Salem, The capital of Oregon


Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern boundaries, respectively. The area was inhabited by many indigenous tribes before the arrival of traders, explorers, and settlers who formed an autonomous government in Oregon Country in 1843. The Oregon Territory was created in 1848, and Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859.

Salem is the state's capital and third-most-populous city; Portland is the most populous. Oregon's 2010 population is just over 3.8 million, a 12% increase over 2000. Portland is the 30th-largest U.S. city, with a population of 582,130 (2009 estimate) and a metro population of 2,241,841 (2009 estimate), the 23rd-largest U.S. metro area. The valley of the Willamette River in western Oregon is the state's most densely populated area and is home to eight of the ten most populous cities.

Oregon enjoys a diverse landscape including the windswept Pacific coastline, the volcanoes of the rugged and glaciated Cascade Mountain Range, many waterfalls (including Multnomah Falls), dense evergreen forests, and high desert across much of the eastern portion of the state. The tall Douglas firs and redwoods along the rainy Western Oregon coast contrast with the lower density and fire prone pine tree and juniper forests covering portions of the eastern half of the state. Stretching east from Central Oregon, the state also includes semi-arid scrublands, prairies, deserts, and meadows. Mount Hood is the highest point in the state at 11,249 feet (3,429 m). Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in Oregon. Crater Lake is not a crater but a caldera.

Oregon's landscape is diverse, with a windswept Pacific coastline, volcano-studded Cascade Range, abundant waterfalls, dense evergreen forests, mixed forests, and deciduous forests at lower elevations, and high desert sprawling across much of its east all the way to the Great Basin. The tall Douglas firs and redwoods along its rainy west coast contrast with the lighter timbered and fire-prone pine and juniper forests covering portions to the east. Abundant alders in the west fix nitrogen for the conifers; aspen groves are common in the east. Stretching east from central Oregon are semi-arid shrublands, prairies, deserts, steppes, and meadows. At 11,249 feet (3,429 m), Mount Hood is the state high point, and Crater Lake National Park is its only national park.

Humans have inhabited the area that is now Oregon for at least 15,000 years. In recorded history, mentions of the land date to as early as the 16th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries, European powers – and later the United States – quarreled over possession of the region until 1846 when the U.S. and Great Britain finalized division of the region. Oregon became a state in 1859 and is now home to over 3.8 million residents.

The first Europeans to visit Oregon were Spanish explorers led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo who sighted southern Oregon off the Pacific Coast in 1543. In 1592, Juan de Fuca undertook detailed mapping and ocean current studies. Stops along these trips included Oregon as well as the strait now bearing his name and the future emplacement of Vancouver (Washington). Exploration was retaken routinely in 1774, starting by the expedition of frigate Santiago by Juan José Pérez Hernández (see Spanish expeditions to the Pacific Northwest), and the coast of Oregon became a valuable trading route to Asia. In 1778, British captain James Cook also explored the coast.

The mountainous regions of western Oregon, home to three of the most prominent mountain peaks of the United States including Mount Hood, were formed by the volcanic activity of the 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 and affected some of northern Oregon.

The Columbia River, which forms 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 one of two rivers to cut through the Cascades (the Klamath River in Southern Oregon is the other). 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.

 Portland City

Luciano Mende

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