For a long time, this area was a bit of a mystery. Explorers such as Captain Cook had been along the coast, but what lay inland was largely unknown. In 1792 American Captain John Gray discovered the mouth of a large river and named it after his ship, the Columbia. The discovery of this river encouraged President Jefferson in 1804 to send the Lewis and Clark team overland to explore the Louisiana Purchase and onwards to the Pacific coast. The British were also active in the area, particularly through the Hudson’s Bay Company, and for many years in the first half of the 19th century Britain and American shared Oregon. In 1846 the Oregon Treaty set the border at the 49th parallel and Oregon became US territory. Statehood followed in 1859.
Early morning light over Eugene
Western Oregon is temperate rain forest and much of the area is heavily forested. When driving around much of your time can be spent on roads hemmed in by tall conifers, with only a narrow strip of sky above to to link you to the outside world. Oregon has retained the old 55 mph limit on all roads other than freeways which makes driving on these roads intensely boring. Emerging from a dismal drive through the trees to the city of Eugene was a relief. This is Oregon’s third largest city after Portland and Salem and it is home to the University of Oregon. Unsurprisingly one of the largest industries in Eugene is the manufacture of products from wood.
Even though many journeys in Oregon are through dense forest, there are sights that are an absolute must for visitors, particularly the coast and its volcanic features. Yep, there is a lot of volcanic history in Oregon and Lava Lands at Newberry National Volcanic Monument brings it into focus. As a result of a cinder cone erupting 7,000 years ago and covered over 23 square kilometres (9 square miles) with lava, the predominant colour in this area is black punctuated only by the occasional plant.
Upper Klamath Lake from west shore
We have visited Oregon twice. On our first trip in 1981 we encountered some typical Oregon bad weather. The weather on that trip did eventually improve, but only as we got close to the border with California. This 1981 picture of Upper Klamath Lake shows the sky clearing but the bad weather still clinging to the mountains. On that trip we ended up seeing one Oregon landmark in two parts; the base of Mount Hood in really bad weather when we drove through the state then it’s summit from our flight back between Los Angeles to Vancouver! On second trip in 2006 the weather was a little kinder, but Oregon still managed to give us a good soaking at the end.
Lowell Covered Bridge
If you think that covered bridges are only to be found in New England, think again. Oregon can still boast a number of them. The first Lowell Covered Bridge was built across the Willamette River in 1907. In the early 1940s a truck caused serious damage to the bridge so in 1945 a brand new Howe Truss covered bridge was constructed. In 1953 the bridge was raised to keep it above water level following construction of the Dexter Dam. The bridge was closed in 1981 when it was replaced by a modern concrete bridge, but the 1945 bridge was left in place and now houses an Interpretive Centre for the Covered Bridge.
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Chipmunk at Discovery Point, Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake now has its own page, but this little critter roams much wider than Oregon’s foremost volcanic attraction, so we have put our chipmunk picture on the Oregon page. If you are used to the drab grey squirrels found in the eastern US that have now also taken over in the UK, these guys are a delight to watch.
We have more pages on Oregon. Click below or on the Minimap: