What Is Oregon Known For

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Known for its stunning natural features, idyllic coastline, rich agricultural roots and pioneering spirit, Oregon is a fascinating destination in the Pacific Northwest where people go about their lives a little differently than in the rest of the United States. Oregon is one of only two states in the nation where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gas (the other being New Jersey) and it is the only state in the Union to have an official state nut. Nike shoes and The Simpsons TV series share a special connection with the state of Oregon, with both their creators born and raised in the “City of Roses”.

Oregon is also home to Eugene, one of the most sporting cities in the United States and a destination so synonymous with athletics that it’s been nicknamed “Track Town USA”. There are also great natural attractions to enjoy throughout Oregon, including the deepest lake in the United States and the largest known living organism in the world. Here are 15 famous things Oregon is known for. 

What Is Oregon Known For

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1- The Oregon Coast

oregon haystack rock at sunset
One of the most famous natural landmarks Oregon is known for is Haystack Rock.

Oregon is indeed known for its rugged and scenic natural coastline that stretches for more than 360 miles.

With dramatic cliffs, stunning rock formations and sandy beaches, this is a coastline you’ll definitely want to explore, go beachcombing, fishing and surfing.

The most recognisable landmark is Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, natural rock formations that rise majestically out of the water.

With historic lighthouses and delightful seaside towns like Seaside, Cannon Beach and Newport, you’ll find enough to keep you busy shopping and dining.

Nature lovers will enjoy hiking and camping in the coastal state parks and there’s plenty of marine life like whales and seals and seabirds to see.

2- Oregon Trail

oregon map
What is Oregon known for?

There are only a handful of historic events in the United States that were more impactful in shaping the modern-day USA than the Oregon Trail.

The 2,170-mile-long (3,490 km) cross-country wagon journey brought the first European-decent Americans to the West Coast.

First laid out by fur traders between 1811 and 1840, the first pioneers hopped aboard the Oregon Trail in 1836, kicking off a multi-decade settlement process that lasted until about 1869.

400,000 families move from the Eastern United States to the Western United States.

The original trail spanned from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and was mainly traversed by groups of covered, Conestoga and Studebaker wagons, which often fell victim to bandits and the treacherous winters of the Rockies.

Members of the Oregon Trail and their descendants went on to settle and build cities such as Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Salt Lake City into the mighty destinations they are today, shaping the entire identity of the West Coast in the process.

3- Lewis And Clark Expedition

Landing Of Lewis And Clark Expedition
The Lewis And Clark Expedition is a historic expedition is Oregon known for.

Before the Oregon Trail, there was the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a massive surveying and exploration effort that was initiated by President Thomas Jefferson to cross the continental United States and discover what lies beyond the lands of the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase.

The mammoth task was placed on the shoulders of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his Second Lieutenant William Clark, who enlisted the help of dozens of highly skilled soldiers and civilian volunteers to form the Corps of Discovery and begin the journey westward.

The Corps of Discovery took off from Camp Dubois, Illinois in 1804 and reached the Pacific Coast in 1805 while travelling down the Columbia River before departing on the return journey in 1806 from Oregon’s Fort Clatsop.

Credited with opening up the West to settlement and expansion, the expedition kick started the Oregon Trail and turned Lewis and Clark into American heroes upon their successful return home, placing Oregon on the map.

4- Malheur National Forest

Covering an area of over 1.7 million acres (687,966 ha), the Malheur National Forest is a world-class outdoor area in eastern Oregon that’s perhaps most famous for being home to a 2,200-acre (890 ha) Armillaria ostoyae, the largest known living organism by sheer size in the world.

The forest and its world-renowned fungi inhabitant were formally established on June 13, 1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt, with the US Forest Service overseeing the forest’s cattle grazing, gold mining and wood milling usage.

Two distinct wilderness areas can be found within the park’s borders, the “Monument Rock Wilderness” and the “Strawberry Mountain Wilderness”, combining to help the Malheur National Forest attract over 240,000 visitors on average every year.

Easily accessible from nearby Seneca, the forest is among the greatest natural features along the West Coast and is a serious contender for claiming the tile as Oregon’s premier outdoor attraction.

5- Crater Lake

Crater Lake, Oregon Wizard Island
When answering the question what is Oregon known for, Crater Lake comes to mind.

Oregon’s Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park is the deepest freshwater lake in the United States and was formed about eight millennia ago.

A violent eruption collapsed the caldera of an old volcano, forming Crater Lake in the process.

The centrepiece of a protected park area that includes age-old cliffs and otherworldly rock formations, Crater Lake is one of America’s most visually stunning lakes and is easily one of the things Oregon is known for.

The lake and the surrounding national park attract more than 500,000 visitors every year and were even added to Oregon’s general-issue license plate designs from 2002 onward, cementing Crater Lake’s reputation as one of Oregon’s most iconic features.

6- Marionberries

Named after Oregon’s Marion County where it was first cultivated, marionberries are a unique variant of regular blackberries which were introduced to the public by the US Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University in 1956.

Marionberries were purposefully cultivated and developed by George F. Waldo in 1945 to combine the great flavour of the Chehalemberry with the shape and size of the best-selling Olallieberry.

What resulted was the birth of the world’s most popular blackberry variant, with about 90% of all blackberries planted and harvested worldwide being the marionberry.

Today, Oregon accounts for more than 90% of the United States’ blackberry supply with marionberries planted throughout the Willamette Valley, making it one of Oregon’s largest annual exports.

7- Tater Tots And Corn Dogs

Corn Dogs And Condiments On Plate
Corn Dogs is a snack food that Oregon is known for.

Popular at festivals and bars across the United States, Tater tots and Corn dogs are popular snack foods invented in the State of Oregon during the 1900s.

Tater tots were originally invented by Francis Nephi Grigg, Golden Grigg and Ross Erin Butler Sr. in the town of Ontario, Oregon in 1953 when experimenting with ways to use left-over pieces of chopped-up potatoes.

Tater tots hit the shelves of stores three years later in 1956.

Oregon is also known for Corn dogs, which were first invented in Oregon’s Rockaway Beach by husband-and-wife pair George and Versa Boyington in 1939, who initially named their fried concoction the “Pronto Pup” due to its quick cooking process.

Both Tater tots and Corn dogs have been exported and introduced to dozens of countries and regions across the world, however, they remain etched into Oregon’s pop culture as the state’s two most popular culinary creations. 

Recommended tours:

8- Historic Columbia River Highway

Vista House Along Old Columbia Highway
The Columbia River Highway is one of the drives the state of Oregon is known for.

Stretching 74 miles (119 km) between The Dalles and Troutdale, the Historic Columbia River Highway is the first road in the United States to be declared a scenic highway.

The scenic highway was designed and constructed by landscape artist and engineer Samuel C. Lancaster between 1913 and 1922.

Lancaster purposefully incorporated the region’s stunning natural scenery into the highway’s layout to create a road connection that would also become a scenic attraction.

The Historic Columbia River Highway is a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and an All-American Road that is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

9- Portland

what is oregon known for portland
Portland is the city Oregon is most known for.

With a modern vibe, great craft beer scene, coffee-sipping culture and familiar scenes from the movies, Portland is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most populous metros and a destination made famous by its natural beauty and open-mindedness.

The city was founded by William Overton, Asa Lovejoy and Francis W. Pettygrove in 1845, naming the city after Portland, Maine with a coin flip that was done using the “Portland Penny”, a historic Oregon artefact that’s on display at the Oregon Historical Society headquarters.

Portland gained financial prominence following its location as an important port city along the Columbia and Willamette rivers, growing into what is today one of the largest metros on the West Coast that’s home to more than half of all Oregon residents.

The city has a well-established reputation as an excellent place for growing and cultivating roses, earning Portland the nickname “City of Roses” and cementing its place as one of modern-day Oregon’s most iconic features. 

Recommended tours:

10- Mill Ends Park

The tiny square of outdoor space known as Mill Ends Park truly is a one-of-a-kind West Coast attraction that’s officially recognised as the smallest public park in the world.

Situated in the proverbial heart of downtown Portland, the park measures just two feet (0.6 m) in diameter and is perched atop a safety island along SW. Front Avenue.

The park has held the Guinness Book of Records-certified “world’s smallest park” title since 1971 and was the brainchild of Dick Fagan, a writer for the Oregon Journal who decided to plant some flowers on the island after a planned light pole was never installed by the city.

Today, the park is among the most photographed places in all of Portland and is just one of the many weird and wacky attractions which make Oregon and its largest urban centre the unique places that they are.

11- International Rose Test Garden

Red Rose
Rose gardens is one of the things the state of Oregon is known for.

First opened back in 1917, the International Rose Test Garden in Portland’s Washington Park is perhaps the main reason why Oregon’s populated urban hub is known as the “City of Roses”.

The garden has a collection of more than 10,000 rose bushes and over 650 different rose varieties on display across the 4.5-acre (1.8 ha) garden, with the International Rose Test Garden recognised as the oldest continuously operating rose garden in the United States.

Awash with scintillating fragrances and vivid colours, the gardens are among the most popular free attractions in Oregon and attract well over 700,000 visitors on average every year.

12- Nike HQ

Founded in Oregon by Oregonians and University of Oregon alumni Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman in 1964, Nike has grown into the largest athletic footwear and apparel company in the world and boasts one of the world’s most recognisable brands.

The company got its start as “Blue Ribbon Sports” when Knight and his former athletics coach at the University of Oregon Bill Bowerman began distributing shoes from Japanese manufacturer “Onitsuka Tiger” at local track meets in Eugene, selling 1,800 pairs in the company’s first year.

By 1990 Nike was an established global brand and the company moved into their brand-new global headquarters in Beaverton, about 7 miles (11 km) outside downtown Portland, with Nike opening up their first retail store in Portland that same year.

Fast-forward to the present day and Nike’s headquarters have continued to grow and are today, alongside Phil Knight and the Nike brand, perhaps what most people think about when imagining Oregon.

13- Birthplace Of Matt Groening

Of all the illustrious Oregonians who have gone on to create innovative products and leave their mark on the world outside the Pacific Northwest, few can rival the success and impact made by Matt Groening, a Portland native and the creator of critically acclaimed “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” animated TV series.

Groening was born in Portland on February 15, 1954, and incorporated much of his Oregon childhood into his characters and the fictional town of Springfield on “The Simpsons” series, which has been running on TV screens worldwide since the first season aired in 1989.

A recipient of 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, a British Comedy Award and a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Groening continues to represent Oregon on the silver screen and is the pride of Portland and its residents.

14- Llama Population

what oregon is known for llamas
You’d never had thought that Oregon is known for llamas!

When picturing regions of the world where large llama populations are common, one typically wouldn’t associate Oregon with any of them, however, you’d be surprised to know that Oregon is home to roughly 25% of the United States’ entire llama population.

Most of the state’s llamas roam Oregon’s Clackamas, Yamhill, Washington and Marion counties and are used for farming due to their high-end fibre yields.

While no one knows exactly when or how llamas and alpacas first arrived in Oregon, the state’s unique bond with the furry farm animals is among the most endearing features of Oregon.

15- The Hazelnut

Loose Hazelnuts On The Market
Hazelnuts is something Oregon is known for.

Declared the official state nut of Oregon in 1989, hazelnuts are synonymous with the state, so it should come as little surprise then that Oregon produces about 99% of all hazelnuts in the United States every year.

More than 1,000 farmers across Oregon are predominantly hazelnut farmers, with the state’s first hazelnut tree planted by Sam Strickland back in 1858.

Oregon is the only state in the United States with an officially recognised nut, making the hazelnut a unique feature of Oregon that’s by now as synonymous with the state as roses and athletics.

16- Track Town USA

Known as “Track Town USA”, the city of Eugene in western Oregon has been the United States’ athletics hub since the mid-20th century, fuelled by the success of the University of Oregon’s athletics department and OU alumnus Phil Knight who founded sporting goods giant, Nike.

The city is the second-largest in terms of population in Oregon and has played host to eight USATF championships, eight US Olympic trials, the World U20 Championships and the World Athletics Championships, the first city to do so in the United States.

Eugene is mostly a college town when major athletic championships aren’t taking place and boasts the campuses of the University of Oregon, Bushnell University and Lane Community College, giving the city a vibrant and energetic atmosphere.

Home to some of the most extensive running trails and park systems in the United States, Eugene remains one of Oregon’s biggest claims to fame and a major part of what makes Oregon such an interesting and unique part of the US.

17- Mount Hood

view of mount hood reflected in the lake
Oregon is known for Mount Hood.

Oregon’s highest mountain is an active stratovolcano that is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Mountain range.

Although its last major eruption was hundreds of years ago, in the 18th century, the volcano has displayed minor activity that makes it an exciting destination.

Mount Hood is popular for skiing and snowboarding in winter or hiking and mnountain biking in summer.

It’s one of the most climbed mountains in the world because it’s an accessible mountain that’s reasonably challenging to climb.

Named after British Admiral Lord Samuel Hood, the mountain was seen in 1793 and the Multnomah people call it Wy’east.

This magnificent mountain has a summit surrounded by 12 glaciers and one of the longest ski seasons in North America.

Fans of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” might recognise Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark on its southern slope and the filming location for the famous horror movie.

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.