Algonquin indian name meaning “beautiful water”
Nickname: Beaver State
State bird: Western Meadowlark
State flower: Oregon Grape (Holly Grape)
Time: Pacific (GMT – 8) in the greater part of the State; Mountain (GMT – 7) in most of Malheur county
Thousands of visitors each year are drawn to the scenic beauty of this State. In the northeast, deep gorges vie for attention with the craggy beauty of the towering Wallowa Mountains. Outdoor types will also be drawn to the southeast’s huge and desolate Steens Mountain Wilderness Area, as well as the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area along the coast.
Salem is the capital of Oregon and the State’s third-largest city; it boasts many fine museums, gardens and parks, including the Mission Mill Museum, Old Aurora Colony Museum, Bush House Museum and Oregon Garden.
The more urbane should consider Portland, the ‘City of Roses’, which boasts gardens, restaurants, shops, concerts, jazz festivals and theatres. It is possible to see the best of the city’s vibrant dramatic and visual arts scene on the first Thursday of each month when the small galleries in the Southwest and Northwest districts remain open until 2100. The Portland Art Museum houses painting and sculpture from the 1350s to the 1950s. The city also boasts the American Advertising Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Pittock Mansion and Oregon Zoo.
An hour from Portland is the stunning Columbia River Gorge. Here, the Columbia furrows its way through a canyon 300m (1000ft) deep, plunging between hills and sheer cliff faces. The Vista House, completed as a memorial to Oregon’s pioneers, acts as the visitors centre in Crown Point State Park. East of Crown Point, a string of waterfalls, including the mighty Multnomah Falls, attracts two million visitors a year. The towns of Hood River and The Dalles offer visitor services in the gorge; whilst the Columbia River itself, with its 50kph (30mph) winds, is a windsurfing paradise.
On the Idaho border lies North America’s deepest gorge – Hells Canyon. In some places, the walls drop 1650m (7900ft) to the Snake River below. A quick flit through on a jet boat or a leisurely drift by raft are two ways of viewing this mighty wonder. Oregon breaks another record by boasting the nation’s deepest lake, located in southern Oregon. It forms the centrepiece of Crater Lake National Park, plunging from an 1800m (6000ft) elevation to a depth of nearly 600m (1932ft).
For those heading coastwards, the renowned US Highway 101 hugs the Pacific shore with a stretch lying between the coastal towns, where hundreds of miles of State parks offer direct connections with the beach. Some of Oregon’s most famous cheeses are nurtured on the shore of Tillamook Bay and those who hunger for a hunk should visit the Tillamook Cheese Visitor’s Center. Newport offers the sights and smells of a classic seaport, whilst connoisseurs of ale can sample local favourites across the bay bridge at the Rogue Ale Brewery. Both the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center are located here, providing unique and educational views of coastal wildlife and the environment.