The origin of the name ‘Oregon’ is unclear. One theory is that it came from French word ‘ouragan’ (meaning “windstorm” or “hurricane”), referring to the powerful chinook winds of the Columbia River.
The theory endorsed by the Oregon Historical Society in their publication Oregon Geographic Names is that the name had to do with an engraver's error on a French map published in the early 18th century.
No matter the origin of the state's name, here are 21 of our favorite facts about the Beaver State, in no particular order:
1. Oregon is the ninth largest state by area, at 98,380 square miles. The United Kingdom, for comparison, is about 94,000 square miles.
2. Oregon ranks 27th in population at just about 4.3 million people, which is similar to the population of Panama.
The most populated county in the state is Multnomah County, with about 800,000 people. Washington County is second with about 600,000.
The least populated county is Wheeler County in North Central Oregon. This county contains some of the state’s most scenic geologic features, including the Painted Hills and parts of the John Day Fossil Beds, along with portions of the Ochoco and Umatilla National Forests. Just about 1,500 people call Wheeler County home.
The Boardwalk at Painted Cove is a popular short walk near the Painted Hills.
3. Crater Lake, with a maximum depth of 1,949 feet, is the deepest lake in the United States. It was formed approximately 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted, and then collapsed. The lake is fed solely by rain and up to 43 feet of snow annually. With no inlets to carry in sediment and debris, Crater Lake maintains its famous rich blue color and clear water.
4. 7,913 feet at its deepest point, Hells Canyon, along Oregon's eastern border with Idaho, is the deepest river-carved gorge in North America. (The deepest point of the Grand Canyon is 6,000 feet.) The Snake River has been carving the canyon for more than six million years.
5. Containing 187,000 acres, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon is home to the largest freshwater marsh in the U.S. The refuge is an essential stop along the Pacific Flyway that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia. Each spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of birds stop-over here.
6. The Historic Columbia River Highway also known as the “King of Roads” was designated the first scenic highway in the U.S. and is a National Historic Landmark.
Latourell Falls drops 249 feet and is a short hike off the Columbia River Highway.
7. As for crops, the Oregon hazelnut is the state’s official nut; about 99 percent of the entire U.S. commercial crop is grown here. The pear is our state fruit.
8. Corn dog? Yes, please! The corn dog was invented on the coast in Rockaway Beach. Oregon is also home to the world’s first riding mechanical corn dog.
Since 1939, corn dogs have been served up in Rockaway Beach, the birthplace of the corn dog!
9. The highest elevation point is Mt. Hood at 11,239 feet, and the lowest is at sea level.
Called "Wy'East" by the Multnomah tribe of the Chinookan people, Mt. Hood is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world behind Japan's Mt. Fuji.
10. Created in 1946, Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world. In 2022, the Talent Garden Club in Talent, Oregon unveiled a park measuring 78 square inches smaller than Mill Ends park. For now, however, the Guiness Book of Records gives the distinction of World’s Smallest Park to Mill Ends.
Located at the intersection of SW Naito Parkway & Taylor, Mill Ends Park in downtown Portland measures a tiny 452 square inches.
11. Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest state park. It features 10 waterfalls and contains a wide variety of forested hiking trails.
Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park has a drop of 93 feet and is one of four waterfalls in the park you can walk behind.
12. The “Oregon Pioneer” statue that tops the capitol building is a work by Ulric Ellerhusen. This heroic figure represents the spirit of Oregon’s early settlers.
Also known as, "Gold Man", the Oregon Pioneer statue was installed on top of the capitol building in 1938. The bronze statue is 22 feet tall, weighs eight and a half tons, and is finished with gold leaf.
13. Said to be the nation’s most photographed lighthouse, Heceta Head Lighthouse shines a beam that is visible for 21 nautical miles, making it the strongest light on the Oregon Coast.
Built in 1894, Heceta Head Lighthouse sits in Lane County just north of Florence.
14. One of the state’s most popular recreation areas, the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area stretches more than 80 miles, cutting the only sea-level route through the Cascade Mountain Range.
Located within the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon at 620 feet in height.
15. The Oregon Trail is the longest of the overland routes used in the westward expansion of the United States.
16. Haystack Rock off Cannon Beach is 235 feet high and is the third largest coastal monolith in the world.
Haystack Rock is a basalt formation, first created 17 million years ago as lava flowed through the old Columbia River drainage system. With time, erosion and geologic uplift eventually revealed the monolith.
17. The honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae) is said to be the largest living single organism in the world. It covers 2,384 acres of Malheur National Forest, in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. That's the equivalent of more than 1,800 football fields!
18. The Portlandia statue in downtown Portland was installed in 1985. Measuring 34’10” high and weighing 6.5 tons, she is the second largest copper repoussé statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty.
"She kneels down, and from the quietness of copper reaches out. We take that stillness into ourselves, and somewhere deep in the earth our breath becomes her city. If she could speak this is what she would say: Follow that breath. Home is the journey we make. This is how the world knows where we are." --Ronald Talney
19. Oregon once contained as many as 450 covered bridges. Reportedly, Lane County has more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi River.
The Larwood Bridge near Scio opened in 1939 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
20. Oregon is the only state that has a two-sided flag. The obverse side features the state seal with the year Oregon was admitted to the union. A beaver, the state animal, sits on the reverse side.