principally by residents of European ancestry. Concentrations of Mexican-Americans are highest in Malheur and Jefferson counties.

Oregon ranks 16th highest for population that is "white alone," with 86.1% in 2006.

6.5% of Oregon's population were reported as less than 5 years old, 24.7% under 18, and 12.8% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.4% of the population.


Of the U.S. states, Oregon has the third largest percentage of people identifying themselves as "non-religious" (tied with Colorado at 21 percent), after Washington and Vermont. However, 75-79% of Oregonians identify themselves as being Christian, and some hold deeply conservative convictions. During much of the 1990s a group of conservative Christians formed the Oregon Citizens Alliance, and unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation limiting the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

Oregon also contains the largest community of Russian Old Believers to be found in the United States. Additionally, Oregon, particularly the Portland metropolitan area, has become known as a center of non-mainstream spirituality. The Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, reported to be the largest such institution of its kind, is headquartered in Portland, and the popular New Age film What the Bleep Do We Know? was filmed and had its premiere in Portland.

2000–2003 population trends

Estimates released September 2004 show double-digit growth in Latino and Asian American populations since the 2000 Census. About 60% of the 138,197 new residents come from ethnic and racial minorities. Asian growth is located mostly in the metropolitan areas of Portland, Salem, Medford and Eugene; Hispanic population growth is across the state.


Primary and secondary

As of 2005, the state had 559,215 students in public primary and secondary schools. There were 199 public school districts at that time, served by 20 education service districts. The five largest school districts as of 2007 were: Portland Public Schools (46,262 students), Salem-Keizer School District (40,106), Beaverton School District (37,821), Hillsboro School District (20,401), and Eugene School District (18,025).

Colleges and universities


The Oregon University System supports seven public universities and one affiliate in the state. The University of Oregon in Eugene is Oregon's flagship liberal arts institution, and was the state's only nationally ranked university by US News & World Reports. Oregon State University is located in Corvallis and holds the distinction of being the state's flagship in science, engineering and agricultural research and academics. The university is also the state's highest ranking university/college in a world survey of academic merit.

The State has three regional universities: Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Portland State University is Oregon's largest. The Oregon Institute of Technology has its campus in Klamath Falls. The affiliate Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) comprises a medical, dental, and nursing school in Portland and a science and engineering school in Hillsboro.

Oregon has historically struggled to fund higher education. Recently, Oregon has cut its higher education budget over 2002–2006 and now Oregon ranks 46th in the country in state spending per student. However, 2007 legislation forced tuition increases to cap at 3% per year, and funded the OUS far beyond the requested governor's budget.

The state also supports 17 community colleges.


Oregon is home to a wide variety of private colleges. The University of Portland and Marylhurst University are Catholic institutions in the Portland area. Concordia University, Lewis & Clark College, Multnomah Bible College, Portland Bible College, Reed College, Warner Pacific College, Cascade College, and the National College of Natural Medicine are also in Portland. Pacific University is in the Portland suburb of Forest Grove.

There are also private colleges further south in the Willamette Valley. McMinnville has Linfield College, while nearby Newberg is home to George Fox University. Salem is home to two private schools, Willamette University (the state's oldest, established during the provisional period) and Corban College. Eugene is home to three private colleges: Northwest Christian College, Eugene Bible College, and Gutenberg College.


The only major professional sports team in Oregon is the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the team was one of the most successful teams in the NBA in terms of both win-loss record and attendance. In the early 2000s, the team's popularity declined due to personnel and financial issues, but revived after the departure of controversial players and the acquisition of new players such as Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.

The Blazers play in the Rose Garden in Portland's Lloyd District, which is also home to the Portland LumberJax of the National Lacrosse League and the Portland Winter Hawks of the minor-league Western Hockey League.

Portland has two minor-league sports teams who play at PGE Park: The Portland Timbers of the USL First Division are a very popular soccer team, and the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League are the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Portland has actively pursued a Major League Baseball team.

Eugene and Salem also have minor-league baseball teams. The Eugene Emeralds and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes both play in the Single-A Northwest League. Oregon also has four teams in the fledgling International Basketball League: the Portland Chinooks, Central Oregon Hotshots, Salem Stampede, and the Eugene Chargers.

The Oregon State Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks football teams of the Pacific-10 Conference meet annually in the Civil War, one of the oldest college football rivalries in the United States, dating back to 1894. Both schools have had recent success in other sports as well: Oregon State won back-to-back college baseball championships in 2006 and 2007, and the University of Oregon won the NCAA men's cross country championship in 2007.

State symbols

Oregon has 23 official state symbols. They are:

State flower: Oregon-grape (since 1899)
State song: "Oregon, My Oregon" (written in 1920 and adopted in 1927)
State bird: Western Meadowlark (chosen by the state's children in 1927)
State tree: Douglas-fir (since 1939)
State fish: Chinook salmon (since 1961)
State rock: Thunderegg (like a geode but formed in a rhyolitic lava flow; since 1965)
State animal: American Beaver (since 1969)
State dance: Square dance (Adopted in 1977)
State insect: Oregon Swallowtail (Papilio oregonius; since 1979)
State fossil: Metasequoia (since 2005)
State gemstone: Oregon sunstone, a type of feldspar (since 1987)
State nut: Hazelnut (sometimes called the Filbert) (since 1989)
State seashell: Oregon hairy triton (Fusitriton oregonensis, a gastropod in the ranellidae family; since 1991)
State mushroom: Pacific Golden Chanterelle (since 1999)
State beverage: Milk (since 1997)
State fruit: Pear (since 2005)
State motto: Alis Volat Propriis, Latin for "She Flies With Her Own Wings" (since 1987; This was the original motto of Oregon, but had been changed to "The Union" in 1957.)
State hostess: Miss Oregon (since 1969)
State team: Portland Trail Blazers of 1990–1991 (since 1991)
State father: Dr. John McLoughlin (since 1957)
State mother: Tabitha Brown (since 1987)
Statehood pageant: Champoeg Historical Pageant (since 1987)
State nickname: Beaver State

Sister states

  •  China, Fujian Province - 1984
  •  Taiwan, Taiwan Province - 1986
  •  Japan, Toyama Prefecture - 1991
  •  Republic of Korea, Jeollanam-do Province - 1995

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